I’ve been worrying lately about how anesthetized I feel about this election. I wonder if it has something to do with age… so many voting opportunities--- I used to get this choked-up sense of importance--- of power and personal freedom, of being part of a political movement… we could do something here, we could change things… in that old voting booth with the levers that clicked, behind the heavy curtain that felt like an x-ray shield--- like protection from something lethal...
Lately I notice I’m content to pick up a book—Emerson, Yeats.. .anything--- and just read a fragment. This seems to be a habit of older people who always seemed to me when I visited-- non-linear---the conversation, the teas-- and they’d inevitably have a pile of worn books--- like old friends… which they’d visit, I imagined, in the dark lonely overnight hours. My shelves are dense with books I used to feel I had to start at the beginning and plow through… but now I’m content to just be there, in a chair-- and listen for a minute. Change my life.
This kind of listening seems to have become obsolete… all the texting and attention-deficit hypocrisy that seems to pass for contemporary conversation. Like permanence… young people here seem to be moving all the time… I worry that my son will never lie in his bed and night and feel the ghosts settle in the walls, the memories seep like black smoke underneath his door and surround him, the little panic buttons that will remind him of what he has lost. Or I worry that he will.
We separate… we become separate… this is a kind of lesson for death. There is no easy way to die and there is no easy way to separate… not really. That feeling of your first child--- you have just given birth--- and there is a separate little body there in the room… a body you will fear and fret over—whose every little pain you will fear more than your own. And you are alone—and you could lose this small person—which would be unbearable… but here you are on this first morning, his actual birth-day, and you are still awake, nothing has really changed, except you are writing lyrics on the pastel-colored Babysitter’s-Reminder pad that came free with the crib linens, even though you know you’ll never have a babysitter because that’s not you. And you still won’t be able to read your own handwriting in the morning… so you reassure yourself that nothing has changed.
So I am thinking today… this morning--- waking up and trying to read the lyrics I wrote in the middle of the night… and seeing something I wrote maybe years ago, on a night when I was keeping watch over a feverish child-- and delirious from exhaustion, and the only company I had maybe was that longing… that unbearable, desire-drenched deep-wounding thing that was part of some kind of innocence.
But at least it reminds me of last night-- lying in bed—thinking about all the strangers I’d had this bed intimacy with… and there is this body next to me… with a penis, like all the others, like all the strangers in your life with whom you’ve become physically 'intimate' as my mother refers to it-- and what you don’t know about him fuels the night… takes you forward like a drug… and maybe you think making new memories will keep you safe from the old ones… but they don’t. And you turn another page… farther away from this… another fragment you read… you ingest this moment, you adopt it. It is yours, you can claim it... and still it doesn’t feel that way anymore.
But this other memory comes into my mind--- maybe because I read last night yet another story about a boy-molesting football coach—this one closer to home… in Brooklyn-- a school which tried to recruit my son-- and I am thinking-- -what has changed… is the innocence just unraveling? So I had another memory fire-off… of maybe freshman year, in some beat-up old Buick, in the back seat driving down some country road.. half- conscious from drugs and alcohol... and happy, so happy… the way you were in those days… just to be in a car—because it is always the beginning of some great story….you are still at the beginning of everything-- and this unmistakeable sound… tooth by tooth, the captain of the football team.. unzipping not your zipper but HIS… and you are high, in the back seat--- listening… and this is no mistake…he is going down on your drunk boyfriend who thinks it is you, is saying your name--- over and over, and this makes you happy… he is so innocent. And you don’t want to interrupt his pleasure… and you never tell him… the football guy-- Mr. handsome/macho/future JP Morgan power broker with the perfect wife. But now, 2012, you’d like to call him up and tell him, because the Football Captain—he looked just like Romney…. And you want to laugh, but you can’t wake the guy in your bed now who wouldn’t understand.
And you still can’t read your handwriting in the morning…
And no matter how many times it wakes you, the panic button… and you try to understand it, to write it, to smother it-- you know you're on the other side of some bell-curve of this longing....and you try to convince yourself... to understand what it is that you are losing, or not losing. And you make a point to remember some guy from the gym or maybe that painter you fucked on the roof so many years ago… the one whose love you felt… you actually felt… because he wasn’t afraid to lose you. That one. Yes.