Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Never Heard a Man Speak Like This Man Before"

It's been a while since I've posted, and I lament that this infrequency will become more the norm as school starts up. I've been very busy, but it seems like "busy work" rather than sustained, focused labor (to invert the meaning of the terms, perhaps even to make work something flighty and give weight to the process of labor, of giving birth).

J. has started classes--this is his second week. He has a packed class schedule, and a play in the works, and his job on top of it all. A week ago things seemed dicey, a bit of ambivalence about commitment, I think, as he was beginning to live the competing demands that life makes on a person, rather than (as I always do) think them out first and stress a priori. Two eruptions of frustration, two ambivalent resolutions, and then a night that ended with a decided(ly ambivalent) decision: "Maybe I do need time away from you..."

A restless night, tears, self-remonstration, utter exhaustion gave way to a dawn and then to a day at work which was graciously interrupted by a text message: Are you free Friday? he asks. I don't know what motivated him to think he should send out an olive branch. I don't think I could have done the same: I am so very skilled at working my way against a brick wall and then burrowing a way through it rather than turning around and walking-back my own stupidity. Instantly I made myself free and replied that, Yes, I'm free. He took me to see The Mars Volta. Friday night at the Congress Theater.

It was a perfect set list. It was a perfect night. He reached out for my hand as we made our way into the crowd, held it proudly, and we danced like a couple of kids in love with life, one another, and the music that we first made love to. (Yes, he played "De-Loused" the first time we fucked... it would have been scary if he wasn't so caring as a lover...) I met his friends from home as his "boyfriend" and they were wonderfully welcoming and happy for us both--I wasn't expecting such a warm reception from his home-town friends, but then: I've come to learn that with J. it is easy to make false assumptions: and I love him for this: he is complex, fluid, mocking of any one determination: I'd like to think we share this in common: and perhaps my own anxiety stemming from living "Am anfang war die Tat" lies in the uncanny resemblance his life, his style, his posture, his masks, bear to mine.

When we made it back to his place, after a delicious fuck, we started up some small talk and then, much to my dismay, and despite myself, this small talk swelled into a full-blown argument. I stopped myself, I slowed down, I realized that "the point" wasn't worth staining the night we'd just shared. He was less receptive to my attempt to walk-things-back, but then, as if out of no where he says (and I paraphrase and add dramatic flourish): "Don't be jealous but this afternoon I found a letter I wrote to my ex..." (a letter he never sent apparently), "and in it I apologize for arguing with him all the time. It's funny because I don't remember arguing with him over anything important, only theoretical bullshit" (at which point I interrupt: "theory isn't bullshit" and he smiles and demurs, "I know, but you know what I mean...")... "I guess it's just the way I relate to people, my Dad is like that, too..." To this I say, "I'm not jealous: I'm relieved: it means it isn't me, that you aren't disagreeing with me because we are incompatible..." He says that he ripped up and threw away that letter for fear that I would find it. He probably didn't need to do that. But it was interesting that he added this fact: that relationship, it's as if he said, is over and it means more to me that you not feel jealous or nervous if you ever saw this letter, this artifact of my feelings for that man, than preserving a record of those feelings.

J. and I have this brilliant capacity to talk around the "real" issue that dogs us, and to then talk of that issue "through" some other issue. My mistake, so often, is to correctly read that something else is at stake, but to then presume that I can rightly diagnose the "real" issue. Instead, whenever I've tried such a tact, J.--who is no fool--throws my pretensions in my face with the full forcefulness that I would myself muster against any such haughty condescension. What I've found, rather, is that when we simply try to walk-back our own fervor and remind one another (and ourselves) of our love... then, at least thus far, the "real" issue suddenly comes to the fore.

This isn't always easy for me: language is my weapon, and my best defense: I can tear anyone apart, or at least keep myself from getting eviscerated: I can go toe-to-toe with the best, and I have, with fear and trembling, and with defiant pleasure. But J. has the capacity to frame things in such a way--a way that affirms that with him I can be less guarded--that allows me to hear what he says not as a criticism, but as an insight, not as an indictment, but as a welcoming. My challenge--and no doubt it will remain my challenge for the foreseeable future at least--is to remain receptive to those moments of insight and welcome, and to extend to him the opportunity, to help open a space between us, where he can feel open for the same sort of receptivity.

This isn't, of course, anything that can be prescribed. As I have affirmed in other contexts (just recently with my friend "the Church Girl"--a monicker that doesn't do her justice by any means), life itself is a "process", a conversation rather than a conversion: there is no "The Moment" when everything clicks absolutely and finally into place: shit changes, and we must be capable of changing with it.

After this change in tone, in "mood," the "thing" that sat between us--that threatened to wedge us apart again and throw us back into a cycle of ambivalently made promises and ambivalent ruptures of those self-same promises--was no longer a "thing" that separated us, but which brought us together: Let us be certain: there is always a "thing" in-between any "us"--a mediating third point in the triangular structure of any relationship. This "thing"--too complex to reduce to language--was all that is contained in the concept of "commitment," but especially a sense of shared relief that we could relate to one another in a multiplicity of modalities without thereby effacing the common-ground that keeps us together. We made love again, and fell asleep in one another's arms.

It's as if that night was an exemplary "scene" of the face of things to come: the joy of sharing a wonderful night together, the ever inescapable complexity of human defenses to human trauma, and an affirmation of desire in the face of the manifold challenges that simply "being-with" another human being must negotiate. I think, when I reflect back on this night, that we both were immensely grateful for it: it served as a moment of realization for us both (one of many already experienced, and one of many to come) that we can do "this" if we do it together and not against one another. Often, for me at least, this means also, doing it with him against myself--I am so very talented at being my own saboteur!: give me a wall and I will pin myself against it and try, through alchemical osmosis, to force myself into and through it... I am learning to love the absence of walls.

Tomorrow I head down to Hyde Park to meet with a professor friend, to set for myself the proverbial "Thousand and One Goals" that will guide me through the next five-to-seven years of my academico-intellectual life. I am so eager to begin! In der Tat, in the beginning is the deed! Being in Hyde Park, on that campus again, walking down those halls... I came to realize after my year at Chicago that I "belonged" there. Not in any sense of "belonging": the place reeks of Ivy League privilege and pretension--but I "belonged" there because it was the first time I was really critically challenged as a scholar, intellectual, and human being. It is the place, I found, where I was most finely honed, and a part of my body's purpose is to be a weapon: perfectly weighted and balanced, finely cut and tested, sharp and quick. A weapon that can dance: nimble and delicate, like a lady: a stiletto.

J. wrote to me, "finally home and pretty much all ready for school". It took a week to catch-up, to establish a rhythm of step that could feel comfortable: he's all registered, his computer arrived, his books are on his desk, and I'm there with him in a way that doesn't obfuscate those demands: I "fit in". No doubt when school actually starts for me there will be yet another adjustment, yet another series of negotiations that will need to be performed. But, and here is the crucial point, the point that gives me hope and confidence: we've performed such negotiations already, and while not perfectly, we addressed ourselves to the changes that were rippling through our lives. We performed it once, and we can perform it again. I'm not worried.

This relationship, unlike my only other, has been fraught with doubt, with ambivalence, with "fear and trembling" in the face of another human being that refuses to settle into a simple confining context. But it has also been so utterly immensely satisfying for these very reasons! In my first relationship all the questions, doubts, hesitations, and conflicts were buried underneath the sheer volume of accumulated pronouncements of "love"--we never allowed ourselves or one another to figure out what the hell we wanted, and who we could be individually within the context of our relationship, until much too late, when any such assertion of selfhood seemed like a betrayal and the inevitable dissolution of that relationality. J. and I are, now, in the beginning, establishing our hesitations, our doubts, our ambivalences, our "fear and trembling" so that when these same challenges confront us in the future they do not confront us as alien entities, betrayals, but as that which has always been there, as part and parcel to "being-with-in-love": to the very person that each of us is and the dynamics of our relationship.

I'd say that I feel "so grown up!" saying such things, but the truth is, as I joked with my Momma, it's only been because of J.'s ability to let me see myself, and what we're up to, in this light that I can make such mature proclamations: "Either he is 25 years old psychically, or I am 20--but most likely we both exist somewhere in-between." She laughed at this, and said that it didn't really matter as long as we were able to maintain the necessary tension that comes-between and holds-together any couple. Still, I do feel "grown-up," and I include in my narcissistic valuation, J.: I'm able to relate to another human being on an intimate level that heretofore was unimaginable for me, and he is in no small measure a main contributor that that process: with him it is desirable to risk the danger that might also promise salvation (to quote a poet's poem). I gave him a book of e.e. cummings' work: "Deeds cannot dream what dreams can do" a single verse reads. I never allowed myself to see the inter-animation of ideas and action in the profound sense that I do now: if Cummings gives voice to my aspirations (I wish for a better future, my actions are guided by this messianic hope), then J. counters: "dreams cannot do what deeds can dream"-- a reversal that throws emphasis on the act itself, on the deed itself giving ground for dreams, from which dreams can launch.

J. and I, we exists, in our love, in the in-between of this perpetual reversal: the play of deeds and dreams. We dance as we follow the flips of polarity, sometimes missing the beat, needing to re-catch our step, but we have learned to, in such moments, hold onto one another, to feel the tempo of the other's body, and to regain our rhythm. I've been reading a lot of Murakami this summer on J.'s urgings, and he emphasizes again and again in his fiction the importance of the "flow," the "dance"... "Dance, Dance, Dance"... And, with J., I never heard a man speak like this man lives before.

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