Remember When We Were

I believe that I have developed an odd sensibility about men and women, at least as I depict them in my poetry. I suppose I could track this arrested notion to my interactions with my mother, but I would rather not open myself up to Oedipal comparisons, so let’s assume this mild distortion was formulated in my later years.

She picked through my Yamamoto bag and fished out a soft pack of Marlboro Golds, chiding softly as she tapped out a pair of cigarettes. Her severe eyes, cold despite the acrid humidity hanging over the summer night, glinted gold.

“Okay. Go on.”

I think it might have begun when I was still in school. I fell in love with an artist. It was a childish love, though – no real lust involved, believe it or not. She was older than me; possessed a raw, passionate talent for both art and poetry; and she had a powerful need for control over her life. We joked that she owned me in some way. It was a teasing, fleeting thing we used to say, “I am as a pet cat” – aloof, but if fed and cared for, loving. I think feeling “owned” by am artistic woman must have impacted me, formatively.

The lighter made a beautiful, dry sound as she lit both cigarettes at once. With a slightly overdramatic flourish, she passed me one, even though I don’t really smoke any more.

“Be nice to me. Let me pretend we’re still young. Continue with the cat thing, that’s cute.”

Of course, we were simply making fun, as children who like each other but are too shy to come out and say it do. Our relationship unfortunately went nowhere – her family moved out of the country and although we tried to keep in touch to some degree, well… something about long-distance makes it easy to neglect people, even in this era of constant connection. Once she confessed to me that she fell in love someone other than me, I cut myself off from her completely. I think I regret that.

“So that’s why all women are distant, imperfect muses and men are always-suffering sinners.”

Her words were painted with blue-gray smoke that made haunting shapes in the air. Before I my dread thoughts identified the shapes, however, the wind that flowed around the high-rise caught them and spun them into the oblivion. Distantly, music played. I lost track of my thoughts for a moment, but nodded slightly.

Maybe. Considering that she was the first to push me towards writing, it’s a logical place to start. It was probably within a few years after abandoning her that I turned towards more physical attachments. Maybe I was looking to avoid the emotional attachments by just focusing on the physical. But anyway, the next woman I really took to was largely fueled by that sort of physical passion – wild lust, depraved and intense. I loved that it felt like the opposite of control. She was always “most”. Most lusting, most violent, more depraved, more intense, most lovely.

“I like this girl.”

Another soft cloud hovered beside us, as though waiting for my thoughts. I blew it away, replacing it with something less interested, less clinging to the immaterial.

You would have loved her. She was fun. A true hedonist – seeking to pleasure herself and others to the very extremes. She didn’t believe in boundaries, always pushed herself to feel more, to draw more into herself. I think that’s where our relationship eventually fractured – she hit a limit, between us. The knife’s edge of extreme self-loathing and self-loving, while living within the paradigm of loving others and simultaneously hating them… it probably destroyed whatever relationship we built. I simply woke up one day to find her gone.

“Ghosted. I suppose that explains the scars. And your distrust of relationships. Seems like you’re intuiting a lot from one bad break up.”

She laughed. I noticed that she smoked her cigarette like she was hiding a marijuana bud, tucking the red glow in the palm of her hand. For some reason, it made me nostalgic. Her smile broadened when she caught me staring, hiding something cruel and clever.

I think that’s why I tend to write about self-destruction as a form of love. The most intense affair I’ve had was incredibly ruinous, mentally, and I suppose I have naturally connected those concepts in my work. Poetry allows me to honor my first love, and my obliteration allows me to still make a connection to my second.

“Okay, so women are sexy, self-destructive, artistic ideals that you can never reach. Men are brooding and broken, desperately clinging to the past. Two bad relationships later and you’ve truly become the voice of a generation.”

She was rummaging through my bag again. Inside, beyond the balcony doors, the party was getting rowdy. She found the cigarettes again but was dismayed to find only one remaining. Still, as she crushed the empty pack, she was quick to light it up.

It was certainly more than two, forgive my defensive ego. I think those two just became archetypes in my mind. That’s what leads us to the third – the bridge between the two – the maturation of adult relationships. If my first love is exemplified by infatuation and a sort of childish desire to please, while the second became my association of love and ruin, then my third love is the moderation of the two: the fellow artist, scarred by living, willing to be hurt again, reaching out in mutual, emotional trust. Love as a mutual partnership of the mind.

“That’s so sweet.”

I exhaled into the damp night air, smothering the third cigarette just as the sliding door opened up, spilling the late summer celebrations and preciously conditioned cool out into apathetic darkness.

“Hey man, gonna spend the entire party out here smokin’?” the friendly voice was drunkenly empathetic, literally sliding away into the night on a boozy cloud of synthesized joy, “So much for quittin’, eh?”

“‘Nobody likes a quitter.’ I’ll be right in.”


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