in all things, patterns: a philosophical memoir _ prologue
“Everything that happens, when it has significance, is in the nature of a contradiction. Until the one for whom this is written came along I imagined that somewhere outside, in life, as they say, lay the solution to all things. I thought, when I came upon her, that I was seizing hold of life, seizing hold of something which I could bite into. Instead I lost hold of life completely. I reached out for something to attach myself to — and I found nothing. But in reaching out, in the effort to grasp, to attach myself, left high and dry as I was, I nevertheless found something I had not looked for — myself. I found that what I had desired all my life was not to live — if what others are doing is called living — but to express myself. I realized that I had never the least interest in living, but only in this which I am doing now, something which is parallel to life, of it at the same time, and beyond it.” - Henry Miller, Tropic of Capricorn *
* The former possession of the one for whom this was written, which arrived in my possession in September 2011, after the completion of this book.
At the start of the year 2011, I was filled with an irreconcilable, bottom-of-the-soul-churning intolerance for man and for life. The preceding holiday months, which required jumping through circus hoops of social charades, had left me feeling disconnected from such popular holiday concepts as “joy” and “good will towards men” — so much so that I traded in my role as go-to dinner party hostess for the role of hermit, flipping a 180 to shun contact with others as much as possible. Initially, I thought such isolation would be healing — but as the weeks progressed, even solitude, my once faithful companion, failed to offer me the perspective it usually did.
Devoid of remarkable insights or clarity of mind, I was left only with nit-picking at my own flaws and wallowing in painful memories, where past traumas played on repeat. In my weakness, darkness followed, clinging to the spaces around me like a carrion vulture, waiting to descend — to pick me bone clean, to leave me an unrecognizable mass of hair and teeth.
But one morning, I awoke to find that I was not only still intact, but rejuvenated. Darkness had dissipated on all fronts. In its place rose a different kind of energy — a rambunctious, playful kind, full of creativity. Fascinating perspectives and ways of looking at the world arrived with such intensity that they were nearly unmanageable. Daunting as it was, I slowly learned to put aside my suspicion and accept the preponderance of information for its constructive potential. In a very short and very inspired time, I learned what it was to come into myself. I discovered stored with me a wealth of information which had long laid idle, and I experimented with using that wealth. Outlandish, lofty projects sprang up from my mind as though divined, and all that I attempted — and even projects I only half-attempted — not only succeeded, but succeeded with minimal effort on my part. Many even snowballed with what seemed like self-generating momentum.
The turnaround was so drastic and so in spite of myself that I floated from place to place in a haze, alarmed and incapable of understanding why I felt so inflated. My attempts to dissect the situation were futile. Things seemed too good to actually be true — but my skepticism hardly provided rationalization when reality insisted on bestowing blessings upon me. I was forced to dig deeper — beyond my working knowledge and limited experience, into the very foundations of existence. This archaeological unearthing revealed little in the way of tangible artifacts but managed nonetheless to leave me with a hunch. It seemed that something outside myself was trying to make itself noticed through a display of extraordinary circumstance. But to what or to whom could I attribute such insanity? And why? My Christian upbringing was to blame for souring my reaction; I had long been jaded by theories of origin. At that point in my life, my disconnect from both scholarly and grassroots attempts to explain our monolith existence was so complete that even the word “metaphysical” was outside of my literary scope.
My spiritual awakening was jump-started by the appearance of Inner and Outer Space, a series of astrological guidance tapes written by an astrologer named Caroline Casey. The tapes were one of the last purchases my friend Genevieve made before quitting her long-standing job at a local record store. One afternoon, she appeared at my house with the series in tow. It had been years since I had owned a cassette player, but coincidence prevailed; it just so happened that my roommate had snagged one earlier that day from a free box. “The only thing lacking,” my roommate had explained upon her return, “was a tape.” And then, here it was, not even two hours later.
With such synchronicities guiding our way, astrology edged itself into my life as an amusing tangential interest. Casey’s tapes served as a reminder of a run-in I had one decade prior — when a friend of a friend, whom I had never spoken to, had submitted my basic information to a stranger in Berkeley, California. That stranger e-mailed her days later with a detailed list of my character traits, broken down into the sections “Who you are,” “Relationships,” “Future,” and “Love.” Most aspects rang remarkably true, and the document was so convincing that even my less than superstitious friends agreed to its uncanny accuracy.
The document was my first encounter with anything of that nature. Young and naïve, I filed it under the bracket of psychic rather than astrological. It is only now that I realize astrology lies at its very heart. And with that realization comes the further acknowledgement that I embody the Sagittarius spirit through and through. I fit every aspect of the fire sign’s stereotypes as a tireless traveler and lover of freedom; a seeker of diversity; a doer rather than a sitter; an optimistic individual that resides in the brain land of ideas — though my contrasting Cancer moon simultaneously finds me gathering strength in solitude and being inclined towards emotional sensitivity.
When Inner and Outer Space appeared, more than two years had passed since my last and only official relationship. Despite being the type of girl who has always dreamed of a Disney princess-type lover to come and sweep me off my feet, I’d remained a fixed point in isolated space, eternally chasing those who never returned my affections or attracting ones who I considered only friends. A combination of bluntness, independence, and emotional guardedness gave just about everyone the impression that I cared not for relationships or was already in one, and I was constantly met with shock when I expressed an interest in conventions like marriage. Only those closest to me and those who had seen my writing knew that I was, and have always been, a hopeless romantic — and to an extreme that few would dare to be. At the tail end of 2010, a fellow Sagittarian had shared an exciting astrological tidbit that had me jumping for my future joys. It seemed that Sagittarius’ ruling planet, Jupiter, would soon be filling the house of true love, making 2011 an ideal year for love.
“The best news I have for you is — drum roll — that when your ruler Jupiter moves into its new sign of Aries on January 22 to June 4, it will fill your solar fifth house of true love. Wow! This means you will have your best chance in over a decade to meet your one true love…” wrote one website. “Jupiter makes everyone happy, but because he is your ruler, you, dear, Sagittarius, are his favorite child. No other sign will have Jupiter in this part of their solar chart, putting you in a rare position to find the kind of true love you have always hoped to find… you are on the cusp of a grand adventure where you may meet the one for you, dear Sagittarius.”
The horoscope predicted I’d start meeting a lover on January 22. Two days before that, I met Tory, the childhood best friend of my friend Isis. She had brought him to the coffee shop where I usually worked, eager for us to meet because we were both writers. He was exactly, surprisingly, the type I liked at the time. He was quite the dandy — skinny, dark, womanish, and in rare possession of a hand-written manuscript which I would later discover was a novel he had been writing for years. Despite my fascination with the teeny-tiny lines of text scrawled into his notebook, making his acquaintance mattered remarkably little to me. I chose to be timid and enigmatic, opting to write off his notebooks as personal journals and his concentration as awkwardness and introversion. The blanks of his existence I filled in myself, declining any direct inquiry.
Two days later, Tory came with Isis to a dance party I helped coordinate, and for the first time, we found ourselves engaged in very real, very meaningful conversation. We skirted past bullshit formalities, finding parallels in our love for dilapidation and entropy, our willingness to explore outlandish ideas, and our tastes in the arts.
When Tory listed existential Frenchies as his favorite writers and “Pierrot Le Fou” by Jean-Luc Godard as “the most romantic film ever,” I instantly gathered two things: firstly, that he was a hardcore Francophile; secondly, that he was a true romantic. The nature of his being a romantic — coupled with astrological superstition, his eloquently charming manner of speech, his sardonic wit, and his undoubtedly brilliant writing skills — swept me up in whirlwind fancy. Many of my friends attended the party, but they all faded into background scenery as Tory engaged me in a line of questioning I often default to myself. Even the most personal and taboo of thoughts and questions became fair game in our discovery of one another, a slow unraveling that made it apparent our viewpoints of the world aligned to some close degree. I was awe-struck, in a manner beyond the physical. It was magnetization, pure seizure for the first time, of my mind, my eyes, and my heart at once. I was tantalized by possibility.
What ultimately led my friends to conclude Tory was “a keeper,” though, was when he gifted me a book a few days later. Described by one critic to contain “one of the most in-depth depictions of the moral failings of mankind,” Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline seemed a disappointing gift — until I realized that the critic’s assessment was short-sighted. Journey to the End of the Night was not just a brainless gripe about the horrors of humanity, but a black humored recantation of such in the most brilliantly biting voice possible. In short, it was my favorite type of humor – of the kind that is steeped in tragedy — and exemplified by mind-blowing descriptive writing more inventive than anything I had ever read. That Tory had purchased me that book, of all books, was remarkable. Never before had anyone gifted me a book that I had truly loved — but he, a near stranger, had presented me with proof that he innately understood my tastes and personality. I thought surely that it meant something.
The next day, Tory, Isis, and I were to attend a concert, but he never came. When I finally gathered the nerve to breach the topic, I learned that he and Isis had gotten into a huge spat the previous night. He had packed up his things and departed, thus dissolving their long-standing friendship. I figured I would never see him again, but I wanted him to know that I appreciated him. I returned home that evening and wrote him an email, quite plainly telling him that I liked him, that I was sorry we were not able to see each other before he left, and that I hoped we could sometime embark on the fantasy road trip we’d discussed, to explore Southern California’s Inland Empire and desert wastelands together.
He responded hours later to tell me that he felt the same. It seemed that his flight was departing late that evening, allowing us one more chance to spend time together. Dinner became an invitation for us to adore one another foolishly. We separated with vague promises for the future, caring not for consequences or convention, no matter how predictably uncertain. Despite not knowing one another at all, Tory and I came to appreciate one another bit by bit, through the colorful exchange of words.
After Tory’s departure, Genevieve happened upon a love ritual embedded within Inner and Outer Space. The ritual called for us to set aside a day for self-pampering, introspection, and the mutual celebration of womanhood, in the name of the planet Venus. In our own safe company, myself, Genevieve, Isis, and Rachelle set on paper what we desired from our ideal lovers.
I made a conscious decision not to obsess over Tory as an individual — but as I had just met him the prior week, the compelling qualities he possessed naturally became a point of focus. Open-mindedness, a general willingness to find curiosity in anything, a penchant for the literary arts, and a capacity for playful wordplay became the founding tenets in my decree for a lover. An overarching romantic idea a friend had shared with me long ago was the final descriptive touch to fill in all the cracks: Plato’s concept of a soulmate. My ideal lover would be my perfectly complementary opposite. He would be the one who, when pieced together with me, would form the complete whole from which the two of us were once separated, somewhere, sometime, in the forgotten yet unforgettable past.
For a month after Tory returned to Los Angeles, he and I were engaged in a ridiculously intense text message affair. We sparred with words and shared amusing anecdotes, maintaining constant contact as though we were clinging on for dear life. It seems obvious, in hindsight, that we were attaching ourselves to a construct that would inevitably fade — yet at the time, he was an incessant, reliable part of my daily routine, which we eventually brought to the next level with multi-hour phone conversations that ended regularly at the break of dawn. We learned of one another’s histories and made appointments to meet one another in dreams. It was fantastical — the type of brain and spirit connection I had always desired from a lover. Each exchange led me to believe more in magic, for it seemed then that two individuals with thoughts as unconventional as ours would have a hard time locating one another in this vast universe. It was days and evenings of me melting into his proverbial arms, swayed by his words and wisdom, relishing in simple delights.
I traveled frequently throughout our correspondences, but my restlessness seemed to bear no consequence upon our relationship. Even when I departed the country for two weeks, he surrendered his general loathing of the internet to return lengthy emails. Distance seemed of little import since we had been physically distant from the get-go, and what mattered most was that we had a genuine connection without inhibition.
I was so elated and surefooted with our fantasy life that I once issued a lofty love declaration to the world. At the time, I was between homes and sleeping on couches. Despite the discomforts, I lied in wait all evening, giddy each time I awoke to a new late-night text from my lover.
“Vivimos en los cielos, en las fantasias, donde nada puede tocarnos,” I’d stated arrogantly in response to the universe’s blessings. “We live in the heavens, in the fantasies, where nobody can touch us.”
I needed nothing more than the thought of what we had. We identified ourselves as characters in a beautiful work of fiction, and that, I suppose, was the main appeal of it all. I allowed myself to dive into the ridiculous potentialities of “love” for the first time ever, completely unconcerned with what might potentially happen to me or my feelings. It was complete fantasy; it felt as though true romance could in fact exist.
Tory and I discussed many times our long-anticipated reunion. One of the last times we spoke, he encouraged me to come as soon as possible and to “spend as much time as possible.” His schedule was wide open, he said, and the only distraction was a present his dad had purchased him for his birthday — a Scientology detoxification ritual which would involve him sitting in a sauna for hours daily.
Though any mention of Scientology might have flashed red alert lights in someone else’s mind, I had utmost faith in Tory and his sense of self. He had been raised in the Church of Scientology and departed from it willingly at a young age, quite cognizant of its negative aspects. It was a topic we had discussed at length, and I figured his participation in the detoxification program was only a self-challenge of sorts — a writer’s quest for enlightenment through struggle. After all, he’d had mentioned it casually, saying that once he completed the detox, he would probably be capable of doing anything. I felt that I understood his motivation. I respected his mentality because I respected him.
But once the ritual began, Tory’s responses to my text messages became increasingly sporadic. Often, they came at the strangest hours of the night, long after my initial texts had been sent. Each time, he would apologize for his tardiness, revealing that he had the “weirdest sleep” due to the ritual. He insisted that it would soon be over — but by the time “soon” came around, he began avoiding some texts altogether.
The last communication I received from him was a phone call. It was his response to my text message from the previous evening, where I’d stated my worry, wished for his well-being, and expressed that he felt “so far away.” He responded at 4am the next morning, telling me that he would call the following day. We had a brief but normal conversation about nothing in particular, and it ended on a humorous parallel note, where we learned we’d both shot many rolls of film on our Nikon cameras but had never developed any of them.
The conversation being as comfortable as it always was, and with him sounding like he always did, I expected things to return to normal. They never did. Tory left me to fester in a pit devoid of communication, to rot in the most wretched and lonesome of emotional states: purgatory.
I wallowed in loss, true, but moreso in self-pity. For a month, heartbreak absolutely crippled me. Tory’s lack of courtesy reminded me of a depressing fundamental truth I had gleaned from my last relationship — that many lovers care only about their significant others when the amount of work required does not impede upon comforts in their own lives. Tory reminded me that I was naïve. Perhaps romance really didn’t exist. Perhaps words exchanged with a poet are mere flights of fancy — beautiful when written, but lacking in conviction.
I found myself a month later on the same couch where I had once issued my love declaration. The bliss I had so keenly felt before was no longer present. I was left instead with yearnings for the communication which had once been so anticipated, so given and received without question, so taken for granted as enduring. The communication had since been replaced by a very real sense of nothingness. I had been silly to declare that nothing could touch us, and it seemed that I was being punished for my vanity.
But even despite my being dragged through emotional filth — and the everlasting reminders of such filth that I can never quite wash away — I would change not a single thing.
My interactions with Tory were resoundingly precious and remain so. In purgatory, I found myself in a position I was in almost exactly a decade earlier, when writing was my best friend. As a teen, writing had rescued me from demons; prose had allowed me to find strength in myself as an independent human being when other people had scarred me into despising humanity. By breaking my heart, Tory was instrumental in reawakening that powerful part of myself that had laid dormant for years. It was only through my interactions with him — another writer passionate and confident enough in his own writing ability to exchange his poetry and favorite books with authority — that my own potential was renewed. Without knowing it, Tory became my muse, my literary inspiration.
At the centerpiece of my newly awakened self and soul were books — but not just any books. The ones which began to hold the most value were ones that appeared coincidentally and proved themselves to be just the right books at just the right times. The mystique of the year 2011 began with real-life adventures, but became defined through literature — which then found itself in adventure, which then found itself in literature, and so on, into realities which remain to become…