30. squiggles and trembling, dream-like shapes

coffee cup

 

 

And V.? What was it like for V.? You grow impatient with me, want me to leave behind the past, but it’s not the past I’m troubled by, no, it’s some kind of potent distillate which permeated me and charted labyrinthine maps in my neural pathways and lined the slippery, bubble-like walls of my cells with its sticky gook. The past can never be left behind, it’s not even passed, its substance has seeped into mine and commingled with it and here I am, thinking I’m making a fresh start and finally letting go and all the while my own invisible homunculus is trapped a million times over, stuck in the oozing muck of everything that has happened to it, in the condensed slime of experience.

Why this capacity for pain? Take a look at V., he’s built to survive; he forgets, deletes entire episodes, leaves people behind like vagabonds on the side of the road hoping to hitch a ride in his streamlined, gleaming life. It’s equipped with all the latest safety features, but even still: hitchhikers present unknown dangers. They can steal from you, abduct you, they can seduce you and then, touching up their lipstick in the rear-view mirror, ask to be let out on the next corner. They can bring peril and disease into your life; they can blackmail you. This was how V. saw me: not as a promise that might have been, a shooting star in the black of night sent to announce its augured miracle, but as a potential threat to his otherwise perfect life, its possible downfall. But disappointment is not a part of V.’s universe; failure, insecurity, fear, doubt: all words that do not apply. Alarmed, and then industrious as ever, his mind paved over whatever connecting lines our encounter might have momentarily redrawn. No room for renewal—not now. He has done everything right, he strides resolutely forwards, has built a life so enviable that even he is almost convinced he’s happy. But then he cracks open the veneer just enough to offer a peek inside, and he will do this again and again: give in to the temptation, recite his troubles like an air-tight case against himself, ask to be shown the way out of the rigid diagram of his life, and what is there to do but believe him, fall through that crack.

And what about you? The cups of Turkish coffee I turned over in their saucers in your mother’s apartment: you search the lines etched into their hardened grinds, examine the squiggles and trembling, dream-like shapes for signs that presage fortune, presage a life together: something more than the disaster and betrayal and loss of love you’ve known until now. A life between cities, between boxes in storage: is it a type of freedom, or has it become its own settled way? What are our chances for anything more than this: a trip to Berlin, to London, maybe Paris—we’ll see. Like me, I fear you are trapped in your own personal quagmire. The blind leap of faith required to let go of the past, the childlike belief to proclaim: these are my limitations, my scars, I will conquer them now as I’ve always known I could, I will take a chance that my future self has already made this decision somewhere in the space-time continuum, already knows what will come to be—can either of us jump that far? We run and holler in joy. We whoop up a racket, resolute as warriors with cardboard and tinfoil swords in hand; we plant ourselves firmly on the peaks of our own little hills. And each of us hindered by responsibility and the far sturdier binds of habit, by a dizzying oscillation between a belief in the beauty and inevitability of happiness and a fear of failure and self-delusion.

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