When the silver sky of an overcast flurry shows soft through the window, casting fuzzy dull shadows across the furniture and floor, and fat snowflakes career slantwise downward, riding a southern breeze to the slush of the sidewalk, a certain ineluctable sentimentality congregates in the warmth of one’s chest. The heat held in fingers and toes rushes in, seeking the core. And so we recall what we can of people come and gone, of people going, of people who have been going for some time. And what we can’t recall we confabulate, and the confabulations feel more real than recollection, because the wax of memory’s candle has all but melted away, the wick is out, and wishful imaginations only gain strength in memory’s stead — happy to fill in the gaps. While the milk of memory goes sour, the cream of confabulation is churned to butter — rich and sun-colored. You spread it on all you can find and you slather honey atop it, because the honey masks the half-truth. You wash it down with bourbon, which burns away the persistent pang — that pesky nagging reality that you are looking backwards into a pleasant fiction, that these cataloged intimacies are merely fisherman’s tales — exaggerated — overwrought melodrama, more farfetched with each telling.
There are subjects I have vowed not to publicly write about — I keep a list. Atop the list is love and heartbreak, gushy goo. My confabulations. My reasoning is that, for anybody but the author, reading about love is frightfully boring — nobody cares. This is misguided on my part, but like my confabulations, I continue investing in the lie. The reality is that everybody loves love. It is the ultimate universality. Those who claim not to love love are typically those who love it most of all. David Foster Wallace wrote that to be human is “probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naive and goo-prone and generally pathetic,” and he was right. There is no point in pretending. Love pervades. Find me a worthwhile novel which does not in some way touch on love — you will be hard pressed. Find me a diary which does not follow the contrail of its author’s heart. Efforts will be futile. Yet love is my forbidden fruit.
But for months now I have felt compelled to sit here and take a saliva-riddled and indulgent bite out of that fruit’s sweet drippy flesh. And now I will, sitting before my window with the flurries floating by. Because I feel now that it is worthwhile and I feel now that it is right.
Love. It is the impetus behind everything that I do. Technically, the love I feel can be categorized as love lost, but given the fact that I still feel it, that it still vampirically latches onto me like an insatiable parasite, it’s safe to say that I’ve far from lost it. It’s manifested itself as a form of willful, self-inflicted castration. I am monkish. I see people, I talk to people, but I’ve yet to find a candidate capable of pole vaulting over the bar set by the specter I’ve condemned myself to cling to. I very rarely enjoy things. I enjoy my lack of enjoyment. I am happiest when unhappy, calmest when swallowing my quiet rage. I have been told that I’ve grown cold, and I am okay with this.
Coldness is a virtue. It provides me with detached solitude. I am free to pursue the pursuits which make me happy, and I do. This is not to say there is a dearth of sadness in my pursuits, an undercurrent of longing to have somebody to share them with. There is a dull ache, like a yellow foot in a hot bath. I would no longer categorize it as suffering, but for some time it was. Perhaps it still is suffering, but a suffering I crave and cherish. As Dostoevsky wrote, “man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately in love with suffering,” and I think it is safe to say that I am.
Thus, I allow my mind to wander to the painful times, when wounds were fresh — to reopen them in some sort of masochistic remembrance, a seance of sorts. And it is worth noting that the pendulum of confabulation is just as effective in embellishing happiness as it is in dramatizing pain and sadness. And so the bad times grow worse, and they are relived. And in the descent into the bad times, in dwelling, we feel things with preternatural freshness.
The brain is seized. My head acts like an old WalkMan dropped on a sidewalk, skipping over a single word over and over again, skipping over a name. And it inhabits every sound, and it makes its way into every song, and sometimes I walk down the sidewalk with my headphones in and sing it aloud, and the manipulation of my lips and the feeling of my tongue touching my teeth is like a slap across the cheek and snaps me out of it, but out of what and into what? More of same. A new trance, but the same trance. Like opening a new bottle for the same drunk. Like I’m riding the same merry-go-round and the key of the song has changed, but it’s the same song and I don’t want to get off, and though Hemingway is not known for his poetry it is his poetry that affects me most when thinking of love, when getting drunk, because drunkenness paradoxically is the only means of clarity, the only means of reminding me that the sour milk is real and the butter I’ve churned is a fiction. I pour another glass of clarity and toss it back, I lay down, and as Hemingway wrote, “At night I lay with you/And watched/The city whirl and spin about,” I lay with sour memories and look out the window at the spinning tips of skyscrapers coming in and out of view as I chain myself to the carousel. And as eyes give way to sleep and sleep gives way to a heightened consciousness, an inebriated dream, more Hemingway comes, and the memories — the real ones: “you come unsmiling/To lie with me/A dull, cold, rigid bayonet/On my hot-swollen, throbbing soul.”
When I wake the dream falls away like lingerie to the floor, and I write, and I write of love and her, I conflate the two. And I read what I’ve written before and it’s very bad, and I cringe, but I read it and continue to write more, which I will then read later and cringe again, only to add it to the unmarked dossier filled with scraps and throwaways, filled with truth. And the dossier is tucked away in a nook where only I can find it, and I go about my day — being the thing I am believed to be. I smile in my happy suffering — living the life I want to live. I cannot say that I am miserable. I’m happier this way than I’d be under normal circumstances, if my life turned out the way a typical person would wish for. But I no longer consider myself typical, though the typical are the first to typically make that assertion.
It is simpler to think of what was or what could’ve been rather than having to actually be. Even a sour recollection is preferable to a crumbling and bitter present, the granulated prison of the now. And even if my life becomes a love story, and some day things fall together into perfect order, into a sonnet of iambs and heartfelt rhyme, I will reject it. Because, to allude to Hemingway once more, all I want is to be able to sit and recollect the love I’ve yet to lose, to think of what could’ve. To think “we could have had such a damned good time together.” To say aloud to myself, to nobody, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”