As I sang Lhasa’s song I thought, It’s such a strange miracle that we can create something so profound and beautiful that it outlives us…that it almost ceases to be ours. At least, it does if our work is great enough.
To me, Lhasa existed only in the context of her music, to me she’s an idea, someone now dead who once crooned contralto syrup. But she was once a woman who’d probably had her share of secrets and neuroses and unrequited loves—of cruelty, pettiness, regrets, humiliations, narcissism, humbling moments, maybe moments of transcendence, maybe nervous breakdowns. She was once a woman who shat and farted and possibly snored or drooled in her sleep, a woman who’d caught the flu, who’d maybe at some point questioned God or Purpose or Love or Free Will. Or perhaps she was just a Plain Jane Doe who happened to be gifted with a haunting voice. In any case, she’s no longer any of those things, but there I was, softly singing Spanish syllables as Alex broke his own stillness with a sudden exhalation of nitrous oxide, his eyes closed and his head leaned back, exposing his throat to the mostly-full now-waning moon, one hand sticking out of the bubbling-glittering hot water that came up past our chests, long fingers curled gently as if around some giant maternal finger. Head back in a moment of complete surrender I felt privileged to witness, he sat very still as he always did when doing Whip-Its, a stark contrast to my own behavior under their influence.
Under the moonlight and the patio roofing’s shadows, Alex’s body was a cold thing—frozen milk, smooth and devoid of the blemishes and landmarks that betray us as organic creatures. A blue configuration of marble hacked by the anonymous criss-crossing shadows of Night. Though I tend to search obsessively for the base and animal in others, somehow, in all his present sterility, he rendered me a Pygmalion. The cavity of his collarbone was full of the moon, a pool of iridescent liquid. After a moment he turned into the shadow and became a silhouette, his own shadow-self, a palimpsest of the Daytime, real-life waking version, and with the quietest of sounds tasted and then exhaled a cloud of cigar smoke, expired a white ghost of the breath that had once been life-giving oxygen until his body had drained it in hunger. We borrow life from the air around us, then dispose it in satiety, suckling the Universe long after we’ve been weaned from our flesh-and-blood mothers.
“Did you know that inspiration can also mean inhalation, and expiration can mean exhalation?”
Earlier that night we’d watched Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams.
“There’s such a different narrative style—a lot of Japanese storytelling seems to be that way. Lots of moments, images. Beginnings, and fragments of dialogue, snapshots. That’s sort of more how my mind works. That’s sort of what keeps me from writing, I guess—I feel like I need to draw up something cohesive, bookended within a beginning and an end. Linear, for the most part—even if it’s told out of order, there’s ultimately a discernable timeline. But I can’t churn out that Hero’s Journey stuff. I wander in other directions, or I don’t have a resolution to a beginning, or I have a scene, a moment, a vignette…that I don’t want to have to explain with loads of context and backstory, and that I don’t want to justify with a resolution. The former seems to me like explaining all the funny out of a joke someone didn’t get, or talking all the magic out of a dream or a mystical experience. And the latter feels to me like turning your work into an advertisement, with some vested interest, some finger-wagging moral at the end that the reader is supposed to come away with, says you. Anyway, life isn’t like that. I didn’t set out on one journey and then resolve it up neatly just on time for the sequel—the strings of my life all mesh into each other in this gnarled, overlapping tangle of causality and coincidence.”
“Just write that, then.”
“But people want stories. American people, anyway. If I don’t throw in a plot-twist after some build-up, I’m being lazy.”
“Fuck that. Just write, like you do. A page, or however much. Then write some more. Then some more. Then call it a book when it’s long enough.”
“Says who? Why don’t you just write without being preoccupied with whether it’s marketable? That’s when your stuff is going to be at its best, anyway. I think you can make a living as a writer, easy. But you can make a living a million other ways. You, specifically. So you don’t need to conform to the market.”
I put out our cigar and extended my legs through the wiggling water towards Alex’s feet, instinctively soldering a physical link across the infinite gap that exists between two people by default.
“It’s funny, but I feel closest to you at night—when it’s hardest to see you, when the lights are out, except possibly for the moon.
“But I guess it makes sense. Night—true night, like this, quiet and receptive—it’s when we can kind of come out. When we’re not distracted by all the things we’re doing and being and thinking under the sun’s surveillance. It’s like going backstage—backstage behind the production of everyday life, of our social personas and our relationships and roles and manners and mannerisms. It’s when we can wipe off the stage makeup and be honest with ourselves about who we are, but really honest, and possibly extend that into being honest with someone else. It’s when true introspection, true simplicity, true transcendance, true strength, and true experience can creep up from underneath our minds—the ideas, agendas, goals, anxieties. It’s when we can return to the womb, to death, to intangibility and insentience—pre-consciousness.
“But-um, I feel kind of dreamy now. Maybe that’s why I felt so close to you, because a lot of the time we’d sort of be there together. In this surreal place, at night, and there’d be so much and so many people, but a lot of the time we’d just be alone together, and I felt like I was dreaming—but the next day I’d wake up and know you’d been in the dream with me, and you’d remember it too. That’s got to bring people together…I mean, think of how much of our lives we spend dreaming, whether we remember it or not. You can never really share a dream with someone. People sometimes feel really compelled to try—and no one REALLY gives a shit, because it wasn’t their dream, and anyway people suck balls at explaining their dreams. Like, ‘And YOU were there, and then I was a dolphin, and then I was YOU and there was this purple-ness…’. But think. To have a dream and wake up next to someone knowing they were THERE, you don’t have to try to explain it. I think that’s a lot of what drives people to wanting to trip together. But-um, a lot of those nights felt like that, when we met. The first night I met you and then I woke up and you were still there, I was facing the back of some strange boy in my bed, except I didn’t have to shudder and quietly jump out of bed and hope you’d leave soon—because whoever you were, you’d been in the same dream with me.”