A meta-subjective love letter, inspired by Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. Enjoy!
A meta-subjective love letter, inspired by Chris Kraus’ I Love Dick. Enjoy!
I could be divorced right now. Well, separated, at least. Before you freak out, let me tell you the truth: I’m still married. I suspect I’ll always be married until, as they say, death do us part.
I love Geoff in some kind of irrational, passionate way that I know without a doubt that I’ll never find with anyone else. I guess you could say I’m crazy about him. The thought of life without him doesn’t add up. It’s annihilating.
That doesn’t mean anything about our relationship. We’ve struggled for a while now, and at times things have felt impossible. I’m sure that Geoff would agree. Have you ever been in an impossible situation? It feels dehumanizing. It feels like I imagine it would be like to be in solitary confinement. I hate it.
The funny thing about impossible situations is how much they make you change. Just when you think you’re stuck, a tiny secret passage opens up somewhere and the impossible becomes possible. For Geoff and me, this struggle has made us more aware, more deliberate. It’s made us question everything we ever thought we knew about each other, and it’s been good for us.
I like the term conscious uncoupling. It’s easy to interpret it in a literal way, two things coming apart, separating. I prefer a more metaphorical sense. I’m consciously uncoupling from Geoff. I’m thinking about what I want to experience, and I’ll admit it, I’m giving myself space to be selfish about it. I’m questioning things, seeking, and finding answers that are not his. I’m consciously uncoupling from other things too. I’m uncoupling from my old ideas about myself. I’m uncoupling from the status quo. I’m uncoupling from boringness.
It’s not all in my head, either. I’m trying new things, in reality. I’m putting myself in situations that used to be off-limits, and sometimes I drag Geoff along.
Geoff is doing it too. We’re doing it side by side, together. It’s messy and difficult, and pretty awesome. We’re finding hidden passages all over the place.
Consciously uncoupling. You ought to try it.
Let’s talk about my mom. It’s time, don’t you think? I’ve been putting this off for a while because, well, it’s hard for me to talk bad about my mom. But if you’re really going to know me, then you need to hear this. I’ve mentioned it once before, but my mom was a slut.
If you ever met my mom – you know who you are – you’re probably laughing right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Okay, okay, wipe the tears off your face and hear me out. It’s true, that doddering old lady you remember truly was a slut. I know, it’s not easy to comprehend. I probably sound insane to you.
Let me think. My mom grew up in the 50s, long before the women’s movement and the hippie years. She messed around in high school and barely began to explore her slutty tendencies before she married a jerk at nineteen. The jerk fucked around on her before he walked out and took their ten-year-old daughter – my sister – with him.
Now, if you’re still paying attention, this is when my mom made a break for the dark side. I wasn’t around yet, so I can’t give you the gritty details. All I really know, I learned from my sister on a gruesome night at the beach that began with an argument and ended with me lying awake on the floor of a scummy motel bedroom listening to the sounds of my sister fucking her girlfriend. So let’s take a detour.
Yes, the night began with a screaming fight. “You don’t know what it was like,” Kim screamed.
“What?” I asked. I was fifteen. I still trusted her.
“Mommy used to be different,” she always called her Mommy.
I stared at her in disbelief.
“She used to have men over every night,” Kim yelled. “I used to lay awake, listening to them. Yeah,” she screamed. “You have no idea. They used to come knocking at the back door late at night, calling her,” her voice was shrill. You know she enjoyed hurling those truths at me.
My sister hated me. It’s a truism and it’s beside the point. I mean, come on, if you watched your slut mom completely reinvent herself for your bratty little sister, if you watched her swear off men altogether, learn to put a dinner on the table every day, learn to keep a house, learn how to love for God’s sake, you would hate the object of her affection too.
My fifteen-year-old self had a lot of trouble handling the truth. See, my mom never fucked around while I lived at home. From when I was too little to remember until I went away to college, my mom was celibate. She threw the word around like a prayer. So from that night at the beach until I saw for myself how much men could destroy her, I denied the truth about my mom. I watched my sister walk out of our lives into the shady underworld of drugs and I was a little bit glad to see her go.
My mom clung to her celibacy until I left home. She avoided sex even while I didn’t, and as a parent I’ve got to admire that kind of dedication. But don’t you know that just about the minute I traded in my bedroom for a dorm room, she found a creep at Walmart and started fucking him? I was disappointed at first, and then it got worse. She found a – what do you call it – a sugar baby? Some black guy a good twenty years younger than her with a penchant for running up credit card bills and beating on old white ladies while he was fucking them. Yeah, great, I know. I kind of avoided home while that was going on. Then she found Mike the used-car salesman, and you know how that ended up.
So, you know, maybe I should love celibacy. Maybe I should be thanking my lucky stars. My mom’s celibacy gave me a normal life. I grew up thinking the best of my mom, never having to deal with the truth. But you know what? Celibacy just put a cork in my mom’s life, it didn’t solve any of her problems. In the end, my mom ended up dying for some guy she met in a phone sex chat room. Once a slut, always a slut. I hate self-denial.
I love you, I wrote.
I didn’t say I’m glad you’re alive, but I am.
I did not write about how I always thought this day would come.
I didn’t mention all the nights I’ve laid awake worrying about you.
I definitely didn’t bring up how much you scare me, or how angry you’ve made me over the years. I would never admit how, without even trying, you stole the fun out of my life. I didn’t mention the word trust but I also didn’t call you a thief.
Instead, let’s talk about how I’ve trained for this day, working out, strengthening my body and mind. I’m ready for you. I’m here for you. I love you.
I’m sorry you’re dead. I’m going to miss you, you, one of the few actors who really got self-destruction. You always made me believe in the bad in the good and the good in the bad. You always creeped me out.
Mr. Hoffman, if you’re up there in ODer’s heaven, keep an eye out for my dad. He’s funny and you’ll like him. He’s a youngish-looking fifty-something with white hair and a jaunty fedora. He died seeking that alternate plane of existence that I know you knew so well. He chose the tantalizing promises of a sly lover—alcohol—over the greedy gropings of his little daughter. He died alone, like you.
Mr. Hoffman, I know your secret. Everyone else thinks that you died on your bathroom floor atop a scattered mess of needles and baggies, but I know the truth. No, you died in an elusive, exquisite, and delightful paradise. You died happy.
Mr. Hoffman, I feel like we know each other. May I call you Phil? Phil, this isn’t easy to ask. Phil, if you’re wandering around ODer’s heaven and you bump into a dark and curly-haired, middle-aged former beauty, Phil, will you please tell her that I love her? Phil, go ahead and give my sister a hug for me. Tell her that I get it, that I finally understand that infinite draw to the dark side. I finally understand how your soul responds to vice as much as virtue. I get that sometimes you can only find peace on the path to self-destruction. I realize how sin is a long-lost art supply.
Phil, I’m going to miss you, but perhaps one day I’ll join you on that alternate plane of existence. I hope that someday I learn to eviscerate and reinvent myself through my art the way that you did. Phil, I admire the way that you lived, and although it terrifies me, I have to commend you on your death as well. You never failed to surprise me. Maybe someday you’ll look for me up there, too.
Let me tell you a story about when I was a kid. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve known Geoff since I was little. We were, much like we are now, best buddies. At some point our moms broke off their friendship and I thought that I had lost Geoff forever. Years went by until we reconnected in college, and when we did we gave all the credit to fate even though friends really brought us back together.
This year I’ve been able to reconnect, separately, with two people whom I love. Two people whom I had written off as lost, people whom I’ve loved but not loved quite enough, people who loved me but whom I thought didn’t love me quite the way I wanted to be loved. Both relationships were imperfect and difficult, and they scared me.
This year I decided to take a chance, to be honest, to open up to these friends. I realized that I missed them and that I couldn’t continue until they knew that. I went to these friends and let them know how much they mean to me. And do you know what happened? Those friends have come back to me.
I still believe in fate. I think the universe will find a way to lay the things we need out of life in our paths at just the time we need to find them. But I’m revising myself. I also think that we have the power to ask for what we want and we have the ability to get what we need for ourselves. The hardest part is admitting our fear.
It’s important to remember that it’s always possible to go back and fix our mistakes in life. Sometimes all it takes is a simple apology, a hug, or an “I love you.” Sometimes it’s as easy as accepting our own imperfection. Sometimes it’s a matter of letting go of what we think we have and trusting in fate to bring it back if we truly need it.
I’m serious. Many things are out of our control, but you’d be surprised by how much power we have. To my two old friends who are new again, thank you for teaching me this. Now go ahead, give it a try. I dare you to go back and fix something in your own lives.
So, remember a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned that Geoff might be getting fired? Well, it’s happening. Only, he’s getting laid off, with what will most likely be a big severance package. And – here’s the really funny part – he already has a new job. No kidding. He got the offer letter last week and he’s accepting it today. He even gets a big, fat signing bonus.
I know, I know. I sound awful. It’s not that I don’t feel lucky for this good fortune. I do. It’s not that I’m not happy for Geoff, because I am. Like I said before, he works hard. I’m glad that he has a great reputation that travels well. I’m excited for him for this new opportunity. Truly, I think everything will work out for the best for him.
But I’m jealous. I want what Geoff has. I want the recognition, the extra pay, the opportunity. I want an easy transition to my next phase of life. More than that, I want the necessity. Why would it be so much easier for me if I needed to do it for money?
Geoff did make me an offer yesterday. He promised to help out with the kids over the next few months before he starts the new job so I can work on my writing. He told me to take some of the extra money and hire a sitter during the day so I can write. He said something about being my benefactor. I’m thrilled and scared. Of course I’m taking him up on it.
Oh, and have I mentioned how much I love him?
I like adventure. I want to travel.
I’m not afraid of a little danger. I like to be tested.
I’m good at following directions. I know my place. I respect authority.
I want to help people who need it, and I want to make the world a better, safer place.
I want to be a hero for my kids. I want them to know what I’m capable of.
I want respect for what I do.
I like cold, hard, gritty reality.
I think I’m tough enough to pull it off. What do you think?
This is a first world problem, I know. But I’ve been taking a long hard look at my life, and if I’m honest, there it is glaring at me from the counter.
I have a special bowl, a gift from my mother-in-law. Nearly every night before dinner I fill it, or Geoff does. Oranges, grapefruit, strawberries — always strawberries, otherwise what’s the point? — grapes, blueberries, whatever I can find. I hope the fruit salad is becoming a good, healthy, tradition for the kids.
I should like the fruit salad. Sometimes I do like it, but today I don’t. The fruit salad feels excessive and that feels significant. Somehow the necessity of the fruit feels like I have something to prove. It feels like more of an obligation than a gift. Everything is right with our home, our family, and the fruit proves it. That’s why we have to eat strawberries in October even if I have to go to three grocery stores to find them.
What can I do with that realization? Don’t some families just make due with a bunch of grapes or some apple slices? What if I — gasp — make the kids get the fruit ready? What about you, what does your family do?