Oh, my love, take me there.
Let me dwell where you are.
I am already nothing.
I am already burning.
Mild December mornings find me listless and on edge, smoking cigarettes and drinking weak coffee in New York’s East Village. Listening to shit jukebox pop songs, avoiding street cabs and strangers’ eyes, I adjust to the insincerity of the city, immersed all the while in the dim paranoia that colors the wary reintegration of an insomniac into the waking world.
There are always days or weeks or months, impermanent instances wherein I begin to wonder whether or not I have lost my mind. Every time, I worry that I will not recover, that maybe this time, it is for real. And there is a certain joy in the reckless interest with which I navigate these temporary bouts of instability—cynical and strangely high-spirited, quick to laugh and slow to focus, I live like an exposed nerve: vulnerable, feeling everything.
I am always between worlds, haunted by that selfsame specter of displacement that strays through each new city at my side. I long for home, return to realize that it was never truly there to begin with, that it left with my sanity and my father on a cold grey morning so many years ago. It seems like a lifetime now. I spend holidays reliving each whiskey-dimmed wandering down the silent streets of England, dreaming of that directionless respite where my second life lies.
Just the other day, I decided that I had witnessed enough, and drove two hours north down a narrow highway until I reached an empty town at the edge of the Atlantic. There, a friend and I watched beneath saturnine skies as the ocean heaved against wind-chilled shorelines. We spoke in misremembered lines of poetry, for we had no language of our own with which we might express the enigmatic beauty of those waters on a moonless night. Our recitations perforated the silence, each word rewriting the margins of measurable time, and we returned home again in a haze of joyful abandon: smoking cigarettes, driving too fast, shouting the lyrics to old rock songs as they rang from a broken-down radio. Sometimes you have nights like those, and you understand that it is not so very terrible to live, to think, to feel. You remember that you have the constancy and love to form relationships that endure. You find solace within, and in spite of, a world that offers none. You live on, and on, and on.
I realize now that I may well be within the sensual bloom of my own existence. Am I entering it? Is it waning? I attribute my sexuality, my singular and self-contradictory identity, in large part to the fact that I am practically crawling out of my skin with fascination for the bodies of others. I do not accept the politics of compulsory heterosexuality. I am too passionate, too sensuous, too curious, too undone: I refuse to limit my experiences to any one gender. I want to be young and half-mad with desire forever. Live fast, die pretty—right? But I do not want to die at all. Not anymore, at least.
But there are times, I must admit, when I feel exhausted. Is it possible to reckon wholly with the impulsive passion of our own histories, without inevitably feeling older than we are? It would not be so tiresome, if I could only see these dimming years as inconsequential: if I could allow past lives, and loves, and losses to fade away into obscurity. But I have never known how to lie to myself.
Sometimes it simply does not work. Sorrows that are the most insurmountable, the most exquisitely damning, are always conflicts of positionality. Sometimes someone gives you everything they have to offer, and it still is not enough. The timing is wrong, your body is wrong, you need something that no one could ever give to you, and it makes you so happy and so sad at the same time: because you know you are as content as you ever can be, and you realize that maybe you will always feel this way, and you wonder why life at its best is so sweet but so sorrowful. It might sound pretentious, or even maudlin, but there it is. Perhaps in moments of melancholic stasis, we catch glimpses of who we are.
So how can you explain to those that love you, that remembering them is more difficult than catching smoke between your fingers? Nothing is sacred, not anymore. Every time I start again, another person, another place, it always ends with the same banal sentiments: I want you to know that I really did love you. That I really did try. Self-preservation becomes its own peculiar form of cannibalization: I lend my mind to intrigued strangers, and forget them all just as easily. How on earth could I have allowed myself to become this way?
In those rare moments when I am fully present, I find a peculiar comfort in feeling deeply: in eclipsing all that the other has to give. How many times have I lived over that stripped down bedroom scene, enthralled by the very futility of our efforts? Two uncertain strangers, wide-eyed, afraid of our own bodies’ desires, sharing nothing except a sense of fascination: intrigued by one another, by ourselves. Satiating nameless needs, engaging roughly in acts of tenderness: I will always remember the sweet and violent words you spoke, in the blush of that fast-approaching morning, when I found myself at your feet. You asked me to stay, pushing tendrils of hair out of my eyes: and what a choice I made that night—you still do not know the courage and carelessness it took.
In the weeks that followed, I dreamed vividly of a strange and hallowed place. There were garlands of asphodel in juniper branches, and mirrors imbued with prismatic light. You were there with me: you were nowhere else. When you spoke, you did so in gentle words tinged inexplicably with remorse. I understood you then, as I never have before or since; your clandestine yearnings, your hushed apologies as you took my fingers in your mouth. I felt the rhythm of your throat, those softly moving muscles that make your voice so low and sweet, and the strangest longing blurred my vision as from above you I glanced down. I wanted to inhale your waking consciousness in my memory and flesh, as your abandon breathed dimly through the twilight of my stirring form, submitting to my impulses, subverting what we understand to be the natural language of our desires. A silent pleasure nearly deafened me when your mouth moved in mine; I could know greater joy than the murmur of your heart beneath my hands.
How lucky I am to have found, in this absurd existence, such wonderful ways of passing the unwanted time.
Do not misunderstand me: I no longer have the patience for imprecise, diluted love. That is the best you could offer, I think, and so this feeing of mine is merely fascination, infused though it may be with tenderness and a certain sorrowful pleasure. Do I know you? No, of course not: I never really desired to. But there are facets of being that evade your waking consciousness. I learn to understand what requires distance to be known.
An absence bleeds within and throughout you, coloring your countenance like memory running through a living mind. Once, and never since, you gave that absence form through the parameters of your susceptibility and the language of your grief, reminding me of one who, in another time and place, did the very same. Hers was the body from which I learned my love and limitations; is it so surprising, then, that I should react as I did? My mind met yours in a flurry of misrecognition: that was the moment when I decided not to care about practicality or consequence, decided to survive whatever comes of this. That was the night I let you in.
I will not love you, but I like to know that I can; and that I would heal you, if I could. I give this potentiality less threatening form through a sort of detached curiosity: could I bring a person such ecstasy, evoke such adoration, that they never wanted to leave? It may seem callous, but I have been left all my life. I seek respite in these urges, but they manifest, at times, in fixation, and I simply cannot allow that. I have too much to think of, too many things to create.
So I turned once more, in your case, to the confines of my mind: I framed you within my gaze, false remembrance serving as my means of forgetting, and regarded the visual construction of your form as I might an exorcism. You bled from my hands onto the blank page, leaving stains of charcoal along my fingertips, my wrists, the skin on my forehead where I pushed the hair back into place. Everything I touched, I marred as though with ash.
I chose the wrong person again, I am afraid. I always do. But then, don’t we all? And what does it matter anyways, when a thousand forms and figures pass through my periphery? Even now, another soon-to-be memory strolls through Oxford shops and alleyways, evoking all of the opportunities I never took. In the morning, her name is everywhere: it floods my mind in a thousand strains of music, running like rain through the cobblestone streets.
So where do we go now, what do we do? This cannot last, so want me now, and I will do the rest. Abandon your inhibitions, silence your lingering doubts: I have never cared much for complexities of circumstance, and I am never hard to find. I will remember the good days, and forget whatever else I can. When I write too often, it all starts to feel the same. I knew you, my darling, I knew you, I loved you, and I will remember you. I will, I will, I will—will I? Will you? What a strange and terrible thought it is, that I may wake tomorrow feeling nothing at all.
But fuck that, fuck all of it—I have too much left to write about. I am alive now, and two years ago that is more than I ever could have hoped for. I write for myself now, because in this senseless reality, I am my own best subject. I refuse to be remorseful, to water down my own existence to some self-effacing apology. Why be selfless where you can be satisfied? Everyone is surviving something, after all, and I am not even sure what it really is that I write about now. My hands shake with a thousand unnamed longings, but I am not suffering, not anymore. I do not want to die: I burn and burn and burn. This is what I am now, this is where I stand. It is precarious, it is absurd—but I love it, all the same.