EDIT 09/16/18: There’s a better version of this story. Click here to read it.
Some of this is real, some of it’s made-up, but the essence of it is my right-now truth. Claire said that finding the meaning to love is basically the missing link to world peace and eternal tranquility, so I can’t go as far as to say that’s what’s happened here. But I remember Camille Paglia (who in most contexts is batshit crazy, but I can appreciate her in doses) when she writes:
“In the day we are social creatures, but at night we descend to the dream world where nature reigns…Moment by moment, night flickers in the imagination, in eroticism… revealed to us through the eyes of the artist…As poets know, falling in love is irrational.”
I’m interested in the night and in the dream worlds that inhabit the art that I love and the people that have experienced it with me. I had a conversation with a friend this week about the bad things that happen after 10PM, and lots of times I think I stay up because the idea of nighttime is a fuel for imagination and for the things that are too primordial to be seen under the sun. It’s dramatic to say that the night lends itself to a natural barbarism in my squeaky suburban college existence, but I think it is fitting when trying to link love to things that can’t/shouldn’t be said or written in the ways you’d write about perfectly appropriate daylight topics. Like the classes I’m taking right now, or what I think about laundry. The night is clairvoyant to the things I’ve tried to hide or the things that I’ve had a hard time justifying as normal (seventeen year old me: Why is my mouth touching your mouth? Why is it slimy??). Maybe it’s just me, and the fact that I’m the least functional version of myself when I’m in a relationship, but I have a really hard time piecing together the eeriness of this young-adult dating/hooking up/bodies touching business, but also, it’s animal instinct, inescapable. The most unsettling is at the end of the night, when I go back to my own room, I’m not even sure anything worth writing about happened, that all of it’s just what being alive is supposed to mean.
The story below is fiction meshed against my lived life, a mix of my dream world and my reality, because that’s the best I can do right now with these jumble of memories.
Lights off. Merry end-of-February.
Hey Alice, listen to this song.
Hey Alice, so what’d you think.
Hey Alice, what about this one.
Hey Alice, what if I never have sex?
Hey Alice, I take that back. Ignore that.
Jen says the boys we hang out with are all genderless. I believe her, because last Sunday Teddy came back from camp and told us that he found a pistachio in his suitcase and ate it. This got me thinking about the red condom necklace dangling on my wall, the one that Zoe got at the pride parade and I hung as a rosary to count the ways we were uncomfortable with our squished bodies. The last time I went on a trip, I came back and the necklace looked the same but its pendant with the condom in it was gone. Zoe looked at me, and I figured all that praying had done some good.
I always stay up in the hours between days. There are disco lights, and the boring people have slept already. Details. All of them.
Luke was a sweet drunk and told me the good thoughts he’d had about my romantic prospects in the middle of McDonald’s on Saturday-Sunday. He’d prayed for me at Sabbath. “You’d be surprised by how people feel about you, Alice.” There was this swirly marshmallow daze in his eyes, and I looked hard into them to find something more sinister. But he swayed, and I noticed how the middle of his nose bent a little and threw off all the symmetry. It made him handsome. Maybe it was good to believe him under the big fluorescent McDonald’s lights. It was a choice to make.
My brain is numb.
I’m waiting for a boy I could probably most likely love to send me songs again. The Cocteau Twins always make me sad. And when I think about the things I know, it’s a suburban home with white sheets and a boy who’d cared more about words and moving mouths than sweating. Laundry detergent. When I roll my eyes far back enough I can see him again, brain floating a few inches above body. Sometimes, though, Teddy pops up and he’s saying he can pick his nose from the back but doesn’t explain anything other than the nose being connected to the mouth somehow.
Two Saturdays ago, from my diary:
I woke up and the water smelled like cantaloupe
It’s because I slept in a bed that wasn’t mine
I barged into Teddy’s room intent on getting kissed. Turned off the lights. Closed my eyes and tried to will the burn away from my cheeks. It was the pink wine, the ice cream, the alchemy of the two that must have put a sore in my heart, I think is what my mother would’ve said. I played Teddy music that someone else had given me, climbed onto his bed and our thighs touched. Teddy swore he could feel the Cocteau Twins playing like a piano on his back, and I believed him only because I’d felt it before. I showed him the songs that already had a few memories attached to them, and some that didn’t. Teddy couldn’t tell them apart when he said, “I think I’m falling in love with your ex-boyfriend, Alice.” And that was a truth because I’d felt it before, too. Skin-to-skin contact is good for babies, the doctor said. A fuse of souls, a beat beat beat. Before we fell asleep like pisces fish, Teddy told me all the big things that sounded little to me. “You have a really attractive personality, Alice.” And we slept too timid without music. Night.
Day. “Thanks for letting me sleep in your bed.” The door clicked, and I walked home in my big coat, blind, memorized.
After that, Teddy started sending me songs, and I listen to them six times over by habit. A tugging nostalgia. He has stopped trying to make me laugh after I told him I liked mean and mysterious boys. Teddy doesn’t stare at me long enough to know if I’m kidding, and that’s ok because I’m still not sure if I ever liked anyone. Still, I keep all the songs that I’ve been given and after a while, I feel like myself.
In the hours between days, even I can’t tell which ones are mine and which ones are theirs.