I dreamt of nothing (but when I was awake)
Love stories as a sequence of non-events
She asked me how it all began. “Well, it didn’t all begin.” “Well, when did you realize? What was your first thought?” I spoke to my friend like I hadn’t spoken to anyone, ever, before. (I felt that I had so much to give, which I learned in a song or movie.)
I thought about everyone I had ever spoken to. I must have been in the seated area of a big grocery store—an embarrassing kind of place to identify as a place. Maybe like the back of a parking lot, where you start to wonder if everywhere is a kind of parking lot. Where you start to wonder if everywhere is just trying, desperately, not to be a parking lot. It’s impossible, as a thinking person, to encounter yourself in these places without experiencing emotion, racking up every encounter like the montage before your long-awaited death.…..
Everyone had had enough of me. Christina now looked to other people for confidence. “Christina.” I had lost friends. I thought about if the friends I had made in their absence were sympathetic frauds. Or was the consensus that we were supposed to keep our friends no mater what? I forgot. So, to be safe, I kept the ones who kept calling, and who I kept calling. But Tina’s voice rattled with echo and undercurrent, never direct. Or so I said. A sexy voice that had no business. I would never do anything about it, I said, almost aloud, in the grocery store chairs. Tina, (Tina), on her part, relished the round, wispy sounds she made. She didn’t know exactly their effect but she felt something, that they did a thing. But who would confirm it to her? So this became my torment.
I thought there must be other things to worry about. (And there were, and I knew about them.) But it was nice to rest here, at the edge of nothing and nothing. And once there was a guy, even. Fred. Or some guy Fred. Or Rex. Or Tex. No, I guess Tex was wrong—still not over that. But there was an abstract kind of objectification that remained undeniable in my own mind. The taut, unapologetic guy’s body that was smoothed, toned, condemned to hell, glorious, writhing with an energy I sought from coffee. I dreamt of nothing but when I was awake.
No one hated me because no one knew me. I called the travel agent back. I felt bad about how I had treated her, she needed a tip and in a panic, I had booked a different route directly through the airline. I thought, pathetically, maybe said, aloud—oh, if I just could’ve cared for you. No one you know is right about what that means. But some people make you “feel safe,” make the world feel right from a certain angle. So you stick by these people and if all fails, yearn for the ones you made up.
Nothing is so dramatic! my little sister screams. She screams! She has a big face full of ugly honesty and one day she’ll have great taste. OK! Yes! Nothing I care about so much matters, except that wouldn’t make me an artist. She laughed at that, as if it meant something, and I think it was nice of her to give that, of all things, meaning.
The sun rises or whatever. I look at it and it changes everything again. It’s devastating to wake up only to be so touched by it all. I looked at the face of things: only the ones in front of me matter, only the ones who respond. A self-love, a narcissism that worked. There had to be people in other places who liked the idea of knowing me, someone like me (which now brings nothing to mind). It can only be the ones who must be around me, today, who figure into any kind of appraisal of who’s who, who’s hot, who’s not. (Took me a few stubborn months to move on from this.)
I think of the waifs I used to dance with, out of fervor out of desperation, to make the right one notice, though there wasn’t much to be done with them. Parties in basement apartments dotted with the searching eyes of people who, whatever. It’s not enough to finish a sentence, I liked to tell the most attractive people, trailing off. Actually, no one danced. That was the problem.
Then we shared a drink and that was it. And that was it. And I just had to do it again.