Flickering routes of communication.
Do you see that the memories segregate themselves according to degrees of fuzziness? Dancing across the keyboard. Tides of reflective lines. Flickering.
I remember a moment at the edge of a pier. I am waving to my mother but she is very far away. She is blurry and shiny, like an old photograph. She reaches out and smiles, and then, I only remember wandering through a crowd of people, looking for her.
Moments of exactness.
Mother asks, Where did you go?
I respond, I don’t remember.
This week I’m teaching Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home in my class and thinking about the “suspension of the imaginary in the real.” When Bechdel uses this phrase, she’s talking about her father and the way in which he lived a forced identity that had repercussions on their family dynamic, and his obsession with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s stories and their inextricability from Fitzgerald’s real life. When I think about this, I think that this suspension of the imaginary in the real doesn’t just happen with identity, though this is where we see it manifested very clearly, especially in the ways in which we cope with each other on social media. But more obviously, and perhaps dismissively, the way we construct the world around us, with a hyper-focused magnifying glass, with a bent on anger and outrage, with one eye closed and one eye all too open.
I want to go back and let’s just settle on this, that the sky isn’t blue.
You will disagree with me, and say of course it is, the sky is very blue.
I will also disagree with myself, look up at the sky in the wake of the daily devastation of movement through this vast and tumultuous city, this heat and grogginess, I will comment on the blueness of the sky.
But in the end, the sky isn’t blue. This is a pretense, an illusion, a categorization that functions beautifully, gracefully, doubtfully.
This is a problem of language. But in the end, that’s what it all comes down to.
A fortune cookie tells me that I do things with refinement. What I fucking lie, I think.
This town ain’t yours.
This town ain’t mine.
— “This Town” by Clare Bowen (as Scarlett O’Connor) & Chip Esten (as Deacon Claybourne), Nashville
There are many truths I have learned from watching TV’s Nashville. One is that being in love is about being with someone that makes you want to be the best version of yourself.
When I accept that the sky isn’t blue but that I see it as blue anyway, I also accept that the best version of myself is not the best version of myself that everyone else sees. That is, at the risk of sounding arrogant, the best version of myself isn’t a writer, an editor, a genius, a thinker, or any other pre-conceived identity, because, I realize, most of my life I have worked hard to fit into these identities while trying to be outstanding. I have always been an over-achiever because my identity was to succeed. Excessively. To exceed the expectations of my mother, because her expectations were always to be better than everyone else. And because a large portion of my identity was to be a daughter. A good one.
What I realize is the death of my mother also meant the death of a trajectory towards “success.” That I didn’t have to be led along an imaginary stairway that led to the next level, then the next level, then the next. At a certain point, I ran out of the levels that my mother had assigned me. Like a platformer video game with no end, I had to be devastated, shaken awake, to be able to see what possibilities I could touch outside the universe of the game.
In the darkness, I remember sight.
In the silence, I remember music.
In the waking life, the mirror-like images that my fingers can reach out to touch, carefully, deliberately.
Remember, language is elusive.
Remember, language is manipulative.
Remember, language is a frame.
What I realize is the best version of myself that I have yet known is the person I am with you, a human being, stripped away of these other essences, vulnerable, flawed, emotional, questioning, uncertain.
Between us there are so few words. I am not used to this. I am used to many words.
Extreme and exact articulation. I am a writer. This is what I do.
But sometimes, articulation is overrated. Words are overrated. Language exists because language fails. But not all communication is built on language.
Sometimes we can just exist, silently, next to each other, barely touching, that feeling of connectedness that feels more real to me than words.
When you put your hand upon my leg, this is another route for communication. When, in the middle of the night, you search for my hand, half-asleep and barely conscious, this is another route. Wordless tracks that don’t omit words because the words don’t exist. Not in this space between our bodies. Not between this.
Other times I want the words so bad, like an addiction, words for feelings, feelings for words. More words.
Today I am not feeling well and you make me drink an entire glass of grapefruit juice. My face sours. Then smiles.
In an language I am still learning to understand, I can feel clearly and uncertainly the tenor of your heart.
I use words that are vague and ambiguous because love is vague and ambiguous and because ambiguity can become specificity can become abstract can become precision.
To tell you the truth, when you come up from behind to put your arms around me, that means more to me than a paragraph of romantic language.
Watching, through the window.
I won’t push the words, because you’re right, they’re just words and sometimes the failure is okay. But when I say “a long time,” I mean it, whatever those words might mean to you, tomorrow, later, whenever.