I kept thinking of an old Robert Mitchum cowboy movie where he goes back to see the farmhouse where he was born and finds the house falling apart and an old man living in it by himself. "Lonely place," Robert Mitchum says. The old man says, "Nothing wrong with a lonely place as long as it's private. That's why I never married. Marriage is lonely, but it ain't private." That was always my most intense fear about getting married: When everything sucked and I was by myself, I thought, Well, at least I don't have another miserable person to worry about. I figured if you gave up your private place and it still turns out to be lonely, you're just screwed.
on the 11th of every month my friend elizabeth would say, "well we made it through another month. so do we get her back now?" we always giggled, but we really did expect to get her back. its not human to let go of love, even when it's dead.we expected one of these monthly anniversaries to be the Final Goodbye. we figured that we'd said all our goodbyes, and given up all the tears we had to give. we'd passed the test and would get back what we'd lost. but instead, every anniversary hurt more, and every anniversary felt like she was further away from coming back. the idea that there wouldn't be a final goodbye- that was a hard goodbye in itself and, at that point, still an impossible goodbye. no private eye has to tell you it's a long goodbye....the loss just doesn't go away- it gets bigger the longer you look at it.
Roller Boogie is a relic from - when else? - the '70s. This is a tape I made for the eight-grade dance. The tape still plays, even if the cogs are a little creaky and the sound quality is dismal. It's a ninety-minute TDK Compact Cassette, and like everything else made in the '70s, it's beige. It takes me back to the fall of 1979, when I was a shy, spastic, corduroy-clad Catholic kid from the suburbs of Boston, grief-stricken over the '78 Red Sox. The words "douche" and "bag" have never coupled as passionately as they did in the person of my thirteen-yer-old self. My body, my brain, my elbows that stuck out like switchblades, my feet that got tangled in my bike spokes, but most of all my soul - these formed the waterbed where douchitude and bagness made love sweet love with all the feral intensity of Burt Reynolds and Rachel Ward in Sharkey's Machine.
I was helpless in trying to return people's kindness, but also helpless to resist it. Kindness is a scarier force than cruelty, that's for sure. Cruelty isn't that hard to understand. I had no trouble comprehending why the phone company wanted to screw me over; they just wanted to steal some money, it was nothing personal. That's the way of the world. It made me mad, but it didn't make me feel stupid. If anything, it flattered my intelligence. Accepting all that kindness, though, made me feel stupid.Human benevolence is totally unfair. We don't live in a kind or generous world, yet we are kind and generous. We know the universe is out to burn us, and it gets us all the way it got Renee, but we don't burn each other, not always. We are kind people in an unkind world, to paraphrase Wallace Stevens. How do you pretend you don't know about it, after you see it? How do you go back to acting like you don't need it? How do you even the score and walk off a free man? You can't. I found myself forced to let go of all sorts of independence I thought I had, independence I had spent years trying to cultivate. That world was all gone, and now I was a supplicant, dependent on the mercy of other people's psychic hearts.
For two weeks, I lay awake at night and said Hail Marys over and over to stop my heart from beating too fast. I suddenly realized how much being a husband was about fear: fear of not being able to keep somebody safe, of not being able to protect somebody from all the bad stuff you want to protect them from. Knowing they have more tears in them than you will be able to keep them from crying. I realized that Renee had seen me fail, and that she was the person I was going to be failing in front for the rest of my life. It was just a little failure, but it promised bigger failures to come. Additional ones, anyway. But that's who your wife is, the person you fail in front of. Love it so confusing; there's no peace of mind.
The Word 'Repulse': I hate this word. I believe 'repel' is a perfectly good word, and 'repulsion' is the noun, as well as the title of an excellent Dinosaur Jr. song. A compulsion compels you; an impulse impels you. Nobody ever says 'compulse' or 'impulse' as a verb. So why would you ever say 'repulse'? This word haunts me in my sleep, like a silver dagger dancing before my eyes. Renee looked it up and I was wrong. But I still kind of think I'm right.
Unlike me, Renee was not shy; she was a real people-pleaser. She worried way too much what people thought of her, wore her heart on her sleeve, expected too much from people, and got hurt too easily. She kept other people's secrets like a champ, but told her own too fast. She expected the world not to cheat her and was always surprised when it did.
But for me, if we're talking about romance, cassettes wipe the floor with MP3s. This has nothing to do with superstition, or nostalgia. MP3s buzz straight to your brain. That's part of what I love about them. But the rhythm of the mix tape is the rhythm of romance, the analog hum of a physical connection between two sloppy human bodies. The cassette is full of tape hiss and room tone; it's full of wasted space, unnecessary noise. Compared to the go-go-go rhythm of an MP3, mix tapes are hopelessly inefficient. You go back to a cassette the way a detective sits and pours drinks for the elderly motel clerk who tells stories about the old days--you know you might be somewhat bored, but there might be a clue in there somewhere. And if there isn't, what the hell? It's not a bad time. You know you will waste time. You plan on it.