Something I Wrote 10 Years Ago


We talked about dentistry, about the harmful effects of munching on ice. It grinds away the enamel. You served me filtered water in a beige plastic tumbler. Ice cubes in it. There were three ice cubes in it. I munched them all. We talked about Canada. In the beginning I thought you were going to Virginia. Now I can’t remember who is going to Virginia. Onstage you wore blue overalls, a sort of yellow shirt, open at the neck, a white undershirt I could see clearly. As the action on the stage I progressed, I noticed the soles of your feet getting blacker and blacker. Approaching the condition of the characters you were playing. We did not talk about love, even once. We walked from the theater building through the trees and walkways and streets to your apartment. I saw insects buzzing in the lights in the air. I joked about Evanston, called it “The City That Never Wakes Up.” I said: gosh, it’s very well-lit. Meaning: you can see without doubt that nothing is going on. You said it got very quiet around 11.00 pm. I told you my apartment was quieter than yours, until I remembered the trains going by. But the train seems like the ocean after awhile. I’d only notice it, or care, if it disappeared. Like something John Cage said: he said rather than listen to modern music he preferred to simply sit in the living room of his New York City apartment and listen to the traffic going by. Apparently Northwestern University has many of John Cage’s papers and scores. A kind of archive. But I have no idea what his connection to the school was. John Cage died before I ever got to meet him, to shake his hand, to smile at him. They’ll all die. You wondered out loud if Robert Wilson was in Germany somewhere. I said: maybe Germany, maybe France, wherever they pay him. I said it was obvious you knew more about theater than I did. But, as you pointed out, I probably knew more about film than you did. Probably. The whole time your wonderful eyes staring up at me, or down at me, perched on the purple cushion. Pillows under your body, your head. I had the idea at the time that if it was possible to be kissed with only your eyes, it might feel something like that. We had a staring contest. And upon staring into your eyes I received courage and did not want to look away. I won the contest. You asked me what I was looking at, and I told you I was looking at the wall. I asked you what you were looking at, and you told me nothing. I could see you were looking out the window into the black night: nothing outside coming in but streetlights and sounds. You accused me of spying around your apartment. I said: what do you expect me to do, just sit in one spot with my eyes closed? I wonder if that would have been a bad idea after all. You had more William Faulkner in your room than I’d ever seen in a person’s room who was under the age of 45. You had Proust in your room. You had Philip Glass and Paul Simon in your room. You had a computer, several posters, a television, a stereo, a refrigerator, and some stuffed animals in your room. We talked about Rocky & Bullwinkle. Or rather I talked and you politely listened. You complained about your laptop. And we talked about the nature of things. In your view, everything happens for a reason. In my view, everything happens for a reason too: only not a good reason, not a bad reason, but simply a reason. Consequences. Why was I here now? Why was I looking at your body stretched away from me on your bed? How had the guy on stage been taken from that stage and placed before me? We had not touched yet. Where had the characters gone? Where were all the thoughts that had gone through my head while I was watching you onstage? Where were your friends? Where were my friends? Where was the great novel I wanted to write and why hadn’t it been published? I am 22. You are 19. You have two years of school left. I will live if I never go back to school again. We talked about parents. I thought of you on a Canadian boat. I thought of you as quite separate from me. How I would leave your apartment and my life would once again peel away from your life. You apologized for the fact it was time for me to go, that it was necessary for me to leave. You surprised me. I did not understand why you were apologizing. It was clearly time for me to go. You offered me your hand, standing up as I circled around you a bit and regained my posture. You offered me your hand but I told you that I felt more comfortable hugging you. I hugged you. It was brief. Then you advised me not to let my hands wander. This was after the hug. I said: my hands aren’t wandering. I said: actors hug each other don’t they? But I am not an actor. And I was merely quoting My Dinner With Andre. And we hugged again and this time I held my arms up in the air so my hands would not wander. And then we walked over to the door. A space darker, closer. I can’t remember exactly. I embraced you again. You offered your lips to me, closed. I kissed your closed lips with my open ones. We embraced. I kissed your forehead. We kissed again briefly and I felt your lips against mine. And I was happy for the preciousness of the kiss, knowing it would go no further. And we embraced again. You told me not to get fresh. I smiled, as if to say: no. No. I tried to leave, I kept trying to get past you and through the door. Your body blocked mine. Led to another kiss, led to your arms staking themselves on the wall behind my head and another kiss. I was confused because everything seemed clear. I said a few stupid things I won’t repeat. I was amazed by what we didn’t need to say. You told me next week you were free. Next week, I thought, that could work. Yes. I think we kissed again. I don’t know how many times it was. I got past you. Into the hall. I blew you a kind of kiss from my hand. I heard you close the door behind you and I heard you lock the door. And a lot of other things were running through my head, and still are, but I have to go to work now. It’s only time that prevents me from writing more.

26 July 1998

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