Thursday, January 5, 2017

Ragamuffins & Entanglements

Now Playing: Neutral Milk Hotel - Where You'll Find Me Now and Fool

For the last twenty minutes I've been tearing my room apart trying to find my copy of 1984 without success.

(This is not a political post. Never fear, I am being super dumb right now.)

Maybe the real reason I asked for a Kindle is so I'll never again lose another book in my life. Then again, I find it easier to browse for a quote based on general page location than by using a search feature, seeing as I can't locate the paragraph I need through the good ol' internet either.

I'm not 100% sure how it goes. Winston and Julia are lying together, talking, and she mentions she's had dozens and dozens of other lovers. Winston is strangely pleased about it and says it makes him love her more.

In context, I'm pretty sure he's happy because it means she's corrupted the party even more and he loves that she's not pure and perfect (because promiscuity = imperfect impurity. . . then and now and in alternative realities, blegh). But when I read that line the first time, many years ago, (Twelve? Thirteen? Sometime in 7th/8th grade), I wasn't following 1984 all that well, so I went, "??????"

Like I said, contextually, it's quite simple. It makes even more sense now because of Red.

I ask him a lot about his life. From the difficult beginnings to the happy middle to the struggling near-present. I want to hear all his stories about traveling, school, recreational use of alternative substances. All his conflicts and adventures.

I've also asked him quite often about girls he's been with in the past. Ex-girlfriends or crushes or complicated entanglements. It doesn't spark jealousy but I don't take it as far as Winston does. I don't believe it makes me love him more nor does it bring some perplexing spike of desire in me. It's just nice knowing who he once was and the people that have been significant in his life.

But while I've been trying to untangle all the layers, I've caught myself simplifying everyone connected to him.

He told me once of this girl he'd been in love with who hadn't shared his feelings. We talked briefly about her at a cemetery, the day after he told me he was in love with me.

The first time he said her name, I imagined this beautiful, green-eyed waif dressed in converse, jeans, and Beatles t-shirts, with an incandescent smile and long, long blonde hair. The only real concrete thing I got out of that initial story--outside of the romance plot points--was that she'd accidentally kicked and shattered some super expensive, giant bong that belonged to someone they knew.

The girl in my head wasn't all that accurate. I was right about her being pretty and thin and about the Beatles t-shirt--but that last one was easy, as I found it in Red's possessions. It was a leftover of their brief stint of cohabitation with a side of love triangle.

Though he told me stories of the time they'd lived together, I learned more about her by accident. Gradually. The Beatles T-shirt was the first concrete piece I stumbled into.

The second happened on an early roadtrip up to Ocala. Most of my time in his car is spent trying to figure out music, and for whatever reason I decide Neutral Milk Hotel was perfect for the road. I put on a few songs  and he mentioned they were that girl's favorite band.

Another time I wanted to show him (500) Days of Summer but kept having trouble acquiring the movie. While I had that on the back-burner, I learned he has a list on his phone of TV shows and films that he's watched and considered amazing. Much to my surprise, he had The Graduate on his list. I asked him about it. He told he'd seen it because the girl had shown it to him, as it was her favorite movie.

I also learned by the time they'd all been living together, she had already been married and had already been divorced. The whole time I'd been picturing a girl our age, so I asked him to clarify and reconstruct the image he'd so quickly ripped out of my hands. He assured me she was young. Barely a few years older than us. It glued the picture back together.

Though I've admitted to this before, a quick reminder: I have a bad habit of romanticizing people. Especially people I don't know. I'll think of them as if they're the quirky two-dimensional leads of a shitty, indie, coming-of-age movie. Easily describable in one to two sentences.

Thereafter I thought of her as just "the girl whose favorite movie is The Graduate and who listens to Neutral Milk Hotel." Who platonically slept in the same bed with boys who were either in love with her or who she might have one day been in love with. Who has Beatles t-shirts and short, short hair. Who had freed herself  from a marriage that hadn't worked out at such a young age.

I thought by focusing on the details I was trying to imagine the complexities inherent to that chapter of his and her life.

But I wasn't. I wanted the simplicity of a girl-next-door who listens to Neutral Milk Hotel and has seen and loved The Graduate. 

She wasn't the only one I'd done it to. Point to someone in Red's life, and I'll introduce their character to you like I'm pitching the next season of Girls. 

So while at work on Wednesday, I was running through a list of ways I've summarized people close to me and close to Red. Then, as I was crouching at the bottom of the fiction section trying to jam another Bradbury book in its proper place, I saw one of my spiders crawling by my boot.

And I came up with my character elevator-pitch: the girl who works at a library and struggles with getting paid and murdered the fuck out of the worms by the bookshelves (with a broom!) but refuses to disturb the wispy spiders and their webs.

I liked it--for about a minute. It was so ridiculous, thinking it defined me. Thinking it said something about me.

I have no idea who the other girl is. And despite endless talks, I probably have no idea who Red is yet. Or who anyone else is--be it my friends or parents or brother.

I can't figure out how to make people real. In my writing or in life.

And here I thought that was one aspect of writing I'd figured out >_>

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
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