Redemption is glorious, and it isn’t nearly enough. It saves only one person at a time, and the world is full of people. -Jeffrey Eugenides
You know those moments, where you want to love, when you tell them you can’t right now, their response in sobs the kind of soft sobs that should rock you awake but you can’t sleep since you’re watching them all bundled in your blanket over there on the couch that your friend loaned you, coffee table too, she’s crying, yes, and dressed like a cheap middle school version of a Greek play?
We say to each other «We are so bad at this, us, our communication is so bad.»
We don’t know if we can touch each other, if the possibility of not touching each other starts now or now or now then wondering if we can touch each other now. We touch. It is strange to touch.
In an hour she’ll say «I don’t know if this is the last time—» and then the empty fill-in-the-blank lines of her dialogue could be anything, the anxiety trying to figure it out the same anxiety brought on by tests. Fill in blank Kiss or Fuck or Hug.
It might be, the last time that is.
It might not be.
We’ll say we want each other too, so that happens, the proto-but-quite-if-ever break up sex. So maybe it’s just normal. It’s good, whatever you want to call it. Or, bad—the fact that neither of us can say we want the other gone. We’re still here.
Now she says «I told my friend I may not be the one to show you what a good relationship is, to change that part of you that thinks you can’t change.»
I tell her «Have you ever been in something that, if it ended, you’d be fine? You’d be fine with that? That if you said we’re done I might be some semblance of well, happy?»
Is that okay to think that and—? Wait, who needs to be changed? I don’t. I can change whenever I want. There will be time to want to want to change.
Sometime in the middle of the night, hell, could be morning, she showers in your shower. She’ll write a quote on your shower that you’ll see through the faded crepe paper of your lids. Something about looking up from a gutter, how we’re all fucked, each of us. Yes, you keep a permanent marker in the bathroom, next to the body wash. You like the newest scents so you don’t remind anyone of an ex, except yourself.
In and out of my sleep she appears, vision a camera fixed atop a buoy, moving too much and you get angry that it does what you set it up to do, not being able to see in a storm. It moves and moves and I don’t like how I cannot control the us that moves.
When we first arrive at my place I pray she doesn’t have her overnight bag. She doesn’t have her overnight bag. Why do I hate this overnight bag?
And I think I am a bad person due to the timing of love: not having it in me right now, that it’s a painful and out of place thing to say it doesn’t work and so many people wouldn’t want to die without saying it one more time to anyone but right now I don’t care about an other, or a me for that matter, or the fact many would kill to have something that stays.
We have to clean things that stay.
After we talk on the couch she wants to lie down on the bed and she says «Can we go on a date? A real date? Let’s go on date. Can I take you on a date?»
It’s half sweet, the pathetic resuscitation of us. The rest is perhaps the saddest thing you’ve heard all year. There will be all a life to hear worse. Looking at her—all her but her eyes too— is a little like looking at lab mice trying to get out of some monitored and measurable fix.
That’s so adorable how you keep walking into things we’ve already built, walls now out of our control.
After she leaves unresolved in the middle of night, clean, washed, the next day plays out in text bubbles, a badly designed comic panel of I miss you, let’s work on this, let’s…
Maybe I’m affixed to that unhinged ideal that two people could mend something, anything, and call it good, that the reason of staying together is in the inherent mending and forgetting. That it’s not about us but an idea, that there is no us in all of this, really. We’re all about fixing what we would like to be if we could only be present in a placid future that never happens.
I’m trying to say it’s the reality of staying that hurts.
I miss the self that I lose trying to please other people, which can be confused for love, which can be confused for pleasing other people.
I do not want to be lost. I’ve done it once. I refuse.
Near my apartment a man buys two cigarettes from me for a dollar, a noble gesture. I should quit giving them out even for money. Sometimes it’s hard to talk to other people even when they’re being upfront. We talk about his job at the airport. I ask about his badge lanyarded down his neck. He says he has the same security clearance everyone else does but faster. I tell him about my job at a bookstore, he says he hasn’t read in a long time, what are some good books? Good books?
There are lots of good books, I say.
I should have an answer. Vague themes crawl my neurons. And that’s the feeling borrowed from last night with her, a crawling, yes, a standstill, yes, an overall sense of not having an answer, yes.
She says she could be someone else if you let her.
She says we could be something else too.
She says we could do this if our foundation wasn’t so shitty.
See, it’s kind of a dare:
Watch me be so—
But wait I can’t. And I think what I hate most about this purgatory of trying to stuff us in a lifeboat is this…the feeling that this person is the last person for you, ever, that if you say no to them you say no to millions, that your capital-N no echoes in the cosmos, that your small stupid voice was there at the beginning of the universe which is all a lie lie lie.
You started with nothing. You can’t remember being born and all that.
Please consider this.
Remember there was no her and there was no here and again that fear that there is no one else out there, that crushing someone else’s heart, the happenstance and pure necessity of it somehow renders one incapable to do it again which is all a lie lie lie.
I’ll try again. Here. Watch.
See, it’s kind of a dare:
Watch me as I leave this stunted us.
Watch me as I leave this stunted me.
Watch me as I heal, again.
I can be so good when no one is around and I’m left with a stupid small voice now recovering, the universe all around me as usual, that it seems like nothing in its too-muchness, that one day no one will know our names and that’s okay because that is not now and this is where (oh I’m afraid, I’m so goddamn afraid) we—alone—begin.
Photo by jinterwas.