A Parliament of Fictions
The Blackbird Variations, Chapter VI
In early January: a visit to his old hometown. And though it had been little more than two years, it felt like ages. He was taken aback by how pedestrian everything was—the cleanly newness of the streets and houses, the standardized shopping centers, parks, and churches. Everything lacked what he expected—enough distinction to make him distinct—but this suburb was romanceless, devoid of all poetry and potency—excepting, perhaps, the women.
Three girl_friends—though one without the pause and therefore a prefixed ‘ex-’—and in them he found pieces of who he’d been that could be taken into the who he would become—in their company he found parts of his past self that he need not despise or scour from his proposed self, the one whose origin he could not fathom, whose origin he did not want to fathom if it did not have a storied quality that could make him worthy of the stories he was after—but this suburb: every corner of it predictable and found in every other corner of his congenial empire—nothing of it explained the dark needs inside for something more. For something that could aid him in his pursuit of excellence—excepting, again, perhaps, these girl_friends.
And the girl without the _pause_: a tall, copper-headed pianist with dry humor, whose body in his last year here he had pressed his body into with great and fiery discovery, soldering her girlness and their friendship into something both more and different—meeting up with their old clique, he caught her smell and the slight frown above her brown eyes, and he realized how intrinsically disappointed she had always been, and how much that disappointment made him want to press himself into her the more.
He didn’t know why this disappointment of hers so enthused him—nor did he know the lengths of disappointment he would need travel to arrive at what, in the end, might engorge his disappointments to where they’d break him utterly—but to know a woman that well in that way—to touch her and to have her want his touch—to be called upon to satisfy someone so deeply dissatisfied—maybe he saw how that removed him from the threats and terrors of his own dissatisfaction—
They two drove at night to their old high school, and he found a growing want to become her anchor, clutch, and pivot—as though he could be purposed into an endless toolbox to solve her every worry, gripe and complication—and her breasts (all his revolt revolving around them, providing him grounding and escape)—how they had become his exultation for hours on couches and once in the Santa Monica rain—
But something snagged inside him, once they got out of her car and walked around the campus—something snagged, and he became absolute in his denial—becoming absolute and then emphasizing the prefixed ex- reigning over their friendship (which ex-ness never completely allows for the re-insertion of a pause between the girl and friend)—he in his heart groping now for distance from her, using his Lilly-icon to break him from the well of gravity back into his high school she.
Returning to her car, oak leaves falling over them even though it was winter, along with a little precipitation (maybe mine, maybe merely Northern California’s), and without warning inside his heart rose such a terrible severity, an isolation not only from this her who was so secret with her sweetness, and his favorite type of sour, but cutting him off from everything that had been him, here—rooting out radically this suburban life and its battery of over-evident values. Looking at her face lit orang by the sulfur vapor, his eyes emphasized her every fault in order to justify his isolation and their distance from one another.
She caught this coming from him. And had known this about him always: his steep swing from fiery adoration to chilling separation. And perhaps, upon a time, his severity did for her what her disappointment did for him. But this severity she could only adore if it there was a togetherness in it—and there was not. She drove him to where he was to sleep and by the time they arrived his mood had relaxed, he trying to make her laugh or smile, but she did something with herself that made him wonder about the female sex—for now her faults, which he’d used to gain distance from her, she was using to keep him afar.
He grasped a phrase: weaponized beauty, and knew that beauty’s opposite was no less an apparatus of defense and assault.
Then later, lying on some floor, he awoke at 4am and felt in his lap something like a blade, shining in the moonlight—he reached for it, and in his hand it was not what it usually was—an instrument of pleasure or of want. For now, beneath the moon come through window, this instrument was more than a mere metaphor of a blade—it was a brand to be wielded with authority and resolution. And its sharpness frightened him—he feeling that he lacked the qualities that could wield this without it wielding him, so that he let it go, and reached into his pack, and brought out Variating a Blackbird’s Theme, flipping through its blue-line pages to view its poetries and sketches, its stabs at story and introspection—and how was a blade supposed to tie this all together?
That severity of his—how was he to bend or sharpen it into a thing that brings together and not just rends apart? He looked beyond the pages, then, at the mythos of his last 12 months, viewing his sorrows and his raging wants—and only because he was ready, and not for any other reason, I bore him to a page that was both not-yet and yet-to-be enough to try his hand at forming from our cogenerated fits and starts a summarizing form, alias a final (though for our purposes—yours and mine—it should be viewed as what they call a midterm):