Philip Glass, Sherlock Holmes and Marie Calloway.
I’d only been here once before, some months ago, and it had been strange. It was not at all the place I expected to find him living–the palm trees and the piercing blue skies, the golf courses and the Mexican food.
These were things I thought he hated, the anti-thesis of his being. He turned around and waved at me in the airport, long black coat, hair and beard: everything long and dark.
His house was no different. A bright, white place, high-ceilinged with marble and a big bath tub with jets. His dark wood objects and stacks of old, important looking books sat on the very white, thick carpet. I wonder how they feel about residing there.
But I’m always reminded of how sharp and interesting his interpretations of things are, regardless of the fact that he is so removed from intellectual life on all sides. He doesn’t even read as much as I think he once did. But he picks up on threads and makes connections I rarely see. Lately, I’ve been wanting to pull him outside with me, I want to take him somewhere where the whole world can see what he is.
We drove along the wide streets, through the canyons and alongside nice cars to a theater that was sort of underground. The elevator was broken and we had to walk down several flights of steps. We stood in line to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie. It’s become rare that I go to “the movies”, especially mainstream films. We got a free bucket of popcorn and it was so salty there was absolutely no taste aside from the salt.
We ate it anyway and then the movie started. Everything moved so quickly, in a kind of hypnotic dazzle with loud, clanking sound effects jumping in and out,moving with the same kind of stunted, frenetic pattern. I felt like no one trusted I could just watch the movie. I felt edged, induced in every scene: this is a very dramatic moment, this is a very intense moment, this is a very frightening moment.
We kept grabbing handfuls of popcorn, dropping them into our mouths and that sort of encapsulated the whole experience: being so inundated by flavor, sound, or movement that no thought is required. It occurred to me that seeing most contemporary movies is motivated by the same desire to ride roller coasters at a theme park. Just do something that overwhelms from the outside, so much so that you don’t feel anymore.
I woke up early the morning we were supposed to leave. I always wake up early now, and I made myself a pot of coffee and sat in front of the computer with it. And then I found the link for it, a story by a writer named Marie Calloway.
It’s called “Adrien Brody”, an account of her experience sleeping with a Marxist-bent intellectual and writer. I started reading it, completely unsure of what to expect. After several paragraphs I felt this swoosh, the one that I get when I read something that really moves me. I was completely taken.
The rest of the house slowly awakened and came into the kitchen, making fresh pots of coffee and toast, but I couldn’t stop reading. I’d never read something that so accurately described many experiences I’d had with men just like the one in the story. One notable differences between some of the encounters I’ve had vs hers is that she solicited the writer “Adrien Brody” for sex directly. It occurred to me that doing that was perhaps more honest in way, yet the outcome was the same.
She writes her own voice so well. She’s able to hear herself speak as different than her thoughts, the kind of disconnection that occurs I think specifically when one is a young, pretty girl with a man. “Adrien”‘s comments are all very clear and stoic, hers are dotted with “likes” and a sort of capricious desire, even though her stream of thought is generally more fleshed out than what she says. That’s the root of the disconnection: there’s something that keeps catching–her body, her age, the power dynamic of her relation to him which makes the transference of thoughts struggle. Certain things can’t really get out so long as she’s with him. She’s pushed into a space, one that is allowing her to be with this person, allowing her access to him and his space in ways she wouldn’t were it not that she’s cute/21 etc. and moreover, knows that there is the possibility of sex glaring into the corners of their eyes. But I don’t know that she wants to stay there, there’s more she wants to accomplish in their interaction but it’s confused. It’s tied in with the sexual desire. What’s different about Marie’s story, though, is that I think she somewhat does attain something, her retelling of it in itself the greatest proof.
There’s been a few but I’m mostly thinking of him when I read Marie’s story. Once you meet someone you’ve known from afar, it breaks things down in a strange way, inevitably. They no longer belong to you the way they have before: an outline whose inside you’d filled in. You become part of the story you’d read.
What he wanted from me was my prettiness, a freshness, enjoyment of a beautiful body.
To me, he was a beautiful example of being in the world: I wanted to be him.
At the time we were involved, I was reading Irigaray’s The Way of Love, which is all about dialogue. A dialogue must be an exchange to be effective, to communicate. But the currency used in that exchange can be different. And that difference can still allow for dialogue, for connection, so long as that is understood and acknowledged.
I was something for him to behold, to touch, to grab, to push into, to enter. I was a validation, showing him what he’s capable of being inside of. I was something for him to move towards in taking time away from many lines of text and rhetoric. I was a space that allowed different pleasure, a release.
For me, he was something to take in. I felt empty and he filled me. He presented a possibility, a way, a path toward something I desired. My observations of him taught me how to move and where to go. His enjoyment of my body validated a success in representing physical beauty and that brought me pleasure.
In this way, we held a dialogue. And since him, I’ve worked harder than ever before– not to gain his affection, but to become more of the person he was, someone I respected for his work ethic and passion as a writer and thinker perhaps more than anyone else I’ve ever known. As a person, as a lover, he was less so.
Yet even as I write and think this, even as I believe it to the uttermost, the greatest saddening, melancholy, sharpest pain I felt during our time, was that I would and will never feel the same depth of comfort he did and does. How nice, I would think, to be him– to be able to write and play basketball, and enter a room with young women looking up at you, with older men nodding at you with respect and approval.
This will never be true for me, even if were to command a room or meet a younger man.
But perhaps this is never the right line of thinking to stay upon: he lamented being in the “wrong time,” hating social media and Priuses, Tumblr and the necessity of maintaining a minimal aesthetic coolness to be part of the current literary world. If only he could’ve existed at the end of the 18th century, working in a wooden room, writing with ink by candlelight.
He forged ahead regardless, though. He carved a space. How many of us are ever born in the ‘right’ time, body, to the ‘right’ parents, with the ‘right’ hair, eye color, skin color.
After coming home from Sherlock Holmes, I wanted to play another movie for him, so that he could see something completely different: Pasolini’s Teorema. It’s very slow and has almost no dialogue. There’s so much space in movies like that, so many wide paths and possibilities hanging from the corners. You have to be patient.
The end of that movie is probably one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen. A man, the father of the family the film focuses on, takes off all of his clothes in a busy train station and then the scene shifts to him wandering along a windy desert. He screams.
The next day and the one after, I listen to Philip Glass again and he makes me feel the same as watching Teorema. His music is long, and moves to many different paces. I feel lifted when I’m listening to it–my thoughts have room to move along with the wide curves of the songs. I come to realizations.
People have been enraged by Marie Calloway’s story–offended, disgusted perhaps. But I don’t know what they’d rather read? Her story is presenting something different, and there’s very little judgement imposed. I don’t get the impression she left the encounter feeling negatively. It just was. The story showcases the difficulty in getting involved, sexually and otherwise, with anyone. What’s interesting is they try to anyway.
The reason I like Marie’s story is why I like Pasolini films and why I like Philip Glass. There’s no one jumping in with loud sound effects, or deciding when the scene should be cut. There’s room to breathe very slowly and very deeply. I can actually exhale.
And it’s why, even though I’m not sure why his hair is so long now, or why he moved to the desert, I understand that it’s because he’s finally found the wide space he needed, that there he feels his chest can expand.