She sits hugging a pillow to her body because she says she’s self-conscious and I tell her, ‘Don’t’, because I’m not the audience to be self-conscious around for that sort of thing—quite the opposite—and she proceeds to tell me that she doesn’t like to feel. Nope, and she has her reasons. This maybe surprises me as she is a passionate person, which I love about her—you could almost call her fiery if one were to resort to cliché, and she has had violent outbursts, a diminutive fury-thing that once even landed her a night in lock-up, but she only generally shares her temper in matters of realpolitik and thank God we share the same political bent else she would reduce me to dust—she likes to win arguments—and I’ve even sicced her on unsuspecting strawmen so she can handily dispose of them, she’s that cutthroat with her words.
“That’s why I didn’t read what you sent me,” she explains, and I instantly wave her off—no big deal. It was a writing about signing divorce papers and, ironically, it was about attempting to conjure the appropriate emotions—about feeling, maybe too much, too little—all ‘feeling’ which she has just admitted she likes to avoid at all costs, and although I like it when she reads what I write, I mean, she knows more about me than some, including my recent lapse with The Girl From The City of Twelve Bridges so she has keener insight into my machinations than some; and fair to say I’ve been privy to HER intimacies, which makes this all the more choice—still I’m not offended when she says she didn’t read my latest sturm und drang. “Your writing just. So. Invokes. Emotion in people,” which I love hear being said—it’s the fucking point—“That sometimes I just can’t engage for fear of feeling something. I’m really invested in being comfortable.” And she proceeds to describe herself as something of a shallow woman, which she has a hard time convincing me of, because it’s patently obvious I’m attracted to her, and requisite to that is materiel upstairs, helps she has highways of curves and I’ve known her for ten years now.
I feed her wine, it is two a.m, and I am exactly six months sober. The wine must be vicariously enjoyed and instead of en vino veritas, there is just veritas veritas for me, of which I’m used to, having re-sensitized to the mundane. But veritas veritas is fine, and vino is almost superfluous anyway seeing it is as early as it is in the antemeridian–something about the single-digit hours and loquacity–and I say, pointing to her glass: “It’s funny—I used to drink TO feel,” which is true. It sets me apart in Recovery. How often people drink to numb out—it’s the most common refrain in the Rooms and maybe there’s some element of that for me, too, Jenny having called me “the Saddest Boy I’ve Ever Known” but I like the serotonin fix that, opposite a prism, takes muddy rainbows and focuses them into something white and laser sharp.
“Oh, the emotions are there, I just need them heightened and brought into sharp relief.” Like the Tin Man having a heart all along but needing the clockwork one awarded him to realize it, alcohol is that wizard. It’s cheating really. Like spiking a bed of onions with brown sugar to speed along the Maillard Reaction.
“I used to think that I needed it to write. Part of the Process.”
Hemingway did famously say, “Write drunk, edit sober,” And Tennessee Williams, he wrote about habitually taking a trip to Echo Springs—the liquor cabinet—to ‘get the click.’ The ‘click’ is the best term I’ve heard of for it and there are many, but the ‘click’ conjures thoughts of gears and cams rotating into sequence, a proverbial unlocking, and how addictive this is, the feeling of connection. Like Archimedes shouting ‘Eureka’ upon discovering displacement and how Eureka is itself its own displacement, the alcohol knocking loose buried words and feelings from the synapses for the reaping. Writing high, riding high.
“I came from such an emotionally-stunted family, it was a way to access passion” I explain, and it was Sylvia Path who said, “Even when I feel nothing, I feel it intently.”
So she and I are opposite in our takes on feeling, and I wonder briefly if the wine is a disservice, but she’s had a rough day as she has elaborated, starting with her husband stranding her at the hotel with the three kids, Uber and rail her default chariots to get to Disneyland and back. The Coaster failed to run come ten o’ clock so she’s two hours later than expected, but it is beyond nice having her here and hopefully the wine acts as nepenthe— a ‘not-sorrow’—to erase the otherwise busyness and sometimes calamity of parenting—her kid had a breakdown at the Happiest Place on Earth and why do the Princesses cease their photo ops at three, but if for the Ball?—and she says, “Now I feel bad. I’ll read it.”
“Don’t feel you have to,” and I mean it. She knows she is a select audience and that’s all that matters. She’s removed the pillow, and I feel better.