Friday, August 28, 2009

La La La (boy you're loving is all that I think about)

Gay man that I am, and thanks to the Writer, I've kinda become all sorts of hung-up on Kylie Minogue's album "Fever." I know that it's dated, but it was the only album I could get from work's computer. Why we (American gays) have such a hard-on for Madonna and not Kylie is something of a mystery to me at this point: her music is just so superior.

Last night while hanging out with J. as he worked the corner Dr. Phil strolled by--yes, Dr. Phil frequents the "Viagra Triangle" (makes sense)--and upon realizing who he was ("I know you!" I blurted out) I fed him some of his own medicine: "I want you to start living as a gay woman!"

To Dr. Phil's credit, he replied, "That's me!" J. and I lost our shit--we couldn't help it, we just laughed in his big, good ol' boy face as he sauntered down the street in a white linen shirt and his umbrella cocked on his shoulder.

It's small things like that which make hanging out on a street corner in the rain until 2am worth everything. Little things like that, and big things like this:

Last night J. and I had a pretty intense back and forth on the meaning and importance of language, paranoiac delusion, the structure of society as the mental hospital writ large, the definition of friendship, and the role of expectations. Two hours outside in the rain, under an awning, and then another two hours on the phone.
At a certain point J. called me out: It's like you want to find out the Truth of me, like I'm a puzzle and you want to fit all the pieces together--but there's no puzzle, there's just me. (I paraphrase.) It was a totally arresting moment: "It's like you want to find out the Truth of me..." In that moment I realized that I was betraying my own theoretical convictions, that I was attempting to hypostatize "J." into a knowable, unchanging being.
I confess as much. "I understand," he says, "I know you're nervous about school, and I know that all you want is to know I'll be there."
"Yes," I say.
"I'll be there," He says.

In past posts--posts that pre-date J.'s entry into my life--I expressed the profound desire to be-with someone who will be a challenge, who will be my match, who can dance with me, keep up and push me harder, even. I think I even phrased it with a gesture to Judith Butler and Wendy Brown.
It is such a pleasure to feel like with J. I'm privileged to have a partner in the process of, to borrow from Nietzsche (who borrows from Pindar), "becoming who I am." He does, in fact, regularly challenge me, he calls me out of myself, to see myself in new dimensions. And he promises to, no matter the intensity of our theoretical excursions, "be there." I don't think it is possible to ask for more.
I said to him, after taking a breath, that it is very scary to do what he is asking of me: for you to stay, I must let you always be able to go--do you know how hard that is for me? It means I need to trust you!
He laughed, and I laughed myself, at myself.
It's scary for me, too, he says.

It's easy to think change--this usually entails mapping out contingency plans--and it's easy to write about change--this usually entails a plethora of cliche--but, in contradistinction to thought and speech, it's very hard to _do_ change. Goethe writes, in an inversion that rippled out into the entirety of Western civilization: "Am anfang war die Tat"--in the beginning was the deed. J. beseeched me, Trust my actions.
Indeed (in der Tat), I can trust his actions--he told me so.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If Blood is Thicker than Water then You'll Drown Quicker than We Intended

I've set myself an hour to type. The duration of Sigur Rós's "Ágætis Byrjun" album. We will see what comes of this: an exercise in drunken writing. An exercise in discipline: one full hour of typing. Broken, of course, by rolling cigarettes, drinking, and pissing--but only these few essentials.
So, thus, this is the scene: me, at my computer--which has a virus thanks to illegal downloading--, drinking and smoking. In another world the trojan that infects my hard drive would be an infection thanks to a lack of Trojans. Oh what a world we live in! (to quote Rufus Wainwright: men reading fashion magazines--Straight men! oh, what a world we live in!)
Tonight I sent an email to J. The first ever. It was, in a manner of speaking, a declaration of intent, of desire: I wish, now, to be with you then. It was, after all, a desire for a future that resembles the present. I confessed, though "confessed" is such a loaded word, that I wasn't sure I was ready for him when he first came wheeling into my life. All smiles, coy shrugs, sideburns, pot, and so on and so on. All of this, like a wrecking ball, came crashing into my life.
And to think: I only sold lube to a cute boy--I never thought in my wildest dreams I would be writing emails expressing my love, my anxiety, and my hopes. I never thought I could be so quickly brought to the core of myself--which is to say: to the core of my own desires: to love and be loved, to validate and be validated, to welcome and to be welcome.
It is, with such insight, that I grow in appreciation for Freud, and can even, to a certain extent, forgive and come to understand Melanie Klein: our lives, ultimately, are a quest to find a replacement as total as the initial bond of love (to borrow the title of Jessica Benjamin's book) we experience as infants. Our desires, ultimately, can be reduced to these simple determinations: to be protected, to be cared for, to be recognized. The infants scream--it says all of this: protect me from the pain of hunger, care for me by providing your breast, recognize my call as that of your child whom you cannot ignore, dismiss, deny.
The counselor at Howard Brown, Mark, who made me feel so filled with self-loathing for pursuing random hook-ups, some of them unprotected (gasp!), he missed the point: he accused me of pursuing intimacy and validation in such risky moments, and, to this end he was right. What he missed because he was not, first and foremost a good reader of _people_, was this: I, too, was aware of this dynamic as it was in play. And, for this reason, withdrew from the scene entirely: I could not bring myself to make of another an object, a thing that validated me: I demand, for my validation, more than the urges of a "thing": I demand a lover.
That is, I refuse to be the tit for some random boy: suck on something else to alleviate the tension of your emptiness: it won't be me. There is such profound power in such withholding!
My trouble is with being unable to say "No" to my lover.
J. has never hurt me, whether in sex or in the psychical exchange of words and affect. For this I am grateful: I've never had to say "Yes" to pain. (This, by way of digression, is one of the joys of intimacy: the pleasure principle Freud 'discovered' is evaporated in intimacy: there is no _pain_ properly speaking in such a scene: pleasure overtakes all.) If J. were to hurt me--which would probably not manifest in physical pain but rather in some articulated jab--I don't know exactly how I would respond. My impulse, which has become so highly developed over the last 10 years, would be to hurt him back "with what hurts me"--to quote Nietzsche: I would invert the pain, in some vain attempt to purge such infliction--by striking back in like kind.
Only that J. has displayed the amazing capacity to disarm that dimension of me: when I am lashed out upon I ask, in turn: why are you lashing out on me? In the past--the not so distant past--I would have hurt with what hurt me: I would have fashioned a weapon out of my pain, one more deadly, more lethal, and I would have hurled it back at--into--the breast-plate of my opponent. J., however, does not--nor has he ever--appeared as an opponent.
When Nietzsche writes in "Human, All Too Human," "Oh my enemies, there are no enemies!"--a reversal of Aristotle's statement "Oh my friends, there are no friends!"--I wonder if it isn't love that serves as Nietzsche's paradigm: "oh my enemy, you, who strikes me so deeply, who penetrates to my core, who could mortally wound me--we are not enemies: in this space we are not enemies, but lovers."
Boys, when they drop something, pull their legs together so as to catch what has fallen between the pincers of their thighs. Girls, accustomed to wearing dresses, spread their legs apart so as to catch what has fallen in the taut fabric of their virginity, their veil. Just an observation.
Out of beer to drink and out of cigarette papers with which to roll a smoke, I am done. I did an admirable job, though: yes: I failed to type for an hour, but then, Fate intervened: papers ran out, drink ran dry... these things count.
Over my last cigarette, though, I feel I should impart some sort of substantial wisdom to take away from having gone through the trouble of reading this nonsense.
Here it is: cheap cellphones tend to be the best. I dunno why, but they are. Small and intuitive they are a dream to use: I love my cheap cellphone. Fuck fancy nonsense: I'll chose the quiet life (a handshake of carbon-monoxide) so long as there are no alarms, and no surprises.
What am I saying!? My life, itself, is a surprise: surprise, it one day said to me, you are in love. Surprise, it one day said to me, you have the chance to become who you are. Love and work--that both appear as surprises... this coincidence, unlike the cigarette I am about to extinguish, unlike this blog post I am about to publish, is something you don't let go of: work and love--who could ask for a better health than this?

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Your Love's Got me Tumbling Upside Down"

I'd like to spend a few moments, if I may, reflecting on change. Not Obama-brand "Hope and..." nor that change we so sanctimoniously drop into the cup of the homeless man who asks, "Can you spare some...". I mean, instead, the crisis of paradigm shifts. It is that time of year when people start school, when the freedom of summer begins to approach an end. All of my friends are experiencing some sort of change, whether minor or almost total. The same goes for me.

In the next month I will be up to my eyeballs in school work, all the while working three jobs and committing to a relationship. I've started making small steps towards ameliorating myself to this radical shift in my life. For instance, I bought a watch battery so I can wear my watch again. It's hard to think that I've gone all summer without a watch, relying either on J. or my cellphone to tell me the time. My watch, however, is one of my necessary pieces of armament (for, let's face it, sometimes going to class can being like stepping onto the field of battle) and it is crazy to realize that my wrist has been naked for so long. Now, however, I am wearing it again. A small step, but one which brings me that much closer to preparing myself for school.

Another small change I've made was to clean my apartment. It was time. Equipped with a broom, mop, and Windex I literally swept the dust away. This cleaning spree also entailed clearing off my desk, making space for the books I will be reading into the dark hours of the morning. No more junk mail, Chinese food menus (these were filed in the nearby drawer), or random scraps of paper. Just books. Also organized was my closet, with clothes folded and arranged by color. It's the first time in a long time I can actually see the floor of that room, which is funny to think about.

Again, a small step, but an important one. Cleaning, like exercise or reading a short-story or essay, gives one the feeling of accomplishment, visible, tangible, sweet completion. When I am feeling overwhelmed by things I can't do a thing about I often find myself on the lake bike path just to move myself, of my own power, from one place to another and then back again. It's also brilliant exercise.

J. starts school before I do--the difference between the semester and quarter cycle, I suppose. I actually think this will be a good thing. I am absolutely terrible at saying no to the requests made of me by my lovers. This is a bit of a problem, or at least it was the last time I was in a relationship--it meant passing on studying abroad in Germany among other sacrifices which, in hindsight, I was a fool to have made. I made a promise to myself after the catastrophic conclusion of that relationship: I would never put my ambitions on hold for anyone else. Thus far, at least, it has been easy to say "of course!" to J. because there was nothing in the way. I hope, however, that just as we accept the necessity of meeting our obligations to our jobs, he will see my school work as, itself, an inviolable commitment, an obligation very similar to work.

I am optimistic, actually. He will be the first one in this dyad to have to insist on time to himself for the purposes of doing school work. That is, if he says, "No I can't, I have work to do for class" first, then I will have no problem following suit. The guilt that I would otherwise feel for selfishly putting my desire to be a hot-shot intellectual one day evaporates when I can reply in a way that he has already replied: we agree on this, I can say, we both have to do our work, that comes first.

It will be interesting, though, to see how the dynamics of our time together shift once we are both in school, and, perhaps most importantly, once the weather gets cold. Seeing one another will no longer mean the ease of hopping on a bicycle, but instead will entail braving cold waits for the bus or train. In speaking to The Spy about this she reminded me that her ex-boyfriend would spend a lot of time at her apartment (which was right next to mine) reading. Yes, this is true. The Greek would be sprawled over the arms of her comfy chair with some dense book on international relations theory or the like. But I don't read like that: I must be bent over the desk in a certain way, with an ashtray and a hot cup of tea (2 tea-bags, honey, and soy milk) nearby, and classical music playing. Plus, I'm closer to the Red Line and closer to his college anyway. Which is to say: he should spend the nights with me. (Just sayin'...)

The German and I were talking about how vile identity politics are and, of course, we are of the same mind about this, but we couldn't agree on how identity comes to be entrenched, how it comes to be reified, essentialized, and thus ideological. My assertion, which I think the German half-agreed with, was that in the face of change we retreat to what is comfortable, known, safe and stable. Change, by definition, is un-settling, and this up-set sends people running. As an analyst, my Old Man sees this phenomenon all the time: a nerve is struck in one session and they don't show to the next one on some lame pretext.

Probably more than I should be, I am concerned that I lack the capacity to keep multiple dimensions of myself in play. Like a typical obsessional neurotic right out of one of Freud's or Ferenczi's case studies I have the tendancy to operate with a one-track mind. Still, I was able to, while getting my MA, write letters and emails, play guitar, go out with the German and the Spy, work a job, travel home, visit friends up north, and have almost daily phone conversations with my Old Man that could last, and often did last, for hours. Instead of writing 10 page letters to my ex or compulsively calling my Old Man I'll be spending that time with J. This is an improvement of the highest order.

Freud once wrote, in a letter to his wife while he was away, I want both work and love, as if he were wishing for a coincidence of the two. I'm lucky insofar as I love my work--my school work and my job--and I'm lucky that I have a lover with whom the "work" of cultivating a life we can share is more like play than "work".

The take away point, kids, is this, I think: change isn't bad, no more than it is good. It is a matter of the dance: tempos slide around, and the best dance songs are so heavily layered you can choose your own rhythm. Getting into a groove is always nice, but being able to keep the dance alive, that's always the best.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Feels Like I've Been Run Over in Traffic (I Need to Be Healed)

Disclaimer: This post is about violence and a distinctly masculine preoccupation with aggression, but not in a direct manner, so bear with me!
Last night, as I always do when J. is working, I rode my bicycle down from Btown or Aville (depending on the day), and I plop my sweaty, panting body down on a street corner, right next to where he stands when he works.
Now, J. is not a street worker in the sense that may come to the minds of you dirty birds. But he does work on a street corner, but more like an old-time newspaper boy (think Newsies).
I keep him company while he works, which is always late into the morning, and then we ride home together after a rock/paper/scissor match to decides whose place. He's much better at that game than I am.
The job is repetitive and were J. not a consummate performer I would be bored. But he speaks, moves, bounds about with a natural grace and a captivating allure that makes it a pleasure to watch. And when the streets are dead we talk--of all sorts of things and topics!
We also tend to see the very best and the very worst of people on that street corner. There is, of course, the wide variety of Homeless, which ranges from the frighteningly insane and erratic to the "shoe-shine guy" who once polished-up J.'s leather backpack at a discounted rate because their friendly. The more or less coherent Homeless strike up conversation with J., and though I'm not partial to these sorts of encounters, J. has a beautifully wide soul that makes space for those people most everyone else would rather not have to deal with. I wonder if I am like this, too, and in those moments the floral smell of my shampoo and my washed clothes seem very thin shields.
More disturbing, however, are the men who stumble around together--"dude-bros" we call them, though these men are are in their late thirties and early forties. They always have something clever to say to J., something disparaging and nasty. Couples are less offensive, but groups of three or more men are always trouble.
One night, early in our relationship, the Friday night before Pride, a guy started to pick a fight with J., got just too close to him for my comfort, and I said something pithy to draw attention away and onto myself. This got me, effectively tossed all over the street corner, and punched up in the head a few times. I had to flee the scene, mostly because by the time anyone showed up and chased the drunk bastard away I was already in the throws of shame, and needed to hide myself. All I could think was: you're a coward, you're weak. I rode my bicycle home with an insane need to punish myself, actually screaming out-loud just to expel the indefatigable, relentless build-up of humiliation.
J. called frantically a number of times, worried that I now disliked him. I, in turn, could only apologize for running away. The incident itself brought us closer together, but it also hardened me a bit more. I hadn't been hit by anyone since I was 16 years old, some scrawny kid that had come-out of the closet and defiantly got beaten-up rather than retreat into the shame of secrecy. But that had been so long ago and it did fuck me up--I trusted almost no one, and sought out in the eyes of everyone I passed by the glint of aggression.
I don't do that anymore, and living Boystown has helped immensely. No one calls me a faggot here, and if they do, they're out numbered, and by gym-bunnies, too. Even despite the rash of muggings--a phenomenon typical of any city, and not targeted against homosexuals--I feel safe here.--Hint for all the boys and girls coming out to play: don't get so drunk that you can't pay attention to what's going on around you ;-)
Last night, as I said, I rode down to hang out with J. and in the course of our night met two amazing Australians, Will and Lyndsay. We slid into a groove, exchanging euphemisms and idomatic jargon--"Scrag Tag" rather than "tramp stamp," "Mangy" instead of "ripe" or "groddy," and "piked-out/piker" instead of "copped-out"/"flakey fuck". I finally went into the place where J. works and we enjoyed cheap draft beers while a cabaret piano man took our requests (mine were "anything Rufus"--he played "California"--and "anything Judy Garland"--he played "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"). He was a big old homo, but talented and we had a grand time. Plus, there were crayons on our table so we made a mural-esque collage of our drawings, each of us filling a corner until our designs met in the middle--a perfect metaphor for our night.
Walking up the lake at 4am we enjoyed the breeze--the specific kind of breeze that follows a rain-storm--and when Lyndsay said that the city was beautiful I replied, "You're lucky to come in the summer time, because the rest of the year this city sucks." I said this while walking past a man--white, mid-thirties, well dressed (he was wearing a designer swimsuit)--and what he heard was "this city sucks".
This was enough to set him off into a miss-directed rage: "This city sucks? Go home then, you fucking rich suburban fucks. We don't want you here. You aren't welcome here!"
I thought this was all, and after holding my tongue until out of earshot, I resumed my praise of Chicago summers.
It was only when J. looked over his shoulder and nearly jumped out of his skin that I realized, upon looking over my own shoulder, that this man was stalking us, following closely behind, listening in, his fists clenched, his bare chest tight with rage.
I pretended this was nothing, despite the fact that we all four has now looked over our shoulders and felt the quick tightening in our guts.
Fortunately, and as if out of nowhere, a pair of headlights appeared. From riding the bike path as frequently as I have I know it isn't uncommon for police to troll the path at night and I was instantly relieved upon seeing the headlights, especially as they grew closer.
The man started to yell again.
The truck started to pass.
I banged on the side of the truck, yelling, "Stop--this man is drunk and wants trouble, please call the police." It was half a bluff to get rid of the guy and half an earnest appeal for their help.
We kept walking, us four, as the truck stopped and the man walked to the window.
"No worries," The man said, "I work for the Parks. These guys are just causing trouble. There's no problem here."
The truck begins to pull away.
My heart sinks.
"What?" the man demands as the truck's lights fade away, "You thought you were safe? We Parks guys take care of each other!"
And with that, the man runs up close to us, and punches me in the back of the head.
I didn't dare turn around, I didn't want to instigate him by facing him.
And I was scared--scared he would still be there, wanting to punch me in the face.
As it happens, he turned and ran as fast as he could.
J. screams out, "Dick head!"
I scold him, afraid he will come back: "J.! Shut the fuck up!"
I pretend the rest of the night this didn't happen.
We enjoy the rest of a beautiful night and morning together.
Last night, after some slight--some tranny mess threw an empty bottle at me--I was undone. I couldn't pretend any longer that nothing had happened, afraid that somehow I seemed weak in the eyes of others.o
Still, I gave the police the license plate number of the black Hummer the girl was in: A47-0029
They couldn't care less. Go away, they said with their eyes and bodies.
I left, with J., but all of this was bubbling over.
We lay in bed, but in a torturous state of tension.
The tension snapped.
At one point I snarled: Get out!
He started to leave.
I begged him not to go.
He still went.
I chased after him.
Please don't go, I begged.
Sometimes the world--the very thing that brings us together, that allows us a common language, experience, and life--this seems too close, too ugly. I want to punish it, and those within it: to destroy it, actually. I pushed J. away with the desperate hope that he wouldn't leave. He started to leave. He didn't fight, even when I tried to bait him. He said: Why were you trying to fight me? Because I needed to let this get out somehow, I wanted to say! Because I need to purge this filth--what I am afraid is my own filth, my own doing--onto--_into_--something that I know is strong enough to take it and hold it and kill it and still take me in.
As if by magic, he said: my heart is big enough for the two of us.
If I could, I would have wept.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Always Follow the Speed of the Starlight

Uterine Fibrosis are non-cancerous tumors and is a condition that effects 20-40% of all women in America, with higher rates of occurrence in Black women. I was on the train last night coming home with J. from seeing G.I. Joe and District 9--a double feature picture show!--when I saw an advert promising non-surgical removal of these tumors. It reminded me of myxomatosis, a form of cancer that effects rabbits and was actively introduced into Europe's rabbit populations in the post-War years as means of pest-control. I asked J., "When did 30,000,000" women in America start getting tumors in their uteruses? Do you think they always were getting them and we just discovered the condition, or, do you think this is a new phenomenon?" J. warned me against "conspiracy theory" and while I'm not particularly interested in doing substantial research into the phenomenon I still wonder about the possibility that there is an increasing destruction of our very bodies from the inside. Why--I don't know: manufactured, artificial food; the corrosion of the ozone allowing in more cosmic radiation; the multiplicity of carcinogens in our everyday products; mercury and other hard metals being leeched into our groundwater and food? Probably all this, and more.

District 9 was an interesting movie. It reminded me of the profile of Adolf Eichmann that Arendt provides in "Eichmann in Jerusalem": a bureaucrat who "followed orders". The film does a nice job of making the main character Wikus van der Merwe a tad awkward, but ambitious. He treats the "Prawns"--the aliens who are herded into a ghetto in the city of Johannesburg, South Africa (Apartheid, Gaza/West Bank anyone?)--with the same generally accepted contempt and condescension of his peers in the office and the general population of Johannesburg. We also discover that the mission he's been charged with conducting--the collection of signatures on eviction notes--is in the service of legitimating an otherwise illegal forced relocation to what he later characterizes as "a concentration camp". At one point, ever the by-the-book bureaucrat, he stops one the soldiers that will be providing support for having more ammunition than is approved. When the soldiers superior steps up to defend him, Wikus says, "you need to learn to be more efficient."--oh, the most chilling justification ever!

J. and I had a wonderful night--he said as much when he thanked me in one of those moments when two people look at one another and in an understated manner thank the other for being a part of ones life. We had a grand time sneaking into theaters, smoking pot under Michigan Ave., and discussing the multiple dimensions of the movie. G.I. Joe, he said, was like a "Power-Puff Girls" episode and I thought it was a perfect characterization! But, then again, I did the one thing I said I wanted to do this summer: take my boyfriend to see G.I. Joe. This summer rocks.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Deeper Into A Murakami Novel" continued

Both you and J. were raised in religious house-holds, though you had the benefit of your parents enjoying a conversion away from the Church after you came out. In a certain respect, coming out of the closet allowed your parents the excuse to re-draw the lines of their allegiances with a purpose above and beyond their own increasing ambivalence that had weaseled its way into their faith. Finding in yoga and tai chi the calming solitude and reassurance that once prayer had afforded them, your parents started to "offer up their practice" for you on the eve of a major interview for a grant request. You would thank them while also reminding them you thought it was all silliness, a petite bourgeois substitute for the same religious behaviors that they claimed to be liberated from.

You hadn't wanted to talk to them about J.'s disappearance, least of all your father. When you had taken J. home for the first time--4 years ago over winter break--they had received him the way one would a friend's autistic child. They spoke with exaggerated precision, making sure that the very clear meaning of their words were expressed: We like you, they essentially said, and we are leaving no space for you to think otherwise. This was for my benefit but it came across in such a perversely obvious manner that J. was instantly overwhelmed by the spectacle of their pleasantries and after a week of enduring their unflinching acceptance confessed as soon as we boarded the plane home that he was exhausted, apologizing for thinking my parents were "too intense." My father and I had duked it out three nights earlier after we all smoked a joint and killed a bottle of excellent port. J. had excused himself on the pretext of being tired from the days romp through Manhattan and as soon as I heard the door to my old room close lit into my father.

"How is he supposed to feel comfortable with you, I demanded, if all you and Momma do is insist how comfortable he should be feeling?"
"Well what am I supposed to do, boychick, tell him he's not welcomed? You tell me to stop making him feel at home, and if I do that then you accuse me of being rude or inhospitable! There is no winning with you!"
"That's unfair," I countered. "I'm not asking you to be rude, for godsake, just less obsessed with saying the right thing every damn time. It is painful to be with you two, you are so anxious about saying some that might come off badly."
"Your Momma and I just want you to know we don't disapprove of this life of yours, that's all, boychick. Not many parents would even agree to see their son's homosexual lover, let alone be as welcoming as your Momma and I have been."
"Jesus, Old Man, I know you guys are really proud of how accepting you have been, but J. hasn't gotten to know you at all because you've been so uptight. It's like you suck the air out the room--we're all on eggshells tip-toeing around some elephant in the room, an elephant that isn't even there!"
"Well what would you have us do, kiddo?"
"J. isn't afraid of you judging him for being a homosexual, but for who he is--he wants you to like him, the boy who's fucking your son."
"Jesus, boychick, do you have to be so goddam graphic? Cut your old man some slack--I'm drunk and stoned off my ass. I'm trying to have a serious conversation with you and you're making it into a porno, for fuckssake."
"Fine, Old Man: he wants to know that you aren't sizing him up and saying to me, right now, in this room, at this moment, that I could do better. He hasn't been able to tell you anything about himself, or to just be at ease. You ask him a question--Who's your favorite director? He answers Beckett, who he loves, and who he knows you love--who he knows you named me for--and that's all he gets in edgewise. You jump in and don't shut up about how discerning his taste is, how Beckett was stabbed by a pimp in France, fought with the Resistance during the War, had to emigrate to save what was Irish in his soul... By the time you're done dinner is over, and he's said one thing in answer to your question."
"I get nervous, kiddo, that's all. I still have no idea what the hell I'm supposed to be doing and no way of knowing if I'm doing anything right."
Then your father suddenly looks very old. The dim lighting of his study cast shadows into the deep crevices of his face making his eyes and mouth seem sunken, like features on a decomposing corpse. He looks old, tired, on the brink of death.
"I love you, Dad." You wanted to reach out and touch his face, to cradle it in your hands and kiss his cheeks, as if to give them new life. You stayed where you sat instead and tried to change the subject but the wave of exhaustion you saw wash over his face had thrown him roughly onto the shores of his own frailty and he quickly called it a night, with the promise to finish the conversation the next day.
"Or whenever you want to, boychick. I'm not afraid of you."

When you see your father's number appear on the screen of your cellphone you hesitate before answering, but with a sigh you answer.
"Hey Old Man, what's good?"
"We need to talk, Boychick," he says in an uncharacteristically straight-forward manner. No on-ramp to the purpose of the call: just the facts, ma'am. There is a pause on his side of the line and you hear him breathe deeply before clearing his throat. "Your mother had a vision the other night while she was in the Ardha Chandra-asana. Are you sitting down, kiddo?"
"Yes," I said, barking my answer through the lump that had congealed in my throat.
"At first she didn't think anything of it. You, Sarah, J., her father--they've all appeared to her when she's meditating. I've never appeared in one of her visions, but then she doesn't need to see me in the spirit world. I'm here all the time..."
"Dad, what did she see?"
"Did you sit down yet?" I sit down so I can answer him honestly. "We got a letter from J. today, son. It was addressed to us so we read it. What else were we supposed to do? We didn't think it was a big deal--you kids write us every once in a while."
"J. has written to you in the past?" I never knew this.
"You didn't know? At least three times a year we would get a letter address to us both. It wasn't ever anything special. Sorta like those letters people send out at Christmas time, only they would show up in the middle of August or February. We never wrote back. They weren't the sorts of letters that one responds to. It was always enough to just tell him that we'd gotten his latest letter whenever you would call and pass him the phone."
"So what was special about this letter?"
"Nothing. Except it was mailed from Canada. Were you two in Canada?"
"That's what we thought, and that's why I needed to call you and tell you about your mother's vision."
"Old Man," I interrupted, "I don't want to hear about Momma's visions. You know I think it's all a bunch of phoney crap."
"J. is in danger, boychick," my father said. His tone was flat and even, unwavering. "You know it, too. He's been gone hasn't he and you don't know where he is, or why he left." I said nothing but my silence speaks emphatically of my apprehension.
"What did Momma see?"
"He's in a block of ice, like Han Solo at the end of 'The Empire Strikes Back'. But instead of a look of horror his face is peaceful, like asleep. The vision didn't last long, but your mother says it was very vivid, very startling. She's seeing Arnie for a rieki session tomorrow, it freaked her out so much. And then this letter arriving today, post-marked at the beginning of the week from Montreal. It's freezing cold in Montreal right now, and this is when she realizes the letter and the vision are connected."
"Why didn't she call me?"
Your father's voice falters for a moment. "To be honest, kiddo, she said he looked dead. It really freaked her out. That's not the sort of thing you want to tell your son. Don't be hard on her for not calling herself. She's afraid she might be right is all."
"She's wrong." You say sharply. "J. is not dead and if he's in Canada then he's probably just visiting friends, getting some time alone, enjoying the snow." Silence from the other end of the line. "Do you hear me, Old Man? Forget about Momma's visions. All of that is nonsense. I've always thought that and I still do." Air is moving faster through your nose, you feel is forcing open your nostrils. You catch yourself squeezing the phone tight as if making a fist, as if trying to crush the silicone chips into dust.
"Son, you need to do something. J. isn't dead, you're right, but something in him is dying, and if it does then it will be like all of him dies. Ice is only water, boychick, but water that can't move any more. If you ask me, it's like he's trapped. Somethings frozen him up. Maybe he left to try to get movement back, to heat-up a little bit. If he's even gone, that is."
"No," you sigh, "he's gone. I need to think. Will you send me those letter, Old Man?"
"Of course, kiddo." He pauses, trying to think of just the right words. "I don't know what to say, son."
"I don't know what I want to hear, so it's alright. I guess we're both at a loss."
"Yeah. I'll tell you're mother you're ok. I don't want her to worry."
"Thanks, Old Man."

The pre-Socratic philosopher Thales the whole of the cosmos was composed of water. Your students always laughed at this idea, and there was always one in every class that demanded I justify this "patent waste of time!" That was your favorite student, as it turned out. Crass, overly-confident, and strikingly handsome Jonah had never failed to take a course you offered since you had him for your "Foundations: The Philosophy of the Polis" when he was a freshman. You quickly grew grateful for his acerbic presence in the classroom, especially on days when one one else had done the readings. Those classes became conversations the two of you would have while a room full of bored students watched or checked their email.
It was easier to contextualize Thales within the history of philosophy, to see him as the decisive break with mythologizing the natural world to account for its cycles. But now, after your father's reminder you thought more and more about water, about Thales, and Heraclitus. If everything was water for Thales, then that water was always on the move for Heraclitus: you never step in the same river twice. You never kissed J. twice. We are always changing, shedding skin, memories, orgasms, friends, pieces of clothing that don't fit or have been worn thread-bare. In the face of this you wrote a journal, had filled seven since you started in earnest the year before you started your doctoral studies. You kept yourself consistent by exporting your history into the folds of the pages you filled with the events that composed your life.
You wanted, now, to write. What you didn't know, but something. Anything. Just so long as you could see yourself materialize on the page, your words, the pronoun "I" designating you, a you that you can repeatedly return to for the simple comfort of recognizing the author of that "I" as yourself.
But it was only ten in the morning and you never wrote before the sun went down. The day was for absorption--the sun's rays, food, lectures, and texts. You read while the sun lit the page so that the full light could catch the winding movements of an argument. The night was for writing. Schubert's piano sonata in B Flat (960) at four am, a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, fresh rolling tobacco--then nicotine gum--and an argument you needed to dissect. The stillness of the world at that hour enabled you to lose yourself in the mood of the music, to channel the melancholy of those forceful chords into the paper you wrote. Your fingers clattered against the keys of your laptop as Clifford Curzon's fingers pounded the keys of his grand piano with hypnotic insistence.
You were midway through a collection of Ferenczi's essays, the correspondence between Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy, and Updike's "Centaur," reading them all on parallel paths, as if the three texts were somehow related. None grabbed your interest at the moment.

It was cold outside. The look of the sky said as much, even though I hadn't bothered to turn on the radio to find out for certain or even step outside to check, I knew. Overcast and hard, the wind moved with hostility through the barren branches of trees moving them like mourning Greek widow in "Hecuba". I would have class again tomorrow, Monday. The time seemed to disappear into a slip-stream of days spent in bed, letting my beard grow, not bothering to match socks with the shoes you wore. I hadn't ventured too far from the apartment because it had been brutally cold since J. had left. The sky itself seemed to know to punish the city, and me in it, for his disappearance. Even the coat I had bought the first winter of our relationship, a thick, insulated pea-coat, wasn't warm enough.
I also must have looked terrible. The regularity of seeing my own reflection in the mirror made it impossible to notice any changes. You never see your own face. Ever.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Talking A Lot, But It's Still Talk (or: How restorative a day in the sun can be)

My last few posts have been a bit heavy, and in reading over them I realized just how stressful the last few days have been, and how susceptible the human being is to external influence. J. has been dealing with the bullshit of a shady roommate, one I've come to think of as a pathological liar--a deeply troubled person who must be very unhappy, and very lonely. My own intellectual project addresses this phenomenon, loosely characterized as shifting people out of a paranoid position to a "neurotic" one, where instead of sealing off the world with reactive, defensive ideology we become increasingly receptive to the world, trying to see through the eyes of others. These last few days have been instructive insofar as I've been afforded the opportunity to be a spectator of the drama surrounding the confrontation between these two world-views (the paranoiac and the neurotic). And, I've come to see how just by virtue of witnessing these events I became embroiled in them myself.

The blood work came back and things are good, which was expected but always a relief. I spoke to J. about the counselor who ripped into me while awaiting my test results and he pretty much dispelled any lingering afterthoughts about the validity of that guy's criticisms. J. said, "You went to get tested to be responsible, so we could be safe." And I said, "I know!" to which he ruffles my hair and smiles at me. He says, in that gesture, I appreciate your being responsible--for us. I suppose I needed to hear that from him. I did make some careless decisions in the last two years, decisions that I am infinitely grateful didn't have any repercussions. It would have been miserable to have a conversation with J. about living with HIV, and I would be so afraid that it would have been the death of our relationship.

We talked last night about why J. started doing drugs when he was in High School and he said it was because it allowed him to feel detached, but mostly he wanted to numb to the point of obliterating his homosexual feelings. I suppose that there is a parallel between his experience and my own, only inverted: I never wished to escape my homoerotic desires, I wished to amplify them to such a degree that I could no longer deny them, so that they appeared "natural" and not constructed, reinforced. When I was young, high school through about 20ish, I worked very hard to make the sum total of my being a homosexual existence, all the while naming this "work" a "discovery" of "natural inclinations." The whole undertaking was so terrible that I ultimately fled to the comfort of a heterosexual relationship to escape the monolithic identity which had become more a straight-jacket than a means of liberation.

J. and I talked about how for the first time since he's been with guys he feels like he can be himself, and while this conversation was took place in the context of sexual roles--top v. bottoming--I could hear in the subtext of our discourse a more generalized appreciation for my ability to allow him to express himself without fear that it not conform to some series of expectations I had of how things should unfold. He was scared about being pigeon-holed as a bottom because of his size, and afraid that this reification of his sexual role would start to calcify other parts of himself, too. I remained emphatic that all I want is for him to be happy, to feel safe to explore himself and me, and to feel comfortable communicating his desires and ambivalences. It was a wonderful conversation, actually, that left me feeling really happy, and confident about our relationship. We are building a solid foundation of trust, openness, and consideration that I think will weather whatever may come.

Yesterday we went to my friend's friend's roof-top pool. It overlooked Hollywood beach and we had a grand time swimming, playing marco-polo, and taking under-water pictures. It was the perfect curative. We both just needed to get away from the toxic atmosphere of J.'s apartment and enjoy fresh air, good company, and laughs. And a little elicit public play ;-) It was a chance for us to clear our minds of all that bullshit and just enjoy one another. We were with the Barrister and his boyfriend and a couple of their friends--all of whom are just wonderful, sweet, caring people. J. was immediately welcomed in by the Barrister and his b/f, who made us a delicious breakfast of pancakes, sausage links, eggs, and cantaloupe. It was also nice to show J. that there are gay couples who are good people, who commit to one another and make it work. Each of them have been together for 1.5-5-8 years respectively, and I simply don't think J. ever met anyone like that. I hadn't until last year and it was such a relief then when I did. So much of what we see in mass-media, and even just out on the scene, is one night affairs or 3 month long flings of convenience. It was nice to show him, and experience with him, the company of men who are like us, like who we want to be ourselves.

Back at J.'s apartment we hung our with his friends and cool roommate, and J. got a bit too drunk and promptly availed himself of the toilet before passing out, which was fine because I was pretty tired, too. This morning we hung out again, and after some wonderful sex I left him so he could share some time with is bromosexual roommate (who I am quite fond of: the boy is polite, earnest, good-humored, and clearly cares about J. I trust him, and J. does too, and he has been very welcoming of me, not getting freaked-out about the fact that, for instance, he will walk into J.'s room and I'll be half-naked in bed with him. It's my first time interacting with a straight person where "acceptance" transcends cliched platitudes to actually mean "welcoming". There is simply nothing like being welcomed, and I truly appreciate him for extending that to me.)

Today will be slow. I work and have some reading I want to get done. I get paid tomorrow, so the phone will be back on soon. And then I'll also have some money to throw around for a while so I can take J. out for dinner and a movie. Or make dinner and just go out and see a movie. I need to call my landlord and work some sort of payment plan out with him about September's rent, but I don't anticipate that being a huge deal. He's become much more understanding now that I showed him I'm financially solvent. Surprise, surprise.

Enough for now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In Any Other World (you could tell the difference) (or: An exercise in precarity) (Or: the Confessional Speaks)

It is amazing how exhausting getting 3 vials of blood drawn can be. And then, under the high-stress circumstances of waiting for test results, to answer questions about ones sexual proclivities and then defend those answers against charges of some subterranean self-loathing. And all with a head-ache that would have been so simply alleviated with a cigarette.

The good news, of course, is knowing where one stands with ones health. Knowing is half the battle.

Earlier this summer I declared my intention to go see "G.I. Joe" with a boyfriend, a boy I could share the silly joys of watching a summer blockbuster with, but who would also appreciate my childhood obsession with staging intricate G.I. Joe battle scenes. J. isn't at all interested in watching this movie. That's fine, I suppose.

The "counselor" who debriefs you after your blood is drawn at Howard Brown, who asks you questions while you wait for your results, this man got under my skin.

"You're an intellectual you said," he says to me, "and so this is where you find your validation. But where do you go for your emotional validation, how do you let yourself feel exposed and cared for?" This in the service of prying into the psychological motivations behind my occasional interest in bare-backing. "I think it's rare for you not to be the smartest guy in the room," he continues, "but you don't feel safe when you are emotionally vulnerable. Instead, you confuse physical vulnerability--bare-backing--with emotional vulnerability."

This guy, who boasted his two MAs in psychology, he got under my skin. "You're trying to charm me," he interrupts when I start speaking of the few times I bare-backed. "Most guys would find what you're saying very seductive, especially the way you say it--you're trying to seduce me: very witty, ironic, too hip to really invest. I think you're trying to destroy yourself on some level."

I boast of my defiant will-to-power. I survived a bottle of Klonopin and a pint of Jack, I tell him: I'm very good at second-guessing, and then denying, my own death-drive. Even if on an unconscious level.

"So you'll let someone else do what you don't have the strength or courage to do yourself?"

I was ready to murder him. I was so confused. I'm still confused. He wanted things to be so fucking simple: these practices will kill you, therefore they betray some pathological self-loathing, some unconscious death-drive. Is it that simple? He wants me to see a therapist. I told him my Old Man is an analyst, that we are very close. I told him about this space, my blog, where I can see myself at a distance, like a character in a novel: so I can read the person who writes these posts, as if I were someone else.

It's been ages since I've been subjected to such prying questions. It's been ages since I've been in a position where I have to answer for myself. It was wholly unsettling. Especially since I have the uncanny suspicion that this guy might have been getting at something.

-The life of the mind is too complicated to trace discrete causality (Heraclitus).
-He may have been flirting with me: this was a means of sexual seduction (Foucaultdian power dynamics/Freudian transference).
-I was physically weak from getting blood drawn: I usually faint (London, NY).
-I was nervous about the result of the test, therefore susceptible to particular lines of criticism, especially pertaining to health and sexual practice.
-Admitting that there are unresolved psychical issues in one domain may be, itself, a means of escaping other more veiled (or not so veiled) unresolved issues that are also weighing on my mind (school, J., ect.): the fetishization of an interpretation: acquiescing to an ideological interpretation so as to avoid confrontation with other anxiety-inducing psychic phenomenon.
-The last few days I've been the spectator to J.'s negotiating the bullshit with his roommate, a position that has been very frustrating for me, which has left me rather powerless to effect any actual change in the situation, to fix it, to make him feel OK. Further, I've also been the target of J.'s frustration simply by virtue of my being-there with him and him knowing that I will not blow-up at him: I've been, to a certain extent, his punching-bag, allowing him to vent his anger onto me without indulging him. Still, I've been getting beaten-up a bit, even though I know he doesn't mean any harm to me.
-The person with whom I might have been exposed to the bug is someone I shouldn't have been sleeping with in the first place. There is a certain degree of guilt over the potentially infecting act independent of whether or not it got me sick.
-J. turned to his other friends this afternoon after I left and by the time he showed up this evening I had the chance to watch him eat and then say good-bye.
-It is possible that, aside from the fucked-up roommate, the person who could have stolen J.'s money is a boy I introduced into his world, which would make me feel responsible second-hand for the bullshit he's having to deal with now.

I told J. that I fell in love with the Writer because, in no small measure, he was the first man to ever be intimate with me. He could have fucked me, abused me, who the hell knows, but I would have let him... But he didn't. Every once in a while, when we were out, he would stop himself and look at me with a distinct intensity that was wholly disarming. And then, occasionally, he would run his hands through my hair. It was a touch designed to make me feel good, without any demand attached to it. I said somewhere--maybe here--or to someone--maybe the German--that without the Writer I would have floated away into the isolated world of my own thoughts, of texts, ideas, arguments, lecture notes: an intangible world of my own design.

The intimacy a professor feels with his students is erotic, certainly, but a forbidden eroticism, one which must constantly be sublimated into intellectual pursuits. It is totally cerebral. The body, if it appears, must be transmuted into a mere means of communication: I gesture, I invite, but never to an embrace: to an aporia. In the midst of this I was out fucking anonymous men. My body was alive, even if momentarily in the fevered grasps of these men's crude hands on my neck, shoulders, hips. Yes: touch me, manipulate me, bend me, penetrate me: let me know that this thing that is all I am, that this thing is not dying slowly of atrophy. Bring me to the very edge, I suppose: make me fear death, a real death, literal, and not some metaphor for the slow leakage of vital energy. The Writer did this, but without malice. With intimacy, I suppose.

He was able to do this, I think, because he knew well enough that I was desperately hungry for the therapy he could offer. And, at the same time, he was willing to demand of me the same receptivity he extended: he never shied from a topic, never denied an interpretation (even if he didn't outright agree with it), and never allowed me to rest comfortable on my laurels.

One of the pitfalls of insisting, for myself at least, that I pretend that there is no past that gets between J. and I is that the past that is there is displaced, ignored, deferred to another time and place. The profound need I have to be reassured, to be held and protected, and the terrible doubts I harbor that this need is too much to ask--all this, too, is deferred, displaced, ignored. The Writer made no pretense about being damaged goods: we could move forward from there, I suppose, and I figure we did: we were both, at the time, what the other needed, without judgment.

It's funny, but I don't like his boyfriend because the way he hurt him was so cheap, too easy, too easily reconciled. There was no skill to it: it relied on the lowest common denominator--jealousy--and thereby reduced their intimacy to that level. All of this is fantasy. hahaha.

I want a boyfriend who will be able to skin me alive, like in Murakami's "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle": slowly slicing my body bloody and raw, steeled to my screams, relishing the precision of his cuts, how clean they are, how translucent and in-tact the results of his flaying are: look: we could sew all this together again and here would be the shell of this person, the surface, the apparent truth of who he was.
And still, will keep his knife sheathed.

I told J. about Spencer. Again, another parallel to this afternoons ordeal. rape:syphoning::introspection:confession... He cried, I wrote this, and I got angry. That he could hurt my boyfriend, too. haha. That fucker is stronger than I thought, still too powerful, still to influential. To want to murder again, only this time not for myself, but for J. There isn't a pit deep enough to bury him in. There isn't a knife sharp enough to cut him up with. He lives in my chest, nestled there, like a Christmas tree ornament: wrapped in newspaper lest he break open and spill all through-out me, his shards cutting me open again and again and again. Maybe I want to kill him in me. Not me, but him. And he lives inside me, the fucker, like a prince, safe and sound, protected by my own recriminations, my own doubts.

My father called me "the prince." As slur. Like nigger or faggot. A reference to Freud: "His majesty, the baby." A charge against my mother as much as me. I am listening to Rufus Wainwright's "The Rebel Prince". "Where is my master the rebel prince? Who will shut all of these windows? It's these windows all around me, it's these windows who are telling me to rid my mind of all its preciousness." Rape as the literalization of introjection: a forced identification.

J. has been distant. I said to my Momma, he's here with me but his thoughts are on this nonsense--I'm little more than a temporary distraction. The German and I spoke about this concerning J. himself: is he nothing more than a distraction, a blissful foray into an intimacy that is destined to wane once the demands of the life I want are made of me once again? Is there a place for him in my life beyond this summer, beyond this time when I can be carefree? Will he have the patience to listen to me go on about my school work? Will we find time for one another in the midst of our course schedules? Am I just deluding myself about the possibility of this being something I can actually hold onto, a dream that I will wake to the next morning?

Deeds cannot dream what dreams can do.
-e.e. cummings

Until the Day You Die I'll Always Admit You Were Right

I'd like to spend some time talking about the metaphor of space. Freud spacializes the psyche--the "interiority" of the subject is divided into three "zones": the "ego" "super-ego" and "id" and further divided into the conscious mind and unconscious mind. Of course, this is a metaphor. There is only the body, and its spaces. But we also say "personal space" which is less clear, more amorphous, especially since it relies upon a meaning derived from traditional Liberal political economy. Personal space, as it were, is conceptualized in terms of property rights: the skin is simply a stone wall that separates property lines. But we know much better than that. Personal space--an idea that, I admit, I have used somewhat freely, without first gaining entry onto its domain, access to its resources, permission to play with its meanings--an idea that I need to appropriate, to possess at some point, to make properly my own--... Speaking of personal space forces the question, then, With what propriety will I expropriate this notion. Is it possible to appropriate ethically? Or are words, unlike humans, freely floating things that can be grabbed, bended, contorted, destroyed without fear? This can't be right. What of the metaphor of personal space? How is that words can puncture whatever imagined membrane of protection we fancy we are outfitted with, our "thick skins" those of us who are "thin skinned" seem to lack? As is we have been rubbed raw, and rather than build up callouses we just have sores.

But what of the metaphor of personal space? What is this space? Traditional Liberal political, under the influence of the increasing weight of capitalistic exchange, conceptualized "personal space" as "private space," banishing to the four walls of one's home the appearance of this space. Personal space became coextensive with _privacy_, the right to have a literal space that cannot be intruded upon. The other side of this banishment was to inadvertently paint the public space, the res publica, as a space of danger. To be sure, the political space, the "polis," _is_ a dangerous space, but in no distinct way: the world remains contingent, unpredictable, and unstable despite pretenses to have found a space liberated of these fundamental conditions of human existence. The point here is that the consequence of literalizing the metaphor of personal space into an actual domain--the private sphere--we committed an almost irrecoverable violence against the notion of "personal space."

But what _is_ the metaphor of "personal space" trying to get at? Certainly it is present in public and in private--lovers can cross boundaries in the bedroom just as strangers can extend an intimate respect on an El platform. We may be well served to look at a political conception of the inviolability of "personal space": Ancient Rome. Livy documents, in the early history of the Roman republic, the legally instituted interdiction against bodily harm: it was one of the greatest offenses to strike the body of a fellow citizen. There were, however, exceptions to this rule. A consul, the forerunner to the Caesars, was flanked by 6 guards who carried fasces, sticks lashed together to make a thick rod with which they could beat citizens who threatened the safety of the Consul. Under states of emergency, during war or civil unrest, axe-heads would be attached to these fasces allowing the guards to kill fellow citizens. From this latin word, "fasces," we get "fascist"--the right of a Consul/Dictator to decide the right of death on the basis of his authority alone--thus Hobbes says of the Leviathan, that his decisions are based not on truth but authority.

A second example from Rome, however, comes to mind: debtors were no longer considered full citizens and they could be arrested and physically abused by their creditors. No doubt Nietzsche thinks of this institution, and its predecessors, when he speaks of the pleasure of violating the debtors body in "On The Genealogy of Morals". With this second example, however, we get closer to the enigmatic idea of "personal space" insofar as the Romans saw a link of some sort between the inviolability of the physical body and material goods or monies. That is, if we take the Romans to see the body as inviolable, a "space" that cannot be intruded upon except under certain circumstances, then how is it that one of these circumstances that seemingly nullifies the sanctity of that inviolability concerns things, matter, property? It is possible that, with Locke, we can see the body as itself the first piece of property that is appropriated and made properly one's own. This then enables one to say, for instance, that my goods, my worldly possessions, are just further extensions of myself, of my appropriating capacity: to steal or damage my property, to trespass against the walls that demarcate my land, these acts are of the same kind as a physical assault. The difficulty with this line of reasoning lies in the perverse reversal that occurs under capitalism wherein the value of the laborer diminishes in proportion to the increase in value of the object (Marx). That is, whereas once the body vouched for the value of objects, now it is objects that vouch for the value of the body, and with terrible consequences.

More to the point, there is something else at play in the Roman linkage of debt and emergency as the two outstanding examples of the legalized permissibility of physical harm, of the violation of personal space. (There is, of course, a third example, which I exclude from the scope of this investigation, namely the paternal right to execute his son.) The nexus, I think, might be found in the shared feature of _the promise_. When Nietzsche starts his 2nd Essay of the "Genealogy" he begins by remarking at the bizarre task nature set for itself to "breed an animal with the right to make promises." He then goes on to make the now famous argument about the etymological intimacy between debt (schulden) and guilt (schuld) as the origin of our moralized "bad conscience". At the same time, Arendt attributes to the Romans the most profound appreciation for the political import of promises in the form of treaties with neighboring cities. It seems as though what debt is on the inter-personal level war is on the inter/intra-national level: a violation of a promise.

There is a certain appeal to thinking about personal space in terms of a promise, as a "space" that only exists in metaphor itself--the membrane of protection that cloaks my skin is nothing more or less that the good will of others not to break a promise--implicit in our sharing a literal space--the legally bounded space of the res publica or the agreed-upon privacy of the private home. The failure of those well-meaning Liberal political economists lies precisely in trying to literalize a metaphor and in so doing elide the fluidity of "personal space," articulated differently in different contexts, but which, only only by its existence, offers the hope of a moments respite, of sanctuary, and trust. Nietzsche has a beautiful aphorism that captures the true "crime" of breaking a promise, of stealing, of assaulting me when he speaks of the lie: "What offends is not that you lied to me, but that I can no longer trust you." Personal space is nothing more or less than the ability to trust another, and oddly, it exists in inverse relation to trust: the greater the trust the less need for a robust personal space, whereas the less trust there is between people the more urgent the need to assert a space in-between, a buffer as it were.
As always, these reflections issue forth from an event that moves on a personal register. My therapy, as it were, is my ability to write these, as my German friend calls them, "Gedankenskitzzen"--thought-
sketches. To, oddly, expose myself by inviting you, dear readers, into my personal space so that we can think these things over. Half of the time I need to pretend no one reads these in order to be able to perform such theoretical explorations, the other half of the time I write to or for a specific reader, a phantasy reader, surely, but a specific reader nonetheless. Tonights reader is J.'s room-mate, and J. The former for his utter inability to respect personal space, to acknowledge boundaries, to exploit the uneasiness that ensues--this time culminating in the possible theft (he would say "borrowing") of J.'s bike and, perhaps, $300. And the latter because, as he negotiates this nonsense at home he had not recoiled from me. Last night we shared yet another moment of rather intense intimacy, wherein I was able to share the sort of personal revelation that leaves you wholly exposed and terrified. It's funny because when I told him this dark, dirty secret he started to cry. I felt so angry, so enraged--as if all over again, for the first time: this event, the facts of which I shared, still causes pain, from beyond the grave, 10 years dead. Amazing how even the idea of violations of boundaries can hurt. And so badly, too.

It's also amazing how things like that can bring people closer together. I think there is something quite profound to Butler's concept of "precarity"--of human existence conditioned by radical precariousness. We are all so fucking vulnerable. J. has been so instructive--but that word itself is a misnomer: he never assumes the pretensions of being an instructor. Rather, with him I suddenly realize the true power of Aristotle's insistence: you will know a virtuous man when you see him. Aristotle is clear: he will not declare himself, he will not accept platitudes: he simply will act with the excellence of a virtuoso: he will move with grace, think lyrically, see against a profoundly expansive horizon, speak simply. J. has challenged me on almost every register of my consolidated persona, tugging at the strings I cannot weave into the narrative "I" but which I swirl around my fingers as if with an anxious tic. He unravels me, but not maliciously. He gathers the string in his hand, spools it around his wrist, drawing me in. He says, "what you were has lost all shape and meaning: here: begin again." He extends his hand to me, I reach out. My skin touches the fiber of my being.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

On Parting and Language

Upon the occasion of two friends parting the Germans say, "Aufwiederhoren" or "Aufwiedersehen," which mean, respectively, "until I hear from you" or "until I see you" (again). The English language does not conceptualize parting in the same manner. We say, "Goodbye," which I assume comes from the idea of passing-by, as if two travelers on same road who shared a nights solace together, but who are ultimately passing by. We wish one another well, "good by," as in the military idiom "by your leave," and continue on our own distinct path. We have passed, our expression says, and it was that moment of our passing that marks our time together. There is no past nor a future in this expression. Simply a statement of the present moment of two linear trajectories coinciding for a moment in space and time. This is, I feel, a failure of our language. We must learn to part with an expression of a desire for futurity which simultaneously transmits the past that has been shared. We are not, after all, atoms that move blindly along lines in space. We are, rather, the species who is endowed with the capacity to re-turn to the moment of passage, metaphorically, literally, fantastically. We are the animal who can, and should, I think, say at the moment of parting: Until I see or hear from you again. Until you re-turn to me, and I re-turn to you.

My last Church Girl is leaving after almost a summer of time learning one another. This event is the occasion of my reflection on language. She says to me at the doorstep of her church, I don't know how to say goodbye. And I say, "The Germans say, 'Until later.' So let's say that instead." I will have to reflect with greater care on the impact she has had on me, on the demons her presence summoned out of my memory, and the promise of community of friendship offered. It will be impossible to capture in words, and the prospect of such a daunting task strikes me now, as I am spent from a long days work, as exhausting. I defer, then, to another time and head-space. No doubt she will appear in my writings as a phantom for a good long while: the effect, always, of a new friend, especially one who is parting.

Until later, then.

Friday, August 7, 2009

"Deeper Into A Murakami Novel" continued

Every generation has their traumas, your mother had said. She had told you stories about her youth, how when she was a freshman at Boston University she cried out of home-sickness. Her room mate in the dorms did lots of drugs, especially speed, and would invite her out for walks only to then unintentionally storm off in a fit of hyped-up exercise enthusiasm. In the winters bomb scares were constantly called in and the dorms would have to be evacuated. My mother standing out in the freezing Boston cold at one in the morning, wearing a wool top coat over a nightgown with a pair of snow boots on her naked feet. Her exposed legs were getting blue from the unrelenting wind. She gave up after a year. Boston isn't a big city, and was even smaller 40 years ago, but it was threatening to swallow her whole. She never said as much, but it makes sense. She retreated to Maine, to a small liberal arts school where she made a best friend that my sister is named after. Your father named you--your middle name, at least--after his best friend, Robert Han, and she named Sarah after hers. They drove across the country together, Sarah and my mother, in an old VW Beetle and slept in the open air of the Badlands. The city threatened to swallow her whole, but she found in the woods of Maine the daring she always knew was there but didn't know how to use. The idea of my mother driving anywhere that took more than 5 hours to reach is inconceivable to me. What happened? Maybe the marriage to my father, maybe our births, maybe raising us, falling out of love with my father? Maybe realizing that she wasn't daring after all, just reckless that one time. That must hurt more than anything. A stone you could carry while the illusion was alive, but became unbearable once it evaporated.

Her father was pharmacist until he had the stroke. From my grandmother you learned he smoked one cigarette a day, and never finished the pack because the cigarettes would grow stale. He was very self-controlled, Gramsy said, as if boasting of the strength of her disabled husband. As if to remind you that he wasn't always like this. You never knew him before the stroke. The images you got from your father confirm the impression you'd already started to discern, that he was a patriarch in the worst way. The sort of man who did know how to love except by being firm and unyielding. Affection scares those sorts of men. The stroke destroyed the family, which was already tenuously glued together. Most of the children fled with their mother to religion, abandoning the formalism of the Catholic church for the intensity of an evangelical sect. Before all of this, though, he had been a staple in the community. Back when men worked real jobs, where their hands performed real tasks the success of which depended on their skill and dexterity. He would grind tablets into chalky dust to mix potions for his clients, would efficiently count out the number of pills moving surely and swiftly. He knew everyone by their first name, and would anticipate when they would be back for a renewal of their prescription. He studied pharmacology with diligence and severity knowing he would be responsible for the lives of his customers, that he would be placing in their hands the cure he had prepared for them. Nothing would go wrong. Nothing could go wrong.

When he had the stroke it was by chance that they injected his skull with some sort of concoction that alleviated the pressure on his brain. Some years they taught the aspiring physicians to perform this emergency measure, and other years they didn't. There was no consensus in the medical community at the time. The debate was still swaying back and forth and somewhere in the ebb and flow of this tide of scholarly opinion the physician learned to inject stroke victims in the skull with this medication. It was a fluke. Fate. You can't argue fate, but sometime you wish you could so that you can imagine would it would have been like if he had just died. If, instead of emerging from the coma, regaining his motility, and then slowly degenerating, he had just died. Would everyone, including you, have been better off? But there is no arguing Fate. It's taken a long time to say that. It will take even longer to be able to believe it.

You don't want to because it was Fate that took away J. Of this you are sure. Maybe it will also be Fate that brings him back to you, that leads you to him. But how do you know what is Fate and what is you working against Fate? You puzzle this out and think of the Greeks, of Oedipus. He worked so hard to work against Fate and all the while it lead him right to what he never wanted. Had you been like Oedipus all this time? So terrified of losing J. that all the safety measures, the stop gaps--that's how they seemed now, and the realization makes you sick. Sick to think that you might have actively brought to fruition the very thing you never wanted to happen. That this tragedy might be your own doing.

But that isn't tragedy, and you know it. Tragedy is Oedipus, wholly out of control of the conclusion his life would reach. Like reading a novel: you have no choice but to follow the story line, to fall in love with the characters and to hate others and to ignore the rest as incidental to it all. That's what life is: it's already written. You wonder if Oedipus felt like he was in control when he solved the riddle of the Sphinx, if that inspired him with a confidence to feel like he could break the curse, out-smart it, show that gender-bending prophet Tiresias that he was master of his own destiny. You wonder if the conclusion of his drama negates the content of his life until then. Didn't he feel pride when he vanquished his enemy, even if it was his father? And didn't he love his mother? Wasn't that love real? Why does there have to be a big joke at the end that makes it all futile, for nothing? Or a horrible, malicious joke?

You want to solve this riddle before you think about how to find J. If you go about it in the wrong way, you know, it will lead you nowhere you want to be. You will open a labyrinthine connection of what-ifs you will never be able to exhaust. So you need to choose a course and choose wisely. There is no going back once you set out. You laugh out loud. Oedipus must have felt the same way when he first heard the news of his Fate. He probably went out the jazz bar, gotten drunk, mulled over his options. He thought of his options, of proud Achilles: I have a choice, he thinks to himself, I can go forward blindly or I can master this. He goes forward blindly, but he still has his eyes. He doesn't know yet. He won't know until it's too late. Is this you, you ask yourself? Blind, but so proud of solving the Sphinx's riddle: Man, you declared, and the beast hurled itself forever out of the world.

J. never had any tolerance for your humanism and it strikes you as ironic that now, in an effort to find him, you are thinking like the very mythological figure that you least want to think like. It's arrogance, he would say, to think we know better. But we _do_ know better, I would insist. I see you cry and I go to help you, I would counter. And he would look at me and say with a cool serenity, you've also made me cry and because you could. In hindsight, you realize that knowing better doesn't mean you are better. Who said "to know the good is to do the good?" Another Greek. Certainly not Oedipus. Not Achilles, either.

So what do you do? What if Fate won't let you back to him? What if this is goodbye? And maybe he left for a reason. What if he found a way to plug the hole of his little abyss? Would finding him open it again?

You clench your fists and suddenly want to have a cigarette. Badly. Like you haven't wanted one in ages. Worse than yesterday. This was the second time. It had been easy to quit when J. was around. He hated the smell on your breath and you loved kissing him more than you did the cigarettes. Eventually it was easy to stop smoking, almost as if you never had. Now that he was gone, the pull of pleasure of pulling on a cigarette seemed logical. Maybe only one. He wouldn't know. Unless he were to walk through the door right now he would never know. You had thought this way only once before.

Drunk after a fight that found you storming out of the apartment and in the heat of the moment at one of the old haunts where your face was once easily recognizable you had been taken home by a boy. You left separately so no one who knew you would notice. Such cunning, you thought, and then the wave of criminality swept over every movement that lead to the stranger's apartment, soaking it in the stench of betrayal. He will never know, you told yourself. And then you got sick and after retching in this man's bathroom, apologetically excused yourself and hailed a cab back home. J. was on the couch reading Eugene O'Neill's "Mourning Becomes Electra" when you burst through the door in tears and collapsed into his arms. You apologized as best you could and though he had no idea what was going on, he still held you, which was all you needed and more than you deserved. You wept for this: he was more than you deserved. That gnawing doubt was almost impossible to dispel.

Did his disappearance prove what you wished you didn't already know? That you didn't deserve him, and thought it took 5 years for him to discover this fact, he had now grasped hold it its truth and left to find an real equal, not a hack.
That's impossible, you think.

For the first time that doubt swells and then explodes into a mist that leaves a stain on the floor as it settles.


I can't believe my eyes. So I kneel and I touch the speckles of moisture. Flecks of it spread out in a five foot radius as if a water balloon filled with the jelly that the sonogram sensor sides over as it beams the ethereal blueish while silhouette of a fetus into the adoring eyes of the mother-to-be had been dropped from the ceiling. In fact, that's what this stuff was: not an artificial jelly, but the "water" that breaks when birth is immanent.