Monday, November 21, 2011
Ballad of Big Nothing
I didn't think of it as stalking; it was just, I don't know, fascination.
When I was a junior in high school I had an unrelenting crush on a freshman. I remember her name, although I won't divulge it. I remember what she looked like: almost supernaturally petite, like some kind of pixie, with hair so blonde it always seemed as if it were being lit from within, skin the color of immaculate alabaster and ice-blue eyes that I was truly convinced had the power to stop time if she willed it. I had a couple of overarching infatuations throughout my high school career -- unrequited interests that threatened to boil over one day then were reduced to a simmer the next -- but this particular girl kept me tightly wound and perfectly transfixed for most of the 11th grade and even into the summer before my senior year. I never spoke to her. Not once. I did, however, drive past her house a couple of times when I happened to be in the area. What I was looking for, what I expected or at the very least hoped to see, I still don't really know. Maybe I imagined that one day I'd find her out in her driveway washing her family's car in a bikini or something -- or maybe I just longed to see her in her natural habitat, as if she were some kind of animal I had decided to study in the interest of science. Maybe it was simply the thrill of knowing that I was in her general presence even if she didn't know it. No, I didn't ever stop the car. No, I didn't sit outside her house. Yes, I did once drive by mildly intoxicated at around midnight, although in my defense I was returning home from a party and her place happened to be on the way.
Yes, it was a creepy little obsession, I guess, and if it had been 2011 rather than 1986 I probably would've gotten myself arrested or at least talked to by a professional should anyone have found out.
I bring this up to make a point: I was always desperate and passionate. I always craved mutual devotion and yearned for storybook romance. I always believed in love and believed that it could last. I don't think I am, I want, I believe any of these things anymore.
I realize that I've made a statement like this before, not long after my initial break-up with Jayne, but what's startling to me now are the ways in which the removal of such a profound and powerful force from my life have affected that life. The ferocious will to be with another human being is the drive that keeps millions of us moving forward, giving our lives weight and our course direction; it's often why we dress the way we do, get the job we have, live where and how we live, surround ourselves with the people and possessions we choose. So many of us are who we are not simply because we want to be the best we can be, but because we pray and expect that the best version of ourselves will translate into a desire by others to be with us. We want to be attractive. We want to be impressive. We want to be loved. But what happens when you take away that compass, do you then drift aimlessly? I can't help but feel as if I've been doing just that.
I'm basically homeless right now and have been since those early days following the split with my wife and my flight from New York City with my daughter two-and-a-half years ago. Because of the present arrangement I have with Jayne regarding Inara, one which remains in place until September of next year, my child is in my custody for weeks and sometimes months at a time, which means that I toggle between being on my own and being with a little girl at regular intervals. When my child is with me, I spend quite a bit of time in Central Florida where my parents live since Inara's grandmother has offered excellent -- and relatively free -- daycare while I've worked both full-time and freelance. When my child isn't with me, I've lived either in a very nice two-bedroom condo in Fort Lauderdale, one owned by an uncle of mine which I pay rent and utilities to stay in part-time, never making fully "mine," or in the guest bedroom of one of my best friends in Miami. The latter situation is amusing for a whole host of reasons, the primary one being that the two of us live like bachelor goof-offs despite having long since passed the stage in our lives where such frivolity was deemed acceptable by just about anybody. Still, in Miami it's common knowledge that you never really have to grow up; the whole place is like Neverland.
The bottom line is that I live out of a suitcase a good portion of the time, going from place to place to place, never truly putting down roots or settling into one specific pattern. I tell myself that the reason for this is that I simply can't at the moment, given the instability inherent in the current situation with Inara and the fact that I'm not working full-time, instead keeping busy with client work from anywhere my laptop happens to be. At least that's what I used to tell myself. More and more I'm willing to admit that I'm in fact lying to myself. I haven't put down roots because I have no desire to. I live out of a suitcase because that's how I choose to live. I don't have a "home" because I don't want one.
This flies in the face of everything I ever wished for or demanded of myself throughout most of my life. It does so because I always wanted to be in a relationship, to be appealing to someone looking not simply for a night or two but for a steady partner. And I don't want any of that anymore. The compass that kept me on one very specific course is gone and the question now becomes how to find your own way without its guidance. For decades my desire to love and be loved was like some elegant Fata Morgana, perpetually seducing me from the horizon but ultimately turning out to be elusive. So maybe I've finally just given up the quest altogether. I have love to give and I give it to my child in abundance, and I've certainly cared about people since my break-up with Jayne, one person in particular who remains very dear to me, but I'm finally coming to terms with the fact that not only have I not fully "healed" in the wake of everything that happened during my marriage to and divorce from Jayne, I'll very likely never again be the person I was before that experience. And I think I'm alright with that.
But those questions remain: Can your own desire for self-betterment be as powerful and have the longevity that an outside, some would say artificial source of improvement did for so long? How do you stop yourself from just dropping out altogether -- from no longer being the least bit concerned with the important things you once did in the hope of appealing to another? How will you know the person you see in the mirror is the real you without someone else there to provide confirmation and affirmation? Who are you if not one-half of a whole?
A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for this site detailing some of the physical changes that happened to me following the surgery I underwent to remove a tumor from my head. I talked about how it altered my hormonal output and, for a time, left me completely uninterested in sex. I talked about how strangely liberating that was; to not worry one bit whether I was clever enough, or funny enough, or cute enough, or rich enough to get laid; to be free of the sexual hang-ups and burdens that have plagued almost every post-pubescent man and woman since the dawn of the civilized age; to not even miss the pursuit of that kind of contact -- or the contact itself -- and the hassles that often come with it. That was just sex. This is love. This is full-time companionship. This is the stuff of songs and sonnets and supposed soulmates. If sex and passion are inspirational in our lives, love is epochal. And while I don't claim to know whether the latter is something I'll purposely avoid, and if so for how long, I know that I'm not looking for it anymore. I don't feel about it the way I once did and so I have to find a new way to feel about it.
In the meantime, I drift -- although I'm not sure it's really drifting. Next month I'll be hitting the road again, traveling across the country and eventually ending up in Los Angeles for a few months. I'm doing it for the reason most people have gone west in the past: opportunity. In this case, work and quite a bit of it. But I'm also going because, as I said the last time I struck out into the empty space, there's therapy in movement, in forward momentum. And because there's wonder and adventure in not knowing exactly what happens next. And because I can.
I have no idea what happened to that little blonde-haired, alabaster-skinned girl with the ice-blue eyes. Wherever she is, I hope she's happy, that she has a good life. I know what became of the impetuous, passionate boy who once thought she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen, though. He's gone. But the man who took his place is doing okay.