Fit the First
I saw her this evening. She undoubtedly saw me, too. But she never made a gesture or spoke a word. Was she preoccupied? Or did I cross the line on a prior occasion? The line — the one you can’t see until you’ve inevitably crossed it. I was trepidated, trembling — emotionally tumultuous. But still I attempted to not think while all I could think to do was think. Words unspoken, mind racing, heart palpitating in a rapid, Russian assault rifle fashion.
I heard she was leaving. Not indefinitely, but for a spell. To Washington, by plane. One of her goals was to see the ocean and until now it was unrealized. Only a few more days, or perhaps even hours. The plane leaves at sunrise. I wanted to say something — congrats, good luck, bon voyage — something disconnected but heartfelt, cheeky but endearing. And I said nothing; pondering, staring into the recesses of oblivion and having only the gaping void to stare back at me with its heartless nothing.
And really maybe that’s all there is — a mass collection of nothings, adding up to a grand Nothing. Fragments perceived as little somethings, but in truth quite the opposite. I take comfort in these nothings, which to me might be somethings. They are her nothings…. but they are my somethings, and no matter how many nothings became convoluted into an abstract illusory something, it is my faux something and you cannot take that away from me.
Fit the Second: The Oceanic Feeling
You have been gone for almost a week now, finally beside your precious ocean. You had felt the Pacific’s draw on your soul for some time, from days before you were even a possibility in my mind, and I hope whatever you were searching for is finally within your grasp. I hope your soul has become appropriately pacified. Perhaps before today you and I had something in common.
Freud spoke of this “oceanic feeling”, this drawing of your soul towards that transcendental, massive something missing in our lives. Freud thought this was God. For you, something much more literal. Fitting, really, you being the literary type and all. I, too, feel the oceanic pull from time to time, tugging at my heart strings from both sides not unlike how two spoiled girls fight over a doll.
Freud was Austrian, a Wiener actually. The Germans are less poetic in their terminology, grunting out their words like pigs in a trough. No “oceanic feeling”, but simply Sehnsucht. “Longing” or “Wishfulness”, or continuing in our literal vein a combination of “sehn” and “Sucht” — long searches. Not so much a pull, but an emptiness when you know not what you search for. Did you feel this, too? Have you filled the emptiness? I feel the hunger all the time, and the pangs grow, engulfing me and swallowing me from within. My emptiness and I have a one-sided symbiotic relationship – as the beast devours me from the center outwards, I gain nothing from this.
I could dump this emptiness and the Sehnsucht with it. If only you would cease to exist, if your possibility in my mind had not been implanted, leeching away. But each time I try to erase the possibility, she – not you in this case, but our mutual friend – eggs me on, feeds me morsels, fattens the leech. Suck, suck, suck my little leech!!!
But I digress. Soon you will have returned fulfilled, older and matured. And I will hear about your satisfaction and give you my comforting smile — a lie, knowing you now have what I probably never will.
Fit the Third: The First Impression
Today my memory can barely recall the fading phantasm of the you I knew in my tortured mind before the real and authentic you came and wiped my easel clean. The woman I thought I saw and the woman I know could barely sit comfortably in the same room. Mirror images on the outside, polar opposites inside. But yet, there you were.
Your diminutive frame scurrying across the carpet like a sand crab on a beach towel. Your marionette arms swaying side to side in some tinkerer’s demented machination. Who was pulling your strings? They pulled them thoughtlessly, quickly and with such awkward grace. What drunken Gepetto dreamt such a monstrous form to store a little girl in?
And how they dressed you so — you crumpled under the weight of the terrycloth sack they called an outfit. Gangly hustling flightily around, imagining the prom with Johnny Football Hero. Or lamenting being rejected from the pom squad for your overabundance of school spirit. Ponytail bobbing up and down like so many corporate yes-men. You may have been a fully articulated, full-size action figure; did you have the kung fu grip?
And the more my imagination created your background, ever more I grew to despise you. You were a comglomeration of all that I had grown to be weary of, with no social skills, comprehension or talents to speak of. A cog in the machine, destined to fall off during Third Shift and be swept into a corner by the inept, Down Syndrome janitor. To languish forever in a dusty obscurity where only rats and vermin could bring you comfort.
Unfortunately for my unwavering cynicism, I had pegged you wrong. Unfortunately for you, now you are stuck with me and this blathering drivel.
Fit the Fourth: Anna Karenina
Off in the distance I can almost hear Lou Reed crooning, “Oh it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you. Oh such a perfect day, you just keep me hanging on, you just keep me hanging on.”
Tonight you finally stepped down from the pedestal I placed you on and we enjoyed a conversation eye to eye rather than you looking beneath yourself and over my shoulder, keeping me endlessly nervous and edgy.
You wanted to talk about Russian realism in literature, and as I had recently finished “Anna Karenina” I was inclined to accept. You spoke of Turgenov and some names I can hardly pronounce, but we lingered on Tolstoy. I asked you whom you most identified with (what you called the pathos with some passing reference to Alexander Pope, utterly over my head). Earlier in the day, when fetching a pail of water, I had thought you might be a Kitty Shcherbatsky, but I knew in my heart you had incorporated Anna into your being. Sure enough you had. And how fitting you chose the titular character: a woman born too soon, in an era she was never meant to witness. This really does suit you, my little ragdoll. Just do well to avoid any passing trains.
I, of course, envisioned myself as Konstatin Levin, and you sympathized with this. I do not think you could have expected otherwise. The socialist scholar, fumbling his words with women and struggling to make sense of a senseless world.
Not even your insistence that I delve deeply into Dickens could remove the Cheshire Cat grin from my face. And then, as you walked away into my periphery and onward to the vanishing point, the most perfect song ever constructed came on the radio. Toto’s “Africa”. And I knew now what every day in Heaven must feel like.
Fit the Fifth: At the Crossroads, Blasphemous Rumours
From that corner of my mind where I lie to myself, she calls out to me again. She says the crossroads you created in your life was an illusion, examine your options. And so it is: what I saw as a fork in the path has vanished, the two treacherous trails reduced to one. But I call back to her, “Anna, you have forgotten. A path leads both forwards and backwards.”
Ahead of me I see a great oasis, the boon of my salvation. Lining the road are pitfalls and unspeakable creatures wishing my death. While the oasis appears refreshing to my hardened heart, I know the bitter truth: many travelers have sought oases only to suffer at the hands of a mirage. Is Loki looking down on me, laughing? Is Pan? Whom can I trust, if surely it is not her.
The Anna of flesh would destroy my Anna if only she had the power.
“I dont want to start any blasphemous rumours
But I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor
And when I die I expect to find him laughing”
I heard them talking about you, over my shoulder, knowing and not caring the barbs would stab me. Filthy Brutuses, how I love them so though I detest their infidelity. One stab from behind, one from my left and one from my front. And I never saw them coming.
I wanted to protest, don the armor of amore and amor fati… take your fall. But I took the beating without even the slightest hesitation. How I regret the lack of a simple “Sadly, no” in the unilateral discourse. Your reputation, already tarnished and tattered, trashed and trampled on, was being terminated before my ears.
And I let it happen. But never again. Next time I will be stronger, I will be ready. I will be the knight I’ve always wanted to be.
Fit the Sixth: The Eternal and Ubiquitous Estella
My Dickens delving has commenced. At your suggestion, I have braved the treacherous terrain and gotten knee deep in the Chuck. And while the first 222 pages were dry and slow-going, I am now beginning to see the light.
I have found in Pip and Estella two parallels, a dualism between both my life and the whole of Western literature. For me personally, the same old story of torment and temptation… unrequited and unfulfilled. It is the same story I have told once before upon comparing myself to Sisyphus and the rock. That story was a dualism as well, between my life as a whole and that one woman who torments me above all others. Not you, my imaginary love. A much more real villain.
But the story is so much larger than myself; Pip is the everyman of the Western world; a man trapped between the gods and his irresistible passion (Estella). She is eternal, or as Herbert Pocket says, “There has always been an Estella.” Miss Havisham is Fate, the gods, a timeless and all-powerful being omnipresent in the life of man: showing us the Tree of Knowledge and then telling us this one thing we want is the one thing we cannot have. Says Fate, “Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces — and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper — love her, love her, love her!”
Pip, like all men, and like myself, is doomed. Fucked by the fickle finger of fate. And while you continue to torment me, this torture is beyond your control: both the tormented and tormentor must be submissive to the oppressive whims of fate.
Fit the Seventh: As Reality Melts Like Wax
“Yes I am alone but then again I always was
As far back as I can tell, I think maybe it’s because
because you were never really real to begin with
I just made you up, to hurt my Self.”
The voice of Trent Reznor echoes through my mind, perhaps telling myself I have reached the point of unreleased angst saved often only for teenage boys in trenchcoats who tan poorly. Or perhaps, more to the point, I hear his words because they are the ring of truth in this illusion I have built around myself. As I chase your phantasm, I find my grasp slipping and the thoughts of you becoming ever more abstract.
I can hardly recall your face without great strain or without a prodding from some pre-fabricated image I have at my disposal. I see nothing but a withered little skeleton whose sunken skull face is concealed by brunette hair and the shadows of a poorly lit Hopperesque diner. Your true form I have not seen in over a month now, and the Anna of my heart began fading two weeks after that. But as the image fades, so too does the emotion and aspiration grow stronger.
“There is no you, there is only me.”
I dreamt of you last night and you were nothing but an apparition with no definable form. I had in my hands a sheet of purest white, the virgin purity I wrap you in with my thoughts. I tried to capture you under the sheet, but as soon as I dropped the sheet over your head, my hands were soaked in the blackest blood of a long dead corpse. I am beginning to realize the fantasy I have created is dying, and those around me continue to drive in the nails with their rumors and sordid truths I try to block out but simply cannot do. You are a monster in the body of an innocent.
But I don’t want to remove the cloak of purity I drape on you, both to hold you in my heart and to keep you from the taint of others. Because when I peak under the sheet, I see the man behind the curtain… the elephant in the room. A decomposing body, with rotting flesh and plump, ripe and juicy maggots burrowing in and out of the flesh hungering for another taste of your wretched meat. I dare not lift the sheet farther to see your face because I know what awaits me will be far more than my fragile heart can handle just yet. Another day.
But there is a silver lining. While my mind slips and fights off reality (an exercise in futility), my heart sings a chorus of hope. “We can fix this, Anna… we can make you new again. A fresh coat of paint and you will be pure as the November snow.” Although he has failed me every time before, my heart may now be right… I pray he is right… for I cannot accept the alternative. No, not yet.
Fit the Eighth: Her Shocking Return
My dearest Anna…
After weeks of unintentionally avoiding your alter ego, I came crashing smack dab in the middle of her web today. And what I had been anticipating as a joyous and hopeful reunion turned oh-so-sour… my emotions flaring, and not the good ones. She was there lingering over me, engaging in what ought to have been enlightened discourse, but came out simply vapid and hollow. The words of someone spiritually disconnected and empty in the soul.
I would use the word “pneumatic”… and not in Huxley’s sense, I assure you.
As I have been falling in love with you I have grown distant from her. While you have become the ideal, she merely pales from this, a bleached-out remnant of yesterday. Let me share with you a quote from Montaigne. Indulge me, I have a point. He says, “What does it avail us to have a stomach full of food, if it does not digest, if it does not become transformed within us, if it does not increase our size and strength? … If our minds do not go a livelier pace, if we have not sounder judgment, I would as lief that the student had passed his time playing tennis; at least, his body would be the better for it.”
His point, of course, is that great works are meant to be devoured, processed and voraciously appreciated and not just regurgitated like some screech owl’s breakfast. You understand this passion well, and so does she (for you are, in some sense, still one and the same). But having stepped back, I see this quality I love as the delicious chocolate center, surrounded by a candy coating of adolescent bile and the most detestable of poisons.
And so, as I said, my emotions flared and my gut lurched, wrenching inside me. I wanted only to twist her fragile little neck, snapping each vertebra from the base of her skull to the small of her back until she was left convulsing in a contorted spasm. How I wanted to flay her skin and flesh from the bones and shred it into oblivion. Not from malice, not from envy and not even from jealousy. An emotion so basic I know no word for it: a desire that has no name.
For you see, Anna, when we are unable to express ourselves in the way we wish our primitive bodies will unleash in the most primal way it can… just as pleasure intertwines pain, so does love cross over with frustration.
But alas, I am rambling as per usual. We shall continue this another night. Yours always with purest love, Cassiel.
Interlude One: July 25, 2006
“I am running out of time at an alarming pace,” I said, elbows resting firmly on the faux marble countertop, lackadaisically watching the crowd in the mirror.
“You’re golden. She asks for you, dotes on you. You’re just going to have to step up your mojo,” offered Mrs. Waters, my closest confidante in this ongoing conspiracy.
“I did. I was charged and ready, and then she slipped under my radar, just like that.” I had felt like calling out, reaching vainly as in a teen comedy, with my best incarnation of John Cusack. But I guess I had been more Rob Gordon and less Lloyd Dobbler because I let myself fuck it up.
“Well, we will have to take desperate measures.” She reached for the phone.
“We are doing nothing of the sort. You are more than welcome to do what you feel necessary, but I’m not letting myself seem any more eccentric than I’ve already done.” When does sweet eccentric become unhinged sociopath? A rhetorical question I’d rather leave strictly rhetorical, thank you.
“Suit yourself.” And then, switching subjects, “Cook-out, my house, Friday.”
Fit the Ninth: The Agony and the Ecstasy
“There is a space between man’s imagination and man’s attainment that may only be traversed by longing.” – Khalil Gibran
I have written time and again in this space about my internal frustrations and conflicts, self-imposed and irrational. Worse than creating an imaginary being that cannot be found is the bifurcation that created the being; can two autonomous halves be reconciled without the partial or total destruction of one or both?
I have begun this process but find myself whittling away on Anna and her corporeal doppelganger. The work is imperfect, amateur in its undertaking. How does one lobotomize themself to destroy part of what they believe to force in something they deny? Why must the dream die so that the reality may live? Why replace the ultimate goal with mere possibility? I often think unobtainable ends are more fulfilling than the achievable: the joy for the hunter is in the hunt, not the kill.
Yet, I suppose even the most avid hunter would lose his passion if he came to see himself as a failure.
“Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.” – H. L. Mencken
I gave Anna another stab a few days ago… and my fear is she will soon die. I finally deserted her for the other Anna, the one of flesh and sinew and marrow. The one who calls herself Natasha. In fact, her and I will be dining on the morrow.
But I don’t feel like I’ve deserted my best friend… I feel exhilarated, elated. I feel as if my every hope has been brought to fruition and every dream is available at the snap of my fingers. For three days now I have been indefatiguable and spry, glowing as if someone shoved a lightbulb up my ass.
Oddly, I’ve achieved nothing in the grand scheme of things. Nothing but finally convincing myself to do what anyone else would have done months ago, maybe even a year ago. Overcoming the hurdle of fear I set up for myself. But damn does it feel good, to be my own cavalry riding in at the last minute to save myself from defeat at the hands of… myself. Call me narcissistic (I’m not), call me solipsistic (I am)… but that is what this has become. No longer a fleeting chapter in the infinite book of hopeless romantics, but a war of myself alongside myself fighting against myself. Even if I win, I lose. And the dispute? Over a woman who is merely a fragment of the mind I seemingly lost many years ago.
What the hell am I talking about?
Fit the Tenth: Another Disillusionment
She called today, six hours late… and canceled. We’ve rescheduled for Wednesday, but now I begin to wonder if it was an honest mistake, a poor memory, or some pseudo-polite way of shooting me down, by dragging this on until it’s too late. A moment that’s approaching all too quickly (18 days).
Ominously, in the midst of the conversation, the power went out and I was left in darkness.
Fit the Eleventh: Doubts Are Mounting
Brushed off again, like fleas from a dog’s scrotum.
Fit the Twelfth: The Ballad of Natasha and Cassiel
Floating on air, she flitted into the bohemian landscape of the coffee shop. Her hair, cropped and brunette, bounced from her shoulders like some legendary Farrah Fawcett poster. She was in her element now, comfortable in her plaid overshirt and midriff-baring tee, causing her small frame to look even more defenseless in the afternoon sun. But she was not vulnerable here, in her place of power. She ordered a cool, refreshing glass of iced tea and settled into her stool across from the man who had been expecting her.
The young man in his t-shirt and jeans looked up from his McPaper — he had been perusing an article on Fidel Castro — and sipped a little from his drink, a frothy mug that looked like bland oatmeal but tasted like cinnamon. He smiled warmly at his newly arrived compatriot, both anxious and nervous about what was to commence. Both of them felt that awkwardness — although not necessarily for the same reasons.
“What’s in the paper?”
“Oh, yeah? What’s he up to?”
“Well, he might be dead.”
“Oh.” And she segued this to her earlier activities of the day, helping her friend make a “Kiss Me, I’m Communist” t-shirt.
But as a matter of course, although Cassiel’s intentions were to try and avoid the topic of Russian literature, this was where the conversation quickly headed towards. Discussions of the frivolity of women in the stories of Tolstoy (not least of which, “War and Peace”). Comparisons between Tolstoy and Dickens, the latter being far less timeless than the former. And from there, a push for a better understanding of Dickens – his humor and his use of coincidence.
This was where the conversation returned time and again over the next two hours, to Tolstoy… while the conversational words tried in vain to escape their prison and roam free in the outer grounds. Once or twice they jumped the fence, only to be reined back in by the gaolers.
Was this simple meeting the isolated incident of two strangers sharing a space, or the first in a longer series of shared incidences? Natasha and Cassiel sealed the meeting with a symbolic handshake – but symbolic of what? – and parted ways, each contemplating the others’ intentions… and perhaps not even certain of their own.