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Being an Idea of Me

September 27, 2009


I was picking through older posts today, not sure looking for what. A sense of how this site is coming together, perhaps, or something more abstract. A trend stepping forward as the posts pile up; something exposed as hundreds of essays and photos cobble together into a whole. Something explored over and over, articulated better (or worse) each time. A little graph of the things that have been eating my time. A companion graph plotting the relative payback: what I put in, what I get back out. I feel a bit like a bag of tumbled tomatoes, thunk thunk thunk, most stopping at the lip of the counter, a handful reaching the floor. Like I dumped the stories out on purpose, but perhaps with a bit too much reckless (careless) force. Too much momentum. Even this post, really, which I know is about to come out unpolished and slightly rough.

There’s a chance some of my stories stretch facts here and there; one question being, did I mean to at the time, just let it happen, or not appreciate the manipulation of facts till later, till now? Some of my stories were intended to be lighter fare than they turned out, and reading them today, I feel like those ones are a blob of rising pizza dough stretched too thin in a few spots, a fingertip stabbing through…I could try and patch the torn bit, mash the dough in layers over itself, or just pretend it’s more delicious that way, messy bits and all. To get away from food metaphors, it’s like getting dressed up and leaving the house and not realising till I step into the train station or the office corridor or the bright, bright sun blocks from home, that I’ve chosen underpants that shine through my trousers and there’s nothing to be done about it now. I can either pretend I don’t care and sashay around all la la la here’s my panties in case you were wondering!, or I can act like I don’t notice, and wait for someone else to point out, “Hey, I think you’ve shown us a little too much!”

Mostly, I see a raft crashing up then down massive crests and troughs. A story a few months ago practically bragging that dating is no big deal, that men and women come and go, that my sweet solitary routine is punctuated by so many rewarding things that the absence of a companion (aside from my kitten) is more than supplemented by family, friends, long walks, stories and thoughts and privacy and awesome meals and lessons I have culled from shitty times, and good times tacked like penants to my walls. Then, a cascade of more discouraged and down-sounding ones, following the string of short and sweet island accounts. A relaxing and inspiring retreat from habitual daily living, which wheeled around and punched me in the belly. Doubled over, I struggled to recover my breath and now, stand bent at the waist, hands braced against my thighs, hair a messy tangle draped across my face.

So much ridiculous drama! Oh my gosh, really now. Really. I suppose I am simply exhausted from being an idea of me–mine, someone else’s, another someone else’s, and so on. I watched a movie this afternoon, about a handful of sisters and their simple, complicated lives. One sister, the single one, holds down a crummy job and lives in a plain flat, and wears her hair in a style slightly too young for her evident age. She’s not that old, just too old for a style so childish and cute. She’s signed up for a dating service, but each date lets her down more than the last. None of the men are total assholes or anything; rather, they are ill-paired and the evenings plod along till one of them finally, politely, calls for the cheque and they go their separate ways.

There’s a wonderful, horrible scene where she meets a man for afternoon coffee. Their conversation is agonising to watch, even knowing those people are not real. The woman leaves the café and heads down the street past shops and taxi stands and people commuting home from their days. A quiet piano provides the soundtrack for her walk, and she tilts her head a certain way and smiles to herself, like you know someone would in real life when they feel their insides lifting, trying not to be too excited but unable to help it. And, in that moment, this is the sort of smile that adorns the person’s face. And you know the man isn’t smiling this way, just her. Ugh. This smile fucking killed me, but I watched her smile it three times, clicking the paired-arrow button on the DVD remote, back-back-back, there…play…back-back-back…

Then, I ejected the DVD, snapped it back in its case, showered, had cereal, hustled myself out the door, let it slam (which I shouldn’t, since I’ve done a shoddy job of hanging a heavy mirror on the inside using something stupid like probably a finishing nail and some picture wire, definitely materials inadequate for the job), locked up, and returned the movie to the rental shop before I could spend another instant with this fictional yet still upsetting smile. Man, I am soft and fragile these days; it’s quite silly, really. Time to toughen up.

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