and I feel like I’m in his novel .. or he is in mine
July 2, 2012
NY invited me to his studio last Saturday (not the one that just passed, when I was in LA). His studio is deep in BK, next to the house where he grew up, so that was strange and amazing to put the pieces together like that. When I got there, his brother was there, and then NY kinda ignored me, in his way, like I made him real uncomfortable and he didn’t know what to say. But then when he spoke he said the strangest thing. He said, “I love to look at pregnant bellies. Don’t you?”
And I got these chills and I couldn’t figure out what it was he was asking me, so I stayed quiet and played with my phone. Then he said, “I found these photos this morning,” and they were of him when he was 20, and it was like he was looking for them to show them to me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was he wanted me to see.
I’m looking at the photos and I’m thinking of his book and I’m seeing the character he is and the character he was. And it’s strange because had I met him then, well, then… But I’m meeting him now and somehow it all makes sense. Even when it doesn’t. And I’m so nervous because whenever I’m around him I can’t breathe. But I mean, I got the Times. But is this my dream? Or is it his? I don’t think I’m actually thinking too much about him. Because… I can’t breathe.
So maybe ten minutes after I get there, he tells me, “We’re going to paint this wall, do you want to come?” and we go deep deep deep into Brooklyn, and oh yea, he takes us in that car! And hen he tells me the name of his car and I laugh and he asks what’s funny and I said that his car shares the same name as the one my girl gave her punanny. And I can’t see his face but I think he blinks a couple of times and we’re driving along and I’m realizing BK is not like anything I know. It’s country out here! I mean, as country as New York gets. But it’s like a world I’ve never been in, because what would I be doing in Sheepshead Bay?
We get there and it’s real casual, only, he doesn’t introduce me to anyone so it’s like, What am I doing here, this random girl? I thought we were going to work on the story, but he wants me to see something, only I don’t understand what I’m looking at. He’s painting something, his thing, the thing that makes me cringe and what’s more he’s writing it in Spanish, and part of me wants to admire him but it’s just kinda… corny. And that’s hard to accept, you know, when you barely know someone and you have an image in your mind and that image has nothing to do with reality, and you’re slowly finding that out.
So he’s painting and I’m standing there like “the girl” only I’m not “the girl,” I am no one at all. And I can’t figure out what I’m doing here so I get on my phone and make a call. And I call my boy in SF and we laugh and giggle and talk shit and I watch his fine ass paint the wall and you know he never turns around. But he comes up to me later, and he starts talking about something and it’s beautiful and awkward and I’m looking at his eyes and they’re kinda green in this light and he tells me how much he loves beauty, and he is looking at me with this look when he says it. And I feel the butterflies and I don’t know what to do so I change the subject and I ask him about the project and that’s when he tells me, “We’re anonymous.”
And that hit me hard. I couldn’t understand it. Here I am trying to make things happen and he’s turning me upside down. Literally. I smile and I laugh and I throw my head back and my back arches forward and my hair sweeps across the hood of the car I am leaning against and I look up at the sky and the sky is bright blue and I’m feeling totally open, and totally confused.
The wall is done and we are leaving and he’s pretty drunk and he’s driving. And his brother is cool and I’m a little hot and I’m feeling strange like drawn in and kept at arm’s length at the same time. And as the sky grows darker and night begins to fall, he suddenly blurts out, “I want to see my babies,” but what he means his is his nieces and nephews.
We stop by his sister’s house, unannounced and uninvited, and once again I am the lone female and what am I doing here? So I introduce myself to his sister and her husband and NY says, “Sorry I didn’t introduce you,” and I think to myself, No you’re not. And we’re all in this huge kitchen that’s bigger than the apartment I used to live in and the family is eating pizza and they don’t offer any to anyone else. And the brother leans against this kitchen island silently and he says nothing as NY and his sister get into a very disturbing conversation.
It never feels friendly. There is passive hostility in the air. And they start talking about SATs scores and my skin begins to crawl. And then they start talking about his oldest niece, right in front of her, and she sits there quietly and says nothing at all. And that’s when I begin to squirm but I have to play my part and if I had an integrity at all, I’d just walk the fuck out. And find the train, and never look back. But I have no integrity, and to win his friendship I become my own enemy, and I listen to them speak and I know what is happening.
But no one else knows. And it’s not for me to say. But I am ready to wring his neck, especially when he calls me into the conversation. It’s a set up and I want to slap him and I don’t. I just watch this unfold. And I so deeply have this attachment to something I do not understand. But when I watch him scoop up the other kids in his arms and fill them with love, I see a part of him that I can feel and that part is buried so very deep and it’s like a treasure that he’s hidden from the world, and most of all from himself.
We go back to his studio and that’s when and where I call him out because there is this rage in me on his niece’s behalf. I mean it’s my anger but I need to speak on it. And I say how dare he, and out of the corner of my eye I see his brother nod. And that’s when I realize his entire family enables him. And no one can be bothered any longer. They just avoid and ignore; they’re tired of it. And for some reason, I feel like I’m supposed to say something and I don’t know why because I don’t think he is listening.
His brother says he’s going to leave and NY nearly panics and I realize something I cannot say. Until NY and I reach the corner bar and he sits, or rather slumps, on a stool because right about now he is so drunk he cannot sit up. And I feel something deep and awful and I don’t know what. I feel like I’ve never been in the presence of an alcoholic before. And I see what it is and why everyone is enabling him. And I don’t want to be that person, but I don’t want to let go either.
And as we’re sitting there, me sipping wine and NY is saying I’m too good for this place, and he thinks that’s a compliment. And that’s when I realize he has his own image of me and it has nothing to do with me, it’s just what he wants to see. He sees my pinky alight in the air as my fingers wrap around the stem of the glass and he marvels on this gesture, as though that were a sign of class, while meanwhile I think it marks me as a drag queen. I’ve always been this way, ever since I was little. It’s not an affectation; it’s balance. I don’t know why.
And as we’re sitting there. he does that thing that makes me sick and he asks me if I want to be married, and why the fuck is he asking this. I tell him, “No,” and I don’t explain any further. And he’s lolling around on the stool and I’m feeling self conscious. I’m with a drunk. I’ve never been in love with a drunk before and I don’t think I can handle it, especially since he is not my man.
And as we talk he suddenly stops and looks at me and says, “I”m scared of you.”
And I don’t know what to say. My stomach plummets and I sip my wine and I pretend this never happened.
We leave the bar and he goes over to a food truck and orders something and by now I’m pretty drunk and I’m feeling this thing for him that I don’t understand. I walk up to him and kiss him and he turns his face away, and he says, “Why are you doing this?” and all I can think is, “Why are you not?”
We get on the train and he puts his bag between us but I’m drunk and I don’t give a fuck and I need something he won’t give me. I crawl over the bag an I kiss his neck and he starts to blush and he is saying something only I don’t care what.
And that’s when he grabs my wrist and pulls me off the train. And we’re standing on the platform at Fourth Avenue and it;s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. It’s right where the train comes out of the tunnel and goes above ground and the sky is beautiful in late September and everywhere is electric sparks. And we’re at the very end of the platform and it’s private, like a stage, and every time a train goes by the whole area lights up and it’s just beautiful, I can’t even describe it.
And we’re both really drunk and he’s sitting on this metal thing and I’m standing between his legs and I touch him and he pulls away. And he’s saying the strangest things like, “I can’t work when I am with women” and I’m saying, “That’s not me” because my past, you know my history, you know how I do but no, not he. And I want to tell him, and I want him to understand because I already feel it. Yin Yang. But I’m not playing my part, and it’s slipping through my grasp.
But mostly I am not listening. Because he’s saying things that I need to hear. He’s saying how he’s afraid that he’s going to fuck up and disappoint me and I am going to leave him and never talk to him again—he said this several times as we are on the platform.
And I know he’s talking about the past, and I know he is convinced that he cannot break his patterns but I am so single minded, so determined, that I do what I’ve always done and I ignore hm. My will and my power are so great that I’ve been one in the same for so long that I don’t know how to fall back, and when he asks me “Where is this going?” I don’t understand.
It’s just a kiss. Isn’t it? Or am I lying. Or do I not understand what he means. And why can’t I hear him?
So I am drunk enough to be blunt, and I’m not usually blunt anymore because I’m scared of the truth but finally I have the courage so I look at him and say, “Do you want me?” And I swear to God he looks horrified that I am calling it out like this so I say, “Let me do this again. I want you.”
And he says something I never could imagine. He asks a question. It’s only one word. But it’s everything. He looks at me with big eyes full of pain and he asks, “Why?”
It’s so sad. My heart breaks into a million little pieces and they ache in every part of my soul and I think, “This is why. I need to love you because you need to be loved. And so do I.” And I have tears somewhere but they are not in my eyes because I am so drunk and scared of the truth that I cannot be honest. Instead I say,
Answer the question: Do you want me?
No, it’s not; it’s yes or no.
And this goes on, he won’t answer me, so I am saying,” Just tell me no and I will leave you alone.”
I want to make it him. I want him to push me away. But he won’t. He won’t have me and he won’t leave me and we keep talking and touching and the trains keep going by. And when they pass by the platform I see them light up the sky and that’s when I see it. Graffiti everywhere. And I feel like I’m in his novel. Or he is in mine.
And he finally says it. The thing he’s been holding back. He tells me he is married and I feel everything crack. He tells me he’s been married for seven years and I’ve only known him for three, and I’m thinking to myself, “This doesn’t add up. Why did he call his wife his girlfriend when he mentioned her to me?” And he tells me he’s getting a divorce. And he’s been divorcing her for years. And I’m not understanding but I get it. He’s telling me he’s in love with someone else.
It’s all jumbled up in my memory, but I do know that at one point he has me in his arms and I am saying, “Okay, I understand, you don’t want me, I will leave you alone,” and that’s when he pulls me real close, and I say, “Yo! I tell you I am gonna leave you alone and you pull me to you?”
And he’s just smiling. Like this is how he rolls.
Now I’m sitting on the metal thing and he’s standing by me and I tell him something I have to tell him because it’s him and it’s always been. I say, “You remember how you were at my house and I told you I felt like my life was changing but I didn’t know what was next” and he says, “Yes,” and I said, I lied, “I know what I want,” and he asks, “What?” and I say, “I want a baby,” and he looks like he is going to faint, and he asks, “What?” and I say, “I want a baby,” and I am all smiles, and I am saying, “You put this idea in my head.”
Because he did. He asked me. Or maybe it wasn’t even a question. He told me he wanted me to have his baby but then he disappeared. And I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how words could be spoken unless they were meant. Because I didn’t know him. And I hadn’t yet read his second book. And even when I read it, and I understood that he never meant it, I couldn’t undo the meaning he gave me because he gave me something I didn’t have.
I can’t get into this. But I call tell you this. He made me realize sex wasn’t a way to kill myself. He made me realize sex was life. I never thought that. Not even once in my entire life. I always thought I’d kill myself by trying to prove my love.
But now he’s done something he never meant to do. He gave me truth. He gave me the possibility that someone could love me as I could love them. Unconditionally and forever. Because a child is til death do you part. And then…
He doesn’t know any of this. He doesn’t know how my life has fallen apart and all I have are pieces and I don’t know how to put them together at all. I’ve tried to do what I know. I’ve tried work. Because that’s all I’ve ever had. But no, I can’t be who I was and I don’t know who I am and I am no one, not this name I keep throwing around. I’m anonymous, just like he said, and it makes me sick because without my name, I have nothing. And I don’t know how to start again.
And I feel like NY is Someone. I feel like he’s The One but I don’t understand how or why he is this to me. I only know that he’s the only person who can reach me, but I am resisting and not listening because I can’t let go of false beliefs.
I go home, and I don’t really sleep for two days and finally on Sunday at 5am I start writing and it takes me two hours but I do it. I get myself together and I send him the perfect email about the Times and we act totally normal like nothing ever happened. And he loves this. He loves when I turn off the part of me that is hurt and confused and needy. He loves when he doesn’t have to see or feel my pain because he has too much of his own and I don’t understand that. But I do understand that I’m pulling him towards me and I’m pushing him away and I don’t know why this is. I don’t know why I keep picking men who don’t love me. But I keep picking them all the same.
And I tell him I am going to LA and he offers to watch The Cat and he comes by for a walk through and this is the first time I’ve seen him since that night. And I was terribly hungover, I mean lying on the sofa in agony until 3pm and then when the doorbell rang, all my pain just faded away. And we’re all sparky around each other and I can see the flickers of bright lights in the air like when you close your eyes and rub them. And we’re talking about the Times and then he does it again.
“One plus One equals Three” he says and looks at me with a smile. And I love him and I hate him for this. Because I can’t understand why. But I want this. More than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. So I mistake everything that happens as proof that I am right. Because, what is he doing here? And why is he fucking with me? He knows how I feel. Can he be that cavalier, that unfeeling? Can he simply disregard me? I don’t want to believe this. So I don’t. Instead I choose to believe that he is here because it is me. Because I am not easy. I am a handful. I’m a lot going on. I’m hot and I’m cold and I’m good and I’m bad and I’m weak and I’m strong. I’m everything and I’m nothing and I’ll make all your dreams come true because I dream of genie and I want—no, I need a master as powerful.
And I believe it is NY. He’s come into my life several times and every time he has come he has shown me signs. Shown me things I never knew and things I didn’t know I needed to learn and he’s got to know this is true. He’s got to know who I am. Because if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be talking to me at all, and he wouldn’t be working with me, and he wouldn’t have kissed me twice on my neck on Saturday night, after he (finally) whispered, Yes, I want you…