Morning Glories in the Rose Garden
“And then she started smiling again, not a mocking smile, not as if she were enjoying herself, but a terminal smile, a knotted smile somewhere between a sensation of beauty and misery, though not beauty and misery per se, but Little Beauty and Little Misery, paradoxical dwarves, travelling and inapprehensible dwarves. Relax, it’s just steam, Laura said. The boys, ready to accept everything Laura said as irrefutable, nodded over and over. Then one of them let himself drop to the tiles, head propped on his arm, and fell asleep. I got up, careful not to wake the old man, and moved closer to Laura; squatting next to her, I buried my face in her humid and fragrant hair. I felt Laura’s fingers caress my shoulder. In a little while, I realized that Laura was playing, very gently, but it was a game: her pinkie was sunbathing on my shoulder, then her ring finger would pass and they’d greet each other with a kiss, then the thumb would appear and both pinkie and ring finger would flee down the arm. The thumb was then king of the shoulder and would lie down to sleep; it seemed to me that he even ate some vegetable that was growing there, for the fingernail dug into my flesh, until the pinkie and the ring finger returned, accompanied by the middle and index fingers, and all together they would frighten the thumb, who hid behind an ear and spied on the other fingers from there, without understanding why they’d thrown him out, while the others danced on the shoulder and drank and made love and, out of sheer drunkenness, lost their balance and fell off the cliff and down the back, an accident Laura would take advantage of in order to hug me and lightly touch her lips to mine; in the meantime, the four fingers, terribly bruised, would climb up again, clinging to my vertebrae, and the thumb would observe them without ever thinking to leave his ear.”
- Mexican Manifesto by Roberto Bolaño
B O L A Ñ O • O N • T H E • P A R K
Exact Language, 2013 (made with my left hand)
Head Above Water 2
sundown to sunup on the first day of June
“If this is the only world we are given”, I start, not knowing how to form the words for the question about a dichotomy that involves whether or not we must resign to be wholly self-reliant or if we must labor to connect with other humans.
“This is the only world we are given. Not if,” the Gentle Man says.
“Right. This is it. This is the only world,” I agree, looking around to the particle boards that hold up the construction signs and the fat-legged women with sweat dripping from their knees and the gridded grates standing guard between the sidewalk and the darkness beneath.
In the eight weeks since the person I loved most spit me out of his revolving door so many renditions of the same question persist - Can we only trust ourselves, and if that is so, what are human relations for? Amusement? What is more important - ceding all expectations of others, even your nearest and dearest, so that raw and violent vulnerability is avoided, or trusting that the light that burns your insides can merge with the light of others without risk of scarring and death? In all of my grappling I asked, “What is more important than love?” and Narcissus answered, “Truth”, but, him being Narcissus, I knew his Truth with a capital T was only that which is within the boundaries of self-service. It is true enough that we must take care of our self. That we must run if we feel like running, must create if we feel like creating, must read, must kiss, must work, must stand up tall. Must drink and brood and flirt and breathe and even break our bones recklessly. What I want to know is about reaching outside of that. What I want to know is about how to deal with humans. How far do you reach? If the impulse is to flood others with light, but to let it flood you must open yourself wide, and in doing so you scatter your armies, and therefore endanger the very intactness of the spirit, then is it necessary to fight your instincts? To what degree? I am not just talking about romantic love. I mean with all humans, at all levels of interaction. How often do you offer a smile to a stranger when the gamble of the unreturned can upset your momentum? How many times does a person fix your hair for you, buckle your shoes for you, take your picture for you before you begin to love them? It’s that the returned smile is ten times the lift than it is the fall, I think. I think that’s where the truth lies. “Care less. Care less, ” I have told myself when the old bum is asking me to dial 911 for him because his legs can’t move, when my coworkers are giggling across the lunch table and I am caught in a wave of gratitude, when a man is sending me poetry. Because everybody tells you so. Everybody says that you must tread lightly, that it takes time, that you must take your time. But one person told me, “Get the dynamite out! Fuck it!” and that sounds like the truth to me. The truth to me is to burn your world with love and to accept that not everybody can stand the heat.
A woman took the seat next to mine on the morning A-train. After a few minutes she turned to me and quietly said, “May I tell you something?”
“Everything is going to be ok.”
Yesterday, I turned twenty-eight years old. My goal is to always mean what I say.
Here is what happens physically:
Some call it a burning but to me it is more of a suffocation. Like giant hands take your torso’s guts and steadily wrings them like a wet rag. You lose several things, momentarily but also consistently, like the loss of vision (either in the form of black tunnels or black cloudy spots that render you blind), the loss of breath, the loss of balance, the loss of appetite. Even the dependable menses takes it’s leave. The most debilitating of these symptoms, though, is the loss of sleep. Once prone to heavy slumber, you turn for fitful hours before it overtakes you, then wake no later than dawn or earlier, the tears rolling before the eyes open, the weight of an ox pressing squarely on your chest, pinning you in the darkness, helpless.
Here is what happens mentally:
Grief plus insomnia will turn your thoughts black.