May 11, 2009
The torrent of desire has never been more than a pretension of deliverance. Downstream from the flash flood of a canyon with eyes closed and arms raised in expectation we catch ourselves waiting for the word to arrive. Our faith is gone in anything but this. Like good believers of all religions we put on our medals and sing the songs in imagined eternal voices. Like fanatics we hate work, just as I hate the work that would bring me to her or her to me. You’ve got to give up the ghost. The flood that must arrive, and I wait for it, just as she must get up from the table and come over to me across the void. This that she only does in visions. This that she does one thousand times in a single second, which occurs again every time I raise eyes to her, and which never happens anywhere else.
Neither the vision nor the woman will arrive. The stubborn resistance of those with will but no action, like all the worldly captains of impotency who lead our armies. I try to conjure the image, but I cannot. I pull out the birth of love from my memory, lay it on the table, and stick a knife in it but it refuses to bleed. Only stale and limp, because what I cannot do it give it life again. I know that R is only there in the past of conversations, that this is where she once had to hit her father, where she made love to a woman for the first time, where I encountered the gulf of longing with her and imagined I learned everything. There in the past I would imagine her coming as the same flood, as an arriving ghost in my house, or as a vision of the rose manifesting before me after staring too long at the road. That’s all over now, which is the same as saying it can be said, which is like saying there is nothing left to kill or give except to raise the cruel knives of literature and memory to open myself again.
Once, R told me, she lost herself in the desert of California with nothing. She didn’t tell me the details of how, but I imagine they are like this: leaving the car she walked up a canyon which twisted upon itself, wrapping her into a womb of rocks and sparse trees, of cacti and a barely present breath of wind. The sun left no shadows, there were no clouds or stars, and in the world nothing seemed to move. As a lie I would say the world was a dream, just as this may have been, and nothing would change. R related to me a dream, and nothing changes. Impulsively she would have walked up the canyon. Hours later she would have noticed her lack of water, map, or any sense of where she was. I presume to know this is how her mind work’s, because my love for her was itself wrapped up in freedom. A body more free than my own, a mind more elastic and unchained than my own. For R to lose herself in this way is precisely as I imagine. What I have always remembered, far more clearly than any other details of this story, is that she related finding her way back by the side of the rocks on which lichen grew. Lichen which, in the desert, is a pale green almost imperceptibly faint. Some direction is indicated, and after orienting herself she found the way back to her car. Here there was triumph but disbelief, because my sense is R was also capable of exaggerated lies. Some emptiness had to be filled. I believed everything she said. I did not trust my love to be compatible with truth.
R made love with L one night near to the end of high school. L was on her period, so they went into the bath and sat in the water together as R went down on her. Neither knew which movements to make, what to touch, that with bodies it takes us a long time to learn that desire itself is not enough to make a conquest of uncertainty. Our pleasures are more sure than our human awkwardness, and our bodies far from the natural beings we imagine to be guided with sureness of instinct. R licked at L for twenty minutes before she came and the point of telling me this, she said, was to explain how much more foreplay was needed. Now I can think maybe this was directed at me, foreplay for me, but then, not knowing my body and barely knowing the world, I had no idea. R was a foreign instrument and too radiant to touch. To touch would destroy the perfections of love. Even to touch with the mind, even to read out the dulled hand of longing. The perfections of a poet’s love, a lyric poet, a romantic: the kind Keats would know in his youth that he didn’t live to surpass, and which is only really written with an immature mind that still graciously believes in the world. A man knowing nothing of body or cruelty writes of this love: the body is salvation from the starvation of the spirit, and he wants to be possessed far more than he wants to possess. Here also is only another kind of tyranny itself a self-perpetuating prison. Alone, in my dreams, I would imagine countless sexual pleasures with girls, but always with the objects of beauty over the reality of R’s too real body. Here men are lost, women are subjected, and all the romantic tyranny of youthful poetry is written.
Except for here too is where we find the orphans, of which R and Rimbaud are one and the same, as Bolaño might say. In the orphans, without a home and with no direction, there is the tyranny of love replaced with only an inexpressible longing, torment, fever. A thousand nights alone with many lovers, but never the true lover. R once hit her father in the car during the last year of high school after an argument. When she later attended the same deaf university as him, a choice made though she herself was not deaf, she would find he had ganged up on a gay student with other boys and beat him in the yard. I don’t know if she ever came out to him. Perhaps it wouldn’t matter. She only had to hit him once.
Between us, two orphans, there was no possession. We never held the other, only beheld the other. Over long distances, with long silences and nothing but a multitude of thoughts between. In the subway station I remember we saw each other as naked as any two people have ever stood before each other without clothes. Both our eyes feeling hot tears from the ridiculous acidity of love and impossible failure or our abilities. Nothing left to burn and out of doorways.
Here though, after that is all over (which is a lie in itself), there is more to say about the after than the actions. There is more to say, which is that all this remains a lie for not speaking about courage yet. R to me was a courageous and liberated being: at that time my absolute contrary, being caught awkwardly with a courageous soul but timid body and voice. Her body and voice surpassed and overcame the awkwardness of her being, the horrors of her body that could not have children, the terrible orphanage of a child who learns young to pity her parents. These are the births of strange people, those of resolute weirdness who are the makers of our consciousness. Precisely who give birth to love, because we love their spirit over their bodies. R to body that I did not need to touch, and R the holyflesh of triumphant overcoming that I was compelled to be near. Here where there are only the dead, only men and women caught on the wire of regret and sustenance, here where the brokenhearted few are tied upon the racks, or crucified on the tables of order, the orphans are the heavenly virtues of the lost.
Still that’s all over now. R brought order into her life. She drinks less. Fucks less. She will finish university soon. When she visits family in Kansas her cousins play in the countryside and even in letters some kind if happiness enters her voice. Yes, I imagine her sad here, and usually do, for all orphans seem creatures of divine melancholy. I imagine her still in greater loneliness than myself whom I never am concerned with, though I have known longing of high orders. That’s over, her life likely better, and I’m caught with a monstrous sadness for what has been lost. I’m caught in a demand for that same being, in the tyranny which demands a kinship out of all love and a sustained understanding from those who see us utterly exposed. I want to say: “My flesh is nothing. You may have it. Give me the you who knew my soul.” Yet I don’t know what a soul is, let alone what happened when we reached two dirty hands into our hearts those years ago. A stain, a sigh, a bright and shining medal of Failure worn by those who have loved enough to let that self die. I see them, which is also us, facing each other in the subway in the museum of moments which I keep in my back pocket, and commit to knowing they are gone. Too much, too entangled, more to say: Kierkegaard and his two knights, all the resignations of loves bitterness, all the holy breaths of it’s triumphant stains on the consciousness of man, all the suicides under bridges and walking dead of lacklove, all the nights spent with self alone, with yourself alone, with yourself alone and all the heroic noisy orphans of the spirit.
I wrote this on a note and stuck the note inside Beautiful Losers so it could come back here to be with us:
All these moments unrecoverable to which I was brought only by desire’s hand, only by the woman and the everpresent demand of the heart to be written.