“Why did we choose this insane task? Why have knowledge at all?”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

Didn’t you notice? Notice how people say exactly what they don’t mean when they are trying to say something – what they really mean, I mean. Just as shy is one letter away from sly, even if by chance, so is that something we try to communicate a slippery thing. Or a blind rigmarole of sorts: muffled laughs which sound like sneezes, anonymous scrapes by chair legs at dinner, and pants crossing legs. It is a knowledge, it is, it seemingly isn’t. But it is. So I heard. I once told this to my boyfriend – my old, old boyfriend. And that wasn’t exactly what I told him.He, this boyfriend, was everything I wasn’t attracted to. He had a criminal record and family issues, gangling limbs, profuse sweating, a habit. Lots of habits. I continued to date him anyway. He was everything I wasn’t, and never wanted to be. But, I’ll be damned if it wasn’t that self-same incongruity between us that started the whole thing in the first place. It was a conversation, a movement of lips.”I’ve seen prettier,” he said, putting his face near mine. Nose-to-nose, he wanted inside, no bones about that. Would I crack? With the grin of an evil innocent, I put my lips right on his and inhaled just as hard as I could. Actions and intentions were always tangled and a-blur.”But I can take your breath away.” He puzzled his body in congruency with mine. I grimaced and turned away. I had done it again. Despite myself, I was storing all of these resentments away. The niggled, like worms in sand tunneling underground. And how they turn the soil upside down.And breathing out, he whispered, “You did really good.” He rolled off the top of me. What is going on, I wondered, so petrified inside myself I could feel the sweat drying to my skin. Where are my clothes and my – I was bleary and drunk. What is this ache? And why am I burning up? Why does everything familiar look so different? This room in the attic, the sweaty socks and posters torn from walls. Where does this fire come from? Why is everything so hot? How does a flame ignite in something so empty on the inside? “I’m so glad you finally said yes.” He lifted my deadened hand and kissed it on all sides. There doesn’t have to be smoke for there to be a fire.
.
Needless to say, we didn’t date long, even though it looked like a million years worth of baggage when it was all over. From the inside, that is. Like looking at the systems of an ant farm, I suppose. They are amazing not because ants will make themselves at home whether under glass or under ash, but because we can marvel at a little piece of what we don’t normally see. For a person who tried to give as little as possible to the relationship, I seem to have acquired a lot. You can’t see any of it, but it’s a mountain.What do you do with the extra pieces of the puzzle? I always wondered that. You can’t throw them away. What if they belong to another you have yet to put together? So what did I do? Dropped them into a box, watched them pile and dune in the back of the closet. Collection was easy with him. I told him this.
.

I told him, “Did you ever notice that there’s always someone dominant and someone submissive in a relationship? Like there’s this competition, and it’s mean, ’cause there can only be one person always calling the shots.”

He may have been unattractive to me, but I would never say he was dumb.
.
“What are you, some kind of fucking feminist? You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Clever. I felt – I knew, smilingly – that I had crossed a line. Needling people in the brain my version of an extreme sports hobby. I was working him while riding in his car, and he was already using only one hand to steer since he was smoking. We were going pretty fast. We always were. Little pair of cons. Like artists, how many do you know who blatantly blame audiences for the conflict the art portrays? Maybe a lot.
In any case, I was hooked. I only liked him because his mom was this super hippie and we could get free weed. That, and I knew he’d have sex with me. Not that I was interested in either. And not that something pestering and subterranean like that would have kept me from giving it the old summer-before-college try. Anyway. That’s what I said – to myself.
I was getting at something else and it had nothing to do with philosophy.
“That’s just sick,” he whispered.

Now I had to come up with something. This wasn’t going the way I wanted to. I thought for sure I had lured him into breaking up with himself. Taking the fall, claiming his blame. Pull the ol’ Wilma Flintsone. Or was it Fred?

Whoever we were, I felt that if it for each of our presences, we could have talked. Talked about how I hated him. How I hated me. How I got this creeping feeling that he knew it, and felt the same.

So we talked about our parents, and how we hated them. We had to. It’s like a sixth grader writing a report from the Encyclopedia Britannica. We referenced the only relationship we knew, really. Of course, we only ended up recounting our own relationships with those relationships.

That boyfriend and I never did get to talk about the real issue. I hope that he gave it some thought later.

I hadn’t until just now. Given it thought, I mean. Thought to reference and control. Thought to love, fullness, and being alone. I guess I’ve just been reading so many books of late. Reading them, deciphering what they mean, reading a set of critical articles, and backing myself up to say whatever it is that I don’t mean.

And that thing? It’s that I don’t know. I don’t know a damned thing. I mean it.

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