I got off the subway this afternoon on the Upper East Side. There was a boy climbing the stairs ahead of me. When he caught sight of what he was stepping into, with awe he said, "New York City!" He repeated it a couple of times and his excitement about where he was recalled to me moments when I shared that same feeling and made clear to me how far from that feeling I have been lately. For a moment today, I saw it with his eyes, remembered how tall and massive these buildings look to small children, how they should look to adults also. Lately though, these tall buildings have been unnoticed, the city has; it has all been blocked out by my own sorrows, thinking about my inertia in this life professionally, artisically, romantically, and pretty much every other front imaginable. Circling all of this and feeding these thoughts is an overwhelming feeling of loneliness, which at times becomes so painful that the only way to deal with it is to be asleep, to not be awake to pick at the scab anymore.
I was uptown to get tested for STDs, was getting tested at one of the two remaining bathhouses in this city. I was doing this instead of attending a group pig play session that I had expressed interest in, had decided against that when I learned that people I knew were going to be there, when they encouraged me to come, my interest in the scene being fed by its earlier anonymity, being able to project imagined things on to these unknown people. Knowing that I would know these people killed my interest, and instead I found myself at the East Side Club getting tested for STDs, thinking about my inability to connect with other human beings.
There were more people at the place than I had imagined for an early Sunday afternoon, older men walking around in towels cruising each other. I passed them all, enjoying the attention, the desire, I enjoyed as the youngest person there, my feelings of isolation, loneliness, and undesirability all temporarily (and how temporarily!) soothed with their eyes, hungry things.
Vials of blood were drawn and things were swabbed with giant Q-tips.
As I walked home from my subway stop, the sun was already nearing the horizon, and the clouds looked full of something that I wanted in the sun's dying light. I watched Chris Rock's Bring the Pain, which was really good, Rock stalking the stage like some large feline, lion or tiger maybe, and owning that crowd. This brightened my mood and made me laugh out loud. I then continued my reading of Mary Gaitskill's Veronica and that brought me back to the place I had been earlier. It is a fantastic book, sad and miserable and beautiful, with writing that I sometimes read twice over, wowed by Gaitskill's ability to so eloquently in the span of a few sentences or paragraphs conjure something so large, so known and unsayable. I go back and try to find out where exactly the thing was said, with what words, but it's not there; it's just in the tone and the things implied. Throughout the book, she says some amazing things about music and our complicated relationship with it.
My music was more private, and I didn't play it loudly. I crouched down by it, sucking it into my ears, tunneling into it at the same time. Daphne sprawled on her bed, reading, and Sara played one of here strange games with miniature animals, talking to herself softly in different animal vocies. Downstairs, my father watched TV or listened to his music while my mother did housework or drew paper clothes for the cardboard paper dolls she still made for us, even though we no longer played with them. I loved them like you love your hand or your liver, without thinking about it or even being able to see it. But my music made that fleshly love feel dull and dumb, deep, slow, and heavy as stone. Come, said the music, to joy and speed and secret endlessness, where everything tumbles together and attachements are not made of sad flesh.
I didn't know it, but my father was doing the same thing sitting in his padded rocking chair, listening to opera or to music from World War II. Except he did not want tumbling or endlessness. He wanted more of the attachment I despised--he just didn't want it with us. My father had been too young to enlist when World War II started; his brother joined the army right away. When my dad was finally old enough to enlist in the navy, he sent his brother a picture of himself in his uniform with a Hawaiian girl on his lap; he wrote, "Interrogating the natives!" on the back. A week before the war ended, it was returned to my father with a letter saying his brother was dead. Thirty years later, he was a husband, father, and administrator in a national tax-office chain. But sometimes when I walked past him sitting in his chair, he would look at me as if I were the cat or a piece of furniture, while inside he searched for his brother. And through his brother, his mother and father. And through them, a world of people and feelings that had ended too abruptly and that had nothing to do with where he was now. He wasn't searching for memories; he already had them. He wanted the physical feel of sitting next to his brother or looking into his eyes, and he was searching for it in the voices of strangers that had sung to them both a long time ago. I was so attached to my father that I felt this. But I felt it without knowing what it was, and I didn't care to think about it. Who wants to think about their liver or their hand? Who wants to know about a world of people who are dead? I was busy following the music, tumbling through my head and out the door. (30-31)
The book was quite good and, typing this, I see that it doesn't show the thing felt when reading this, that as a whole this book works very well, little pieces coming together, earlier referenced things, fitting in perfectly with new things, new themes.
More would be said but I am off to Hell's Kitchen to change the setting, shake up the snowglobe a little bit, hopefully producing new feelings.
Post a Comment