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It’s weird seeing a person you loved interact with people they used to complain about online. As if those friendships meant nothing to them when they were with you because you supplied them with something they couldn’t otherwise receive. But when they stopped getting it from you, or when you asked for more, or when you couldn’t give any more without receiving something in return, they moved on, back to the people who they had once claimed to have extinguished. (Not that you wanted them to extinguish those relationships—in fact the thought alarmed you.) If we break up, you can have ———. A month later their profile picture updates: it’s a photo taken by that same friend they claimed to want you to take off their hands.

Used to love. What good is it thinking with pettiness of the ways in which a former partner is a hypocrite to themselves and to their values? It does not feel good to think of someone who was once dear to you in this way. You wish you were more charitable: that is your ideal, as you’ve expressed multiple times; for the work of the relationship to not be wasted, to relinquish all thought of control. But it is difficult to persue friendship with someone who wants to talk to you but doesn’t otherwise feel responsibility towards you of any kind. They are too consumed by their own anxiety to consider the ways in which they have harmed you. Your feelings were never worth noticing: either a minor annoyance (easily ignored) or an attack, nothing in between, no matter how carefully you expressed yourself, no matter how much patience you practiced, how much understanding you desired (in them as well as in yourself).

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Patience and understanding. You can’t explain to them the way in which you worked to expand yourself for the love that you felt. You were a servant of love, in the truest sense, of the “common profit” of mutual feeling and reciprocity. You believed that what you were building was sound. But you were the only one working to accept the other’s flaws: when they let you down you bought their excuses. They were not careful telling you that they loved you, of describing the future you would share. You let their empty words paper over your doubts. Your trust was broken, time and time again, and maybe that was part of what made the love work in you—it was deeply flawed and that made it seem real.

The building you were working on was composed out of air. It hovered above you, in the cold mornings you were slow to wake up, in the way you curled underneath the covers or made easy jokes about the other, like you were crossing from earth to the air. All of that feels so far away now. It is difficult to remember. Its fragility was what made it seem beautiful, the way it shimmered like grease on asphalt when you looked at it, as if from a distance. The way you wanted it even though you didn’t know exactly what it was. You don’t want to write about the feeling that formed in you when you realized it was gone, the way love turned to anger, the feeling that you were betrayed. What’s the point?

They didn’t want to be loved. At least not by you. And you are forced to wonder at the love that you felt, the love that made you feel sad as well as expansive, the anger and maybe even hate that followed—Where was it coming from? Where was it going? Did you love anyone, anyone at all?

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In practice it is difficult to fall in love while you are in grad school. (In the beginning, when you have so much to do.) But it’s something that I apparently seek out, as if without that love I couldn’t operate. In practice it actually makes it more difficult: I want to spend all of my time with my beloved, we linger over breakfast and when she leaves I don’t want to work. There is a dependence that comes with being in love that is impossible to avoid—without the one you love you feel less than whole. You can be a whole person, with your own thoughts, feelings, friends, circumstances, and still feel less than yourself. So? That’s what love is, opening yourself to this vulnerability. I have dated people who blamed me—explicitly and implicitly—for the way this operated in themselves. I have ungraciously blamed a partner for this feeling. What we hated was love itself, because of the way it opened us, made us responsible to another, or threatened to. It is not something that it is possible for everyone to do, not always or with everyone.

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Every day you are unproductive produce something of greater worth. Today my computer died at the coffee shop. After five years and three hard drive changes the cable connecting the hard drive to the motherboard finally gave out. When I turned my computer on a grey screen appeared and then a folder with a question mark. It was looking for the files. I fixed this accidentally for a period of two months by changing out the hard drive. The other hard drive is probably fine. I did not have my phone with me and wandered Kensington alone, killing time. Then I found the new location for knife/fork/book and I talked to Kirby. If I knew where Canzine was I might have gone there. I was terrified without my phone. This update is worth nothing or almost nothing.

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The day of my therapist appointment I go to a talk about shame in the fifteenth century. On my way to the office I drink a second coffee and feel much anxiety through the workings of my liquid friend. There is a professor at the talk who I am supposed to have met. Gawain the knight is overcome by shame at his cowardice at concealing the girdle from the green knight. There are in fact several professors at the talk I should have met. In therapy I talk about wanting to feel engulfed: “I hate that I want that from a partner because I recognize it isn’t healthy.” Gawain’s friends are welcoming and understanding when he returns to them and tells the story of his trial, but there is a sense that he is disappointed by their reaction. But what more could he have wanted from them? I feel like crying or like I have cried—like I’ve spent the whole day crying. By meet I mean: I should have scheduled appointments which are long overdue. We exit the chamber talking about karate and violence. I say that I like running into walls. “You always talk about her, I want you to talk about you.” I am eager to take my anti-depressant, because when I do I know my head will clear.

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The things that I expect love to do it cannot do. I prefer obsession rather than intimacy; an intimate obsession. To transfer authority to the object of your love. Compatibility is something altogether different. Love is a state outside of compatibility. It is nourished by proximity but not extinguished. An advanced love does not burn. Love burns inside the one that suffers it alone; the person who burns with love is not consumed by the flame. Love is dangerous in this state. If the beloved and the lover are apart—whatever that means—the fires of love grow higher and more violent. Dido built a pyre out of all of the objects that Aeneas left behind. Then she stabbed herself and her body was burnt in the flames—the smoke was seen by the Trojans in their ships. But if Aeneas and his men had not left when they had it is likely they would have been burned themselves:

The waterfront will be alive with fires,
If Dawn comes while you linger in this country.

 

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It feels far away and then very near. An engagement across the table. The two are sparring. It’s brief, then the bubble pops. She looks embarrassed. Her own hesitant hand to her throat. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude with my personal idea of Eliot.” The room is intimate, small and almost cramped; we swell the table’s borders. She cut across us like a knife.

What does it mean to write about someone, even in a small way, to focus intensely on an action or a part of them, to take them into you and translate them into language? To give them a physical form, another one, doubling them with your words? Superimposing their image through the text.

Is it a kind of love? Is it obsession? It is none of those things but it is also not not those things. Is it spent or fed through writing?

An exchange is made. But what are its terms?