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.


em said...

Every other time I read your site I wonder how you are and hope you are OK. I feel kind of weird thinking that sometimes, and I feel like I kind of know you, but I really like reading your personal writings. Chin up.

pasta65 said...

Very nice read.

JackDanieL said...

May the road rise to meet your feet.
You have a friend in a rural little dirt road town in San Diego should you make it down this way.

pea said...

From my own experience and that of my friends (because I've actually never looked for it and they have), you'll still find yourself mired in that sticky love stuff, even if you're not looking. I strongly recommend the not-looking, it frees you up to live the rest of your life.

And, hey, see you in December! Safe journeys.

PS Midnight in Paris was fucking AWESOME.

Busayo said...

I'm glad you're doing okay.

Anonymous said...

I broke up with my girlfriend a year ago, or rather my girlfriend decided to see another man after I had quit my job, packed up my belongings and was about to move in with her. I had emotionally and mentally detached from where I was living - hicksville - and ready to get the feck out of dodge. But there I was at the start of Spring stuck in this hell-hole with no place to go, no job and no home.

And, no girl.

So I did what you'd expect any person in my situation to do, and that was to crack open an expensive bottle of bourbon, get drunk, smoke, write a loooong email to her - proclaiming my love, my hurt bladdi blah, which thank the Gods I didn't send. A few months later when I sobered up I decided this wallowing business wasn't really working out for me. Although it was somewhat cathartic staring at a wall for hours on end feeling the seductive pull of misery taking over my soul, I knew I had to shift out of this space lest I become a mental paint peeler.

Interestingly enough I found solace in really physical and mentally demanding exercises. Riding pretty narly mountain bike courses and entering into competitions, swimming, hiking, and night-time rally driving, though the later proved to be quite dangerous so I had to let that one go. I ended up staying in hicksville a little bit longer too as the coin was rather obnoxiously good, kept the pad, and basically got on with my life.

The funny thing is is that I never stopped loving her, and I figured I loved her more 'cause she done me wrong. Funny how the human mind works sometimes... I also accepted the fact that I'll probably love her for the rest of my life. God bless her Brazilian but cheeks. Probably never see a pair of finely tuned pins on a girl again... but alas, circumstances change, people change, life moves on.

I think it's great that you've kept the faith brother Chez and that you've held on to the ideal of a perfect relationship. This is important because when the next special person comes into your life you gotta be ready for it; expecting it, otherwise you'll miss it... which I doubt will happen to you. And, believe you me, when it does, it'll be like someone's hit the reset button. Before you know it you'll be right back in the game ;-)

I think it's also great that you've handled this situation like a real classy dude. You've spilled your heart as any respectable poet would have but you've kept it right. And, that deserves a special mention. As for me, I'm leaving hicksville, going back to the Gold Coast where I'll be catching up with my yoga friend, catching some waves and catching some rays...

Take it easy dude, and enjoy the open roads and drifter lifestyle... things will change.

They always do!

namron said...

Damn, Chez, you can all-out f---ng write!

Marc McKenzie said...

Great piece,Chez.

It's something that I've had on my mind for quite a while now, especially in light of my brother's recent marriage, and with the growing realization that the majority of my relatives and siblings are involved in a relationship or married....while I'm still single with no real chance of getting in a relationship right now.

Oh well.

And I also had crushes in high school....and they never ended up going anywhere. Story of my life.

The Imp of the Perverse said...

Writing like this is the reason that I subscribed to your blog in the first place.

Glad to read that you've passed through Chapel Perilous and come out safely on the other side.

Hope I'm not being presumptuous when I say this: I think it's a mistake to close yourself off from possibilities because, as pea mentioned above, it's the not-looking that frees you.

And if it's true, as Sam Phillips sings, that "true love runs looking for us/Like a lion in our dreams," you just might find that you'll be pretty close to, if not completely, fearless the next time around.

Because now you know that even having your heart ripped out, and your child taken from you, will not kill you.

And that's the most liberating realization of them all.

At least, that's how it worked with me.

Best of luck, and i hope you and Inara have fun.

hilz said...

On the bright side you have little chance of falling in love with someone in LA, and you can just take care of you. It is a strange place... but you knew that already.

An early 'welcome back to the hood' to you.

J. Dack said...

I didn't even have to experience bad divorces to get to that place. A couple bad relationships, some unhealthy obsessions, and a drinking problem is all it took for me to give up on love as a "scream-it-from-the-rooftops" idea.

I'm so cynical about the idea now I just roll my eyes when people tell me the "some day you'll" stories.

I'm a loner Dottie, a rebel. And I don't like sharing my 360 controller or my bathroom.

Chez said...

So, you seeing anyone, Hilz? (Just a little post-ranting-about-my-desire-to-stay-single humor.)

Kevin In Choconut Center said...

A well-written piece, Chez. Your experiences are a bit like mine the last several years. Wife died, and I'm retired on disability, so no job.

I've bounced from my hometown in upstate NY to New York City to San Francisco, back to home, to South Carolina, and home yet again. Over the last six years I've been in four different motels, two regular apartments and two efficiency apartments.

I've found that having some sort of routine, even something as simple as eating dinner at the same time every night, helps a little.

Wishing you and yours a good Thanksgiving...

VOTAR said...

The guest room needs a serious housecleaning.


toastie said...

Thanks for giving your readers this post. When I find myself feeling broken and adrift, I try to keep in mind that having grand, romantic notions might still yet be a positive someday, even if the teenage drive-bys-with-stereo-blasting where a bad idea. It's entirely possibly, well, quite likely that I'll just get punched in the gut again. Anyway...I admire how you bounce back, or at least how you keep one foot in front of the other...and for your always-insightful writing and humor. I'm rooting for you.

A Bowl Of Stupid said...

Been a while since I've had time to read anything of yours, but as usual, serendipitous timing.

Without reliving the background, you know I returned last year after being "homeless" and "adrift" for over 4 years. While the circumstances leading up to my decision to leave (if it can indeed be called an active "decision") were different, they were no less, and possibly more, soul crushing.

While abroad, I had no pressing desire to be with anyone, no "ferocious will to be with another human being." Just me. And in that, I eventually found solace. And I found myself. And I found not the need, but the want to return. To share.

As I consciously told myself this summer, actually, it was time to "get off the sidelines." And for the first time in a long time, I have. And regardless of any potential eventualities - one way or another - it's glorious on so many levels that I'd since forgotten.

I'm truly pleased to read that you've reached a comfort level with yourself after everything that's happened. It sounds like you're at the early stages of where I started off (similarly, almost involuntarily). It's a bit trite, but as my sister used to explain to people who asked why I was away, "not all who wander are lost." Indeed.

Good luck, brudduh.

IrishGirl said...

Chez, excellent writing! I can relate....just went through another divorce myself. This one tried to get violent with me.

The great loves of my life were never requited so I can FULLY understand the smoldering obsession that can turn into. I no longer expect love nor need it. And often that's when it shows up. I wonder this time if I'll just say, "it's not worth it and keep on walking".

Happy Thanksgiving!

hilz said...


Chez said...

Well then... guess I'm at least buying you a drink.

hilz said...

Ha, love it.