We go now to a place where pretty dresses on prettier girls are soiled when they lose their minds; on their knees, crawling and clawing wildly in the dirt hoping to find, mislaid in the dark, all the things they think they’ve lost— their sanity perhaps, but God and we know, they they are the prettiest without it.
A man they were sure they’d never seen before is there an he’s saying that they could die for this, as if they weren’t currently dying for this, as if they had lived for even one moment since they learned that all the things they lived for could so easily be taken away.
Earlier, when the first woman they trusted wasn’t any more worthy, than all the one’s they’d tried before.
A locked door, a repetitive phone message, newspapers accruing on the porch. One of them knows this means that no one is home now, but the others wish that she was less sure. There’s a call that brings them back to the lives they almost lived before, to the things they would have, if they hadn’t been trained to think that there was no way to have them anymore.
There’s a new place now, a room we’ve only seen a few times before. Large, too large to make sense, but small enough that the three people in it are one too many. There’s a talk about not hurrying things but it’s the sort of thing a person says when they have never had to hurry.
Elsewhere, a man watches a girl through a window with a look that says that he’s been watching her almost all her life. She kisses another and puts together a future that they both know won’t happen, and in her head, without even trying to stop herself, she lists all the reasons why it is impossible.
In another world, but the same world (it is always the same world), a girl who tries not to think much is thinking of a boy, who, because what else could be, is only just outside the door. A trading of insecurities is all it takes for him to be hers again. And for her to know it.
In the last place, one of the four watches the only thing that she’s worked for (since they stopped working for things that only get taken away) talking to a girl that has already broken his heart. She has a heart full of hope and hands full of coffee, and except for her face and perhaps her lack of pain, she is a perfect match for the girl, our girl, standing at the edge of the door. Our girl watches as what’s hers passes all the tests, but somehow it is not enough that he passes the tests, but it is too much that he is asked to take them in the first place.
Then they are together, standing in a room and forced to address all the things they’d been trying to ignore while they were living their lives apart. There is a box, a wooden box, inside they lay in miniature. Each of them another thing that they would have been fighting against if they had know that they would be asked not to fight at all. But this is their game. One must tell the boy of all the futures they do not have together. Another must rid what’s hers of the test master, the quiz maker. A third must ruin the life of the man she’s already forgiven for ruining hers.
In the present, when there is nothing, but the faint possibility they this time it really is the end.
All tears and the kind of face that makes you ache, one calls the voice she most needs to hear to remind her that she’s not the things that they are trying to tell her that she is.
Back there again, in the past again, they are each doing the things they most want to do, in the ways they least want to do it.
One says that there will be no more tests, especially not of the testmakers own devise. There’s no way to make someone love you with words that aren’t even really yours. The girl who makes the tests come and finds her later, and says that the girl does not understand love, does not understand that it means that you will do all the nastiest things just to have it. But the first girl does understand, and so she’s sad for a moment before she is angry, and she watches her enemy walk away already with the visions of how it will end.One says the words we all have to say eventually, and then flees with her heart in her mouth, so that she can get far enough away before she has to spit it out on the ground, all sputters and groans and half-uttered screams. A man who has never made her sputter or scream emerges to try and save her. One has to go to the man who made her beginning and give him an end he deserves, and she hesitates to do it, but not for the reasons you might think, and she does what she has to do, and then escapes. The way we all escape in the end.
One, the last one, has something different to do. She must follow the voices in her head to the places only it knows, and she must do it as if it weren’t the only thing to do, but also the best.
Here, the present, when the dark one looks with eyes narrowed and arm braced, like she was looking for something that was stolen from her before she even knew it was hers to begin with.
To be continued…
Shades of grey. When I’m watching Breaking Bad I somehow wish that there could be a time when I’m all bravado, surviving from day to day based on only the perfection of my craft, good or bad, whatever that craft may be.
IF the past is nothing but a series of lies about what we’re supposed to be , and the future is nothing but shit, how can the present even exist except in unbearable, perpetual tension with itself.
I read your column religiously. I’m 22. From what I can tell by your writing, you’re in your early 40s. My question is short and sweet: what would you tell your 20-something self if you could talk to her now?
Dear Seeking Wisdom,
Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea.
In the middle of the night in the middle of your twenties when your best woman friend crawls naked into your bed, straddles you, and says, You should run away from me before I devour you, believe her.
You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.
When that really sweet but fucked up gay couple invites you over to their cool apartment to do ecstasy with them, say no.
There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.
One evening you will be rolling around on the wooden floor of your apartment with a man who will tell you he doesn’t have a condom. You will smile in this spunky way that you think is hot and tell him to fuck you anyway. This will be a mistake for which you alone will pay.
Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.
You cannot convince people to love you. This is an absolute rule. No one will ever give you love because you want him or her to give it. Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.
Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.
One hot afternoon during the era in which you’ve gotten yourself ridiculously tangled up with heroin you will be riding the bus and thinking what a worthless piece of crap you are when a little girl will get on the bus holding the strings of two purple balloons. She’ll offer you one of the balloons, but you won’t take it because you believe you no longer have a right to such tiny beautiful things. You’re wrong. You do.
Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.
When you meet a man in the doorway of a Mexican restaurant who later kisses you while explaining that this kiss doesn’t “mean anything” because, much as he likes you, he is not interested in having a relationship with you or anyone right now, just laugh and kiss him back. Your daughter will have his sense of humor. Your son will have his eyes.
The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.
One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.
Say thank you.