I heard a truck pass in the street outside Sailor’s building.
“I have no courage.”
Sailor looked at me inquisitively. I felt a thrill pass through my body. She wanted to know.
“Why do you say that?”
“The only thing I can think of that would take courage, the only thing I’ve never done, is dive to the bottom.”
“And why would you?”
The room was cooling significantly now. She broke eye contact to go to the window and pull the upper pane down. I looked across the kitchen. She saw me looking at her and recoiled. I realized that my eyes must have flashed.
“Shhh,” she said, “I’m not shutting it all the way, just so it’s quieter. I like the cool.”
“Me too,” I said.
She turned her head away from me.
“So why this desire?”
“To learn something. To learn what you learned.”
She returned to the table and sat down. Her voice shifted into the regional inflection that I knew, that she never let sound in polite company, a voweled “r” and a vibe in her throat, a heavy sound that made people move back.
“I didn’t learn shit. Except ‘Do not repeat’.” she said. “That darkness you think is so luxurious and deep; it doesn’t exist. Once you go that far, it’s white noise, a snake eating its tail, the only sky you’ve ever seen that’s ugly; your guts go bland; your imagination is gone. You saw me when I was there…”
I sipped my coffee.
“I don’t understand. I’m so hard now. I can’t change it; can’t help it. It makes you hard.”
“I don’t want to be hard. That’s not it.”
“So what is it?”
“I’ve never gone all the way, not with anything. I don’t even think I know what it means to go all the way.”
She leaned forward.
“But it’s not that…” I said, “It’s this…profound lack. It’s the reason I like to lean forward when I stand in high places. It’s an attraction to falling, a mild feeling that underlies everything, that there is something lacking, and that I have a desire to move into a place where I can feel it more acutely, or where I can feel nothing at all. Yet I lack the courage to follow that desire, and so I float; I am a nothing.”
Sailor smiled and stood.
“You’re not hard,” I said.
“I know I can never get enough.”
“Well, everything has to be dismantled now. This is what I’m talking about. There is always this leaning in, wanting more. So that life is the adventure. But there is no adventure anymore…only addiction, introversion…sport.”
Sailor was standing at the stove now, preparing supper. She was slicing a potato. I couldn’t have it. I stood up, approached her from behind, slid the knife away from her hand.
“I can’t right now. I can’t be a man sitting at the table.”
She turned away from me and left the room.
I abandoned the kitchen things and followed her into the bedroom, where it was darker still.
We touched, like this, until we lost track of time. I could not believe a touch so sad could be so charged, so sensual. Our perplexity, our joy, lasted forever, as we ran each other’s fingertips along the surfaces of arms…
Days later, maybe weeks later, we reached the same feeling…
The air and temperature were the same; the way the light filtered through the plants which she had trained up the glass of the kitchen window, so that there was a slow flash of sunshine that bounced off the stainless steel of the sink, lighting the faucet to a bright spot behind her head, making a halo of her flyaways, the way it was afternoon, but cool…the calendar, the season, made no difference; we had traveled through space and time.
“Remember,” I said, “when we returned from that rave in Kennewick, and the next day, we sat on a Greyhound speeding across the desert, and you said you’d never been so sad in all your life?”
Our hands nearly touched at the center of the table. “That’s what I mean,” I said, “When those cops came in to the upper room of that stadium with their German Shepherds, and went through the crowd, and all those hundreds of kids, high on E, were buoyed up and down, as if they were rolling on a wave of techno, and there was a smile that spread across the crowd of faces, because we knew, somehow, that we were the world, and yet the world couldn’t touch us; they couldn’t arrest a soul…and those kids were moving like one, in a giant circle. It was a rolling, tribal, unison jumping. And those poor cops looked like forlorn boy scouts. Nothing they could do… The E was in our veins. And it wasn’t that anything had been lost… But we’d felt this collective joy…and not being high made the distance between that joy and the world too great to bear. And you could either lean in to oblivion, or you could sit still and perceive, and know the distance, and be desolate, staring out into the desert.”
“That is the truth about emotion. That is its ontology. Desolation, the space between spaces. That is the essential property. Too yellow to lean in and fuck myself on drugs. And out here, in the desert, with my eyes clear and level, I don’t know what to do… I swing with this emptiness inside me. I rock, and sway with it, and live.”
“Okay, N,” Sailor said, “Okay…”
She touched my arm, and I felt drunk from it, and lost.
(This is why I must dismantle everything…because I know emotion to be different from what is taught. This thrill I feel when you look at me, when my skin receives the trace of your fingertips. The light, the charge in my body, is blue in color. It is a feeling of plummeting; it is pure joy, and it is paradox.)
(A Footnote: For the small value a factoid may hold, the draft of this post was completed, according to the dashboard timelog of this website, at 11:11:11 p.m.)