No, That Wasn’t Our Happiness

An excerpt from Like Someone in Love: An Addendum to Love Dog.

You know how in movies people realize, change their minds, go after what/who they once let go of—act? Love strikes, love emboldens. Love returns, haunts, is more than just a random occurrence. Love changes being and how to be. You know how in the movies people realize they were wrong and then mend that wrong? Get in the car and on that plane and mend that wrong. The way mending wrongs—since we can’t seem to not wrong each other—becomes one of the odysseys we must all go on, and what movies are largely about. Worse not to mend a wrong than to commit a wrong, I think. Shit happens. Lots of shit happens. But to not mend? Not knowing when and how you should mend? Not feeling anyone is worth mending and being mended for?

 You know how movies believe in and offer us the epiphanal? Which means “striking appearance; manifestation.”

Life is not like that, I am learning. Life is a series of realizations that never happen or never lead to manifestation. Never take hold, never make themselves evident, and then fade.

Life is regrets that we live with or don’t have at all. Life is people we should miss but don’t. Should love but don’t. Love but don’t love, as in taking loving action. Love as how you love. Love that we find but let go of for no reason other than because we don’t know how to be worthy of what and who happens to us (Deleuze). Because we think so much more will happen to us. Because we think there is no difference between this and that. Him or her. Because we no longer think any experience or person is singular (my mother). Because the world has run out of goals. Because it is the death of grand ideas. Because we think we have so many chances, we don’t even want chances. Thinking of something or someone as a chance is a very romantic way of thinking to begin with. There is a debt involved. Readiness is required. Try finding someone who thinks that way. Try. Try. Try.

In the movies, we remember. We can’t help it.
In life, we forget. We know how to. We make sure.
In life, remembering (missing, truly wanting what we desire and living with it) is the problem.

Jeanette Winterson: “It’s a sin this not being ready. This not being up for it.”

What does anything matter, if you can only say it? If you cannot, do not, ever manifest?

I’ve been told more than I ever need to hear. I’ve heard too much. And still, I think of Pasolini’s Decameron:

“Say just one word and you’ll save both my life and yours.”

Or Jenny Holzer’s: “Say the word.”

Words as passwords, secret codes, open sesame. The right word unlocks an entire world. Think of the precious words you had to know—you had to acquire—in riddles and parables. Think of how few chances you had to get those words right.

Words alone aren’t enough. But they are also enough. They can be everything. It’s hard to negotiate what language can do, how it should add up and cohere with action. How it proves and disproves. Language has to manifest for that to happen. That “striking appearance” of language needs to take shape in materialization. In the form of the way we decide to live our language(s). This begins with being accountable for the things we say to others. Still meaning it the next day.

On the phone, my mother cautions about L.

“You believe in words too much. You believe in both the things that are true and the things that are not true. He doesn’t know himself what he is saying or feeling.”

Like me, she is fed up. She is also tired of hearing this. My problems. Her voice is raised. She almost never yells at me. I can count the times on one hand and it’s usually my fault. Plus she is overworked. I talk to her while I hide in the garden behind L’s mother’s house, crouching in the wet grass for privacy. Flustered and hurt with L, but mostly disgusted, I listen to her hard truths. I tell her that I am thinking of leaving L’s house early because things have gotten so bad between us.

“I want out but only because I want in and there is no in with him,” I tell my mother.

“There is no in with anyone anymore. Nobody wants in with anybody.”

“So what am I am going to do?”

“Nothing. You can’t do anything. That is your problem. There is no answer for this. When are you going to learn that there are just some things you will never understand? One day it will just work and you won’t have to do anything other than what you need to do.”

I tell my mother that of course I believe in words too much. To me they are pacts. It’s the aporia, the not always knowing (because the people saying things to me themselves don’t know) which is which—true or false—but nevertheless always trying to know that is both the location and praxis of my belief. My being able to feel and trust this much no matter what happens. She says the world has run out of goals and singular themes like Love and Future. Like believing in love and believing in future.

“So how am I going to live in this world if I still believe in these things and other people don’t?” I ask.

After I present my mother with this final question, I remember that scene in the movie White Palace where the working-class waitress Susan

Sarandon screams, “Words like that could kill a person if you don’t mean it,” after James Spader, who plays her younger yuppie lover, tells her he’s never wanted a woman so badly in his life.

Words. The night L took my hand in his hand and told me, “I feel a soul connection to you that I have never felt before.” He said he did not want to rush things by having sex or even kissing because what was between us was special.

“Words like that could kill a person if you don’t mean it.” That is what I should have said. That is what I was thinking. But I was also so happy to hear it.

“They’re just words,” my mom would say. Only she is referring to other people’s flimsy and irresponsible relationship with words, not her own or mine.

Perhaps a better way for my mother to put it is:

You hear too much. You stake too much importance in what can be said and what can be meant and what can actually be done if only people would be willing to do it.