Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Autoportrait 3.0


It's April of last year. This is where I've started to begin; April of last year. We're in Malibu and the wind is as perfect as wind has ever been. You're looking at the beach because you recognize a celebrity and her dog down there and she's huddled in your hoodie, her whole body squeezed up inside it 'cause she's always cold and even colder now smack between the pool beside us and the ocean below. She's so tiny in there, like a girl, and now looking back I remember it like this: it's because it was your hoodie, that's how you made both of us feel sometimes, like a girl all wrapped up. And alternately, like something torn of its surface and alone. But maybe that was just me. It's just easier to imagine or remember that it wasn't just me. I mean I feel smarter that way.

The wind picks up. We put rocks atop our construction paper and our crayons throw caution to the wind.

I come back to this beginning [Malibu, April] because this is the scene that opens the novel [fictionalized, of course, with everyone playing someone else, including me] I assume I'll eventually finish, otherwise this whole thing [my life] is kinda anti-climactic. In the novel, we are there with our crayons when I get an email on my phone from my other half, who I haven't heard from in years -- I've lost him, that much is true -- and it turns out he's in LA but he doesn't know I am too.

When I tell vosotros, you say, Clearly we are going to stalk him right now. My friends love me like that, drive faster for me. It's a novel. This didn't happen.


Malibu in April was a place where everything felt perfect except me. And you and you and you and you and you, and her. It was like crying and laughing at the same time, it was the opposite of fucking & laughing at the same time. The air and the sky, and how at night the stone floor would get so cold, and how I slept so easily next to her because I trusted the silence so bad. I was torn up from all sides, like a fistful of frayed rope.

The three of us in the sunshine; three jellyfish with hoods up and phones out but unimportant, dream on, shades shading.

See -- I'd decided to go to Malibu only a few hours before I got on the plane to go to Malibu. I was still packed from the trip to China I never took, and though that dream had been dashed a few weeks prior to Malibu I had not yet unpacked because I was very busy self-destructing in New York, crawling with blades flared across those creeping warm dumb almost-spring days. Then you called me from the airport and said do you want to go.

That was the week when my heart crashed. I don't mean broke. I mean everything breaks my heart but my heart still works though, I mean that my heart crashed.

I was alone at the time of the crash. There were no witnesses. Or there was one witness; later. Your finger on my skin, and maybe I told you it was your fault and maybe I didn't but it didn't really matter, it wasn't her fault, I mean it wasn't your fault, I mean it was my fault, I mean nothing is anyone's fault except my own and cracks like blades and I had a magic pill that made me forget. It kills me now not to remember.


In Malibu we spoke in little bright charges of electricity and then retreated like lights going off. We drove like nothing bad had ever happened. Does she know, she would ask, does she know? Does she know?

No, of course not. No one knew. We thought we knew and we didn't.

Something changed that week inside me. I mean it changed before I went. In a way I knew what I had to do but I decided instead not to do it because I was scared that if I did what I had to do that I would end up alone and heartcrashed. I mean that writing this I have to pretend like you'll never read it. You, and you, and you and you and you and you and you it was not just you, or even just you, vosotros, you, you ah'tem, ah'ten.

I mean that now as I write this I am heartcrashed to know two or three things I know for sure: that you will not read it, and that you won't either. You weigh against one another like steel and iron, like fire.


In the past week, three people have mentioned to me that it's still hard to see themselves, here, sometimes, in the right kind of light. If I get you at a bad angle. If I was in the right place at the wrong time. I was, I guess. I love the wrong time. I am the wrong time, you're a circle and I'm a fist and an angle. No, I'm a circle.

It's just that I don't know that much about the right time except that I'm determined to prove to you that right can come out of wrong, that right doesn't need to be new. Like I don't trust my own decision to always prefer the blank slate. Like I don't know what I want so I just feel like right now I am trying to remove myself from everyone who could be impacted by that decision.

I was someone else before you and you. The red bulb and drawing on her back, the girl who lied and the girl who cried, Brooklyn and Harlem and red red red and smoke in the air and the secrets you share alone and naked that you can't explain, which is what makes everything exactly what it is.

And now when we talk about the way we were back then (before you, and you) -- before I knew the jellyfishes I know now.

I don't think I could do shit like that anymore, I said, I mean. Now you can't pretend like you don't get what you deserve when you get it.
Dra-ma, she said.

I don't want to do anything we won't remember, I'd said then.
But it's fun, she'd said.

I don't know that girl back then. I was all desire, no want. I was patient and fast. I dug that Radiohead last night, she said the next morning a chunk of years ago. I love the things there isn't time to say at the time. That was years ago. One day I too would no longer want to remember.

I was born with three wishes, but I didn't know any words. My head like a cannonball and flames to the brain. I wasted my first wish on words. My second: no one can leave before I'm ready. Third wish = Infinity.
Now she's picking glass out of her foot with tweezers.
I missed the part when she stepped in the glass.

"Don’t hurt me," she says.
Her first wish.

I ask her if she wants a the middle or the end of the sandwich
and she says she wants the end. She says she likes the ends of things.
"I like pretzel ends, I like hot dog ends, Twizzler ends. The ends of things."

When she wrote me and said It's stagnant, and you don't like that, I said you're right even though I'd never really thought that before. I never thought I craved change because I didn't like staying still. I always assumed I craved change because where I am never feels right. By "assumed" I mean "I've always known."

But did I tell you about how the air in Malibu was so perfect, how everything was so perfect and airy, how slippery it is on top of a rainbow and skating.

I'm telling you the air was perfect. I mean it when I tell you that I think it was in the air. In Malibu, remember? Where we were when this story began, and a place we will never be again. Those were the last moments of that dream. So there it is. Behind me. I had mentioned, after all, the ocean.


I've never been good at describing the weather 'cause it always just seemed so obvious. Now I'm obsessed with it. I want to know about the wind and the ocean and all the things that people who like life like to be close to.

Maybe that was because that was the week I realized that everything was so much larger than me. The good and the bad. That's when things started changing in me. In the fall I decided I wanted to be infinite. In the winter I hid in the middle of everything.

Now there are so many yous, there are so many shes, it's like the universal you. The universal she.
The memory, which we can forget if we want to,
or change when we re-write it,
or eat it, and keep it in our guts forever
like o
like h
When I re-write you, I will make the breeze breezier. I will make your eyes bluer even if they weren't blue in the first place. I pick blue because it's the color of sky. You will laugh at me when I say this.

And now I feel like you laughed at me from above and she laughs at me from below and here I am in the middle, nowhere near the ends of things. And I can't hear. Because isn't the wind terrible.
Which is to say none of the pronouns I so carelessly employ necessarily apply to anyone specific, I mean that.

I wish we had a proper vosotros.

I'm sort of on my own right now, in a weird way. Not for reasons I can explain. But I am, in my head. Oh, no one ever makes sense.
It feels almost like when I stopped taking the anti-depressants years ago,
like coming up from underwater onto a shore that looked black to you but golden to me.


The night before I left for Malibu (before I knew I was going to Malibu), I was on the phone with her and then you arrived and I told her my Mom was on the other line but she wasn't, and never would be. Not at that hour.

And I saw you. And we were together for a moment or twenty in the darkness. And then you left. I felt like a very very bad person, which was sweeter than saltwater. Maybe that happened or maybe you didn't.

I called her back. "So anyway ..." I began.

And we spoke like only simple things had transpired between before and now, like nothing had changed, maybe she'd had a snack or I'd put on my pajamas, like we are two little rocks of love that are stronger than time or change or memory or anything. That's something. You need two or three things you know for sure, a person and maybe two or three more people who are like rocks. Then you can have wind on top of the rocks which don't move. The trouble begins when you mistake Malibu for forever. When you mistake anything for forever.

And the next day I slept until I couldn't sleep anymore because every waking moment was hard. I woke up and you called and asked if I wanted to go. Of course. Of course all I ever want to do is go. I didn't tell you that I'd gone until I got there and you were mad at me for going. But I was safe.

And I went.


We came back laughing. We took two Valiums each, or maybe you took three. Then we were really flying. Nothing hurt. I'd always hated flying but I wanted that flight to never end. Our seats were large, we pretended to be rich people because you pretended to be a rich person all the time and I went with you wherever you wanted to go.

And I loved you so much in that moment. As a friend, perhaps I had never loved you or needed you more as I did in the air that day, coming back from where you had taken me and feeling you'd never take me anywhere again. I always knew, you know.

Hiding in your hoodie, and the Valium you put into my palm.

The food they brought us on trays. We flew through sky and clouds and the world was as perfect as it had ever been.


Nobody ever really changes. So you take it or leave it.


I've always wanted to run away with someone crazy.
Instead I came back to someone who made me smile.

Instead now I


I think of Neal Cassady,
I even think of Old Neal Cassady the father we never found,
I think of Neal Cassady, I think of Neal Cassady.

I've got a postcard super-glued to my desk of William Burroughs trying to stab Jack Kerouac with a dagger. I did that 'cause I opened a super glue bottle and it got everywhere and so I had to put something new on top of it, so I put this postcard on top of it and after all this time it is still here on the desk from the whorehouse. "That's what you call it?" She asked me, once. "You call it 'the whorehouse'?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," I said to her.


The ends of things.

Then you left, and I wasn't ready.


Haviland Stillwell said...

Gorgeous. Keep going.

stef said...

i haven't commented in a while - not because i haven't read, and not because i haven't admired what you've written, but only because i didn't know what to say - still don't, really. this post is an interesting process, and i feel like every time i've read a new version it's in a different context.

posts like this make me anxious to read your book for real.

autumn m said...

i wish i had something smart sounding to say. but all i got is that i like it.

Brynne said...

It's evolving well. The big changes are strong, but so are the small ones.

It's smoother in places now, reads comfortably.

I like the change in voice in the first graf.

Not sure I love the parenthetical [my life] reference. I like that you clarified "this whole thing" but something about it bogs down right there.

I miss the repetition of the * & laugh series. I like that you tightened those two grafs, but too much smoothing and you walk away from the rhythm of the thing, which was really, really strong in places before.

That said, I think you're trending toward more of the essence of the thing now, better word economy.

Press on.

Brynne said...

Feel like I should have lead that last post with the following:

Fantastic. I think it's tremendous.

Meghan said...

What Haviland said. Keep going and going.

Mercury said...

my word verification is boing.

When I read what you write, I go to a place where I'm super comfortable and mellow and steady. like watching something endless and realizing you have no idea how long you've been staring at it - flow of traffic, waterfalls, your breath dissipating in cold air...

it makes it easier to reach into my own head and catch my thoughts, snare words on a line, be beautiful that way, which I sometimes can't do at all. I mean that sometimes everything I write is mundane an unspectacular. also I have a tendency to adapt your habits. I mean whenever I read your writing I end up writing "I mean" a lot. It's beautiful to get to define something and then redefine it a moment later. Because that's truer than just one definition.

burningsteady said...

I'm feeling Joan Didion while reading Autoportrait 3.0.

Duck said...

"The things children find in their minds have more colours than a soap bubble and more warmth than the sun. It's Fantasy that infiltrates every braincel and creates a laugh. It's Fantasy that made a horse a unicorn, a lizard a dragon. -Duck-"

I like this version...like allot. It makes me humble, yet so big. It makes me thoughtfull, yet speechless. It makes me want to crawl into my own head and only listen to the echo of those words.

riese said...

Haviland: I will haviland stillwell gorgeous.

stef: hi stranger for a while i thought maybe you were little tink since you hadn't commented in so long, but then i thought no stef couldn't employ the level of littletink's love without at least a little bit of irony because she's emo. which of course is perfect cause i love emo anyhow if i had a point anyhow the point is that thank you and i am anxious to write my book for real.

autumn m: thank you autumn.

Brynne: Do you remember how that went? I felt like i was having grammatical issues with the laugh& part that I couldn't figure out how to fix -- or that I couldn't figure out how to integrate that line of thought into the story without it seeming like an irrelevent personal aside -- as in, I think that idea fits in well with the story in my head, but when it comes time to put it into language, I am stumped. Any advice?

I always have that trouble with rhythm when editing, because I write with so many unnecessary repitions and various things that reflect the cadence in my mind but might seem sloppy to outsiders, I'm not sure. It's hard for me to figure out on my own where the repition is too much, and where it works. So I'm always happy for feedback.

Meghan: I will, thank you.

Mercury: I know totally what you mean -- you've just described how I feel when I read Mary Gaitskill, there's something about her voice that feels like my voice and it's easier, I start thinking like her and writing like her and it feels like me, even though she's about 500 times better than me, so therefore it's totally not a direct comparison w/r/t me/you, but yeah, when I read her,

or Joan Didion (like burningsteady mentioned)

I start saying what they say a lot. Maybe one day in the future when i have five free minutes a day or more (right now operating on 30-45 free seconds a day) we can write each other letters and then publish them and call it Flying.

Duck: That quote -- you wrote that? It's super-good. children are the only ones who know anything, getting older is a proccess of developing what we think we know and losing what we actually know. But there's something to be said for thinking.

Mercury said...

Riese - I actually just finally picked up a Mary Gaitstkill book last week and I was like "What took me so long to hop on this bandwagon!?" I definitely see the similarities. I feel like my voice is your voice is her voice is he is she is we are all together.
Although I think you're just as talented as she is.

my word veri is "crock"