I stumbled on some of photographs on the Internet of my ex-girlfriend having sex. This was on a porn site. Naturally I hadn’t expected to find photos of her there, and certainly wasn’t looking for any. But even if I had been looking, I wouldn’t have found these particular photos because she used a pseudonym.
Lord knows how she came up with that. I find it embarrassing. There are photographs on the Internet of my ex-girlfriend fucking some guy with dyed blond hair and a tattoo of a chain around his bicep and she’s calling herself Jennifer Joy. Probably the name was someone else’s idea, but even so she agreed to it. Besides agreeing to the photos.
Sadly – and this I noticed immediately – she wasn’t aroused. Not to pull rank, but I happen to know how she looks when aroused. She gets splotches. I wouldn’t have known I knew this, but as soon as I saw the photos, I found myself searching for the splotches.
A few years after we broke up, I spotted her on the street, a good two hundred feet ahead of me. I recognized her by her walk, which I didn’t know I knew. The splotches are the same. You know certain things without knowing you know them.
The worst part was her pubis. I mean the hair. She had shaved everything but this tiny vertical strip above her labia. That’s the style these days, to shave everything but this little landing strip.
After we broke up, the first thing she did was buy a flank steak and grill it on our neighbor’s grill. When we were together she was a vegetarian – we both were – but as soon as I walked out the door she became a carnivore. The same day. A mutual friend told me about the flank steak. It turns out that she had been a vegetarian because I was a vegetarian – to please me, I suppose. I had no idea. Once I learned this I began to wonder how else she had fooled me. It’s a terrible thing to wonder about your ex-girlfriend, because of course there’s no limit. Which words, which moments, were lies? Which may have been lies but hopefully weren’t? Which probably weren’t but hopefully were?
Seeing that landing strip made me think of the flank steak, because it struck me that perhaps the man in the photos, who I presume to be her boyfriend, wanted her to shave that way. On the other hand maybe she chose the landing strip herself, having seen it on other women. But even this depresses me. How many women shave their pubic hair this way in order to appear desirable to men whose idea of what is desirable comes from photos of women who have shaved their pubic hair this way?
Doubtless I’m lamenting the loss of something that never was. It wouldn’t be the first time.
They used the doctor’s office bit. In the early shots he wore a lab coat and had one of those round strap-on mirrors on his head. The office (it was a real office) had diplomas on the wall and an examination table. All the action revolved around the table. Sometimes she was on it, sometimes he was, and in a few shots they were on it together – precariously, it seemed.
I found myself fixating on the fact that I had done these same things with her, although never on a table and never with a photographer circling us. Strangely, though, I couldn’t remember any of it. That is, I could but I couldn’t. She was there – under me, over me, in front of me – but I couldn’t feel her there. It was like watching a film shot from my perspective but with her removed, just an empty space where she had been. Except that what was missing wasn’t her but my feelings for her.
I’ve made her into a ridiculous character with flank steaks and landing strips. It’s unkind. And it’s only possible because I’ve forgotten her. As I knew I would.
There were these moments when we together – moments of closeness, of feeling connected and happy. Whenever it happened, I would recognize it and tell myself to remember it, because even as it was happening it was slipping away. And now it’s gone and all I remember is trying to remember it – an effort I knew would come to nothing, as it has.
There’s more to say, I’m just not sure right now what it is. I’ll probably go back and look again. I bookmarked the page.
I’m not sure why, but I believe (imagine?) that I’m going to go blind one day. Similarly I believe that I will die in a car accident. If both things happen, it follows that I will go blind before the accident, which means that someone else will be driving the car.
Sometimes I wonder who that person will be. In fact whenever I get in a car with someone, I think, “Is this the driver?” But then I always manage to convince myself to table the question until I become blind and people start driving me around.
A new thought: The accident could be the result of my sudden blindness, in which case the driver would be me.
I noticed a sheet of loose leaf paper swirling with the trash in front of my apartment building. Handwritten. Pencil. Bottom left corner torn but otherwise unmarked. Some erasures related to line-spacing.
I stood there reading, then looked around for something else, an “attachment,” without finding anything.
This is what was written on the paper:
1.) I am myself at my age.
2.) I am dressed in everyday clothes.
3.) I am in my brother’s room.
4.) My brother who is falling for a girl who I know is bad news. He’s giving up a chance for a great scholarship to a school.
5.) He said, “Randy, I think I’m in love with her.”
6.) I want him to go to school.
7.) See attached.
8.) Forget Susan. Are you not seeing that this will ruin your life.
9.) Yes, she could be a murderer.
10.) I can’t physically force him to understand me.
11.) I really care about him, and it would kill me if that happens.
12.) He is trying to convince someone that is close to him.
The height of it is at “I hand to you like a brother.” He starts to walk downstairs.
13.) See attached.
14.) See attached.
15.) I am trying to see if he’s listening.
16.) Ugh … I wonder if he’s heard a word of it.
17.) I hope I did enough.
18.) See attached.
I want to note here for my future self to read that yes I am aware that my happiness at meeting this woman is at best one phase of feeling and that as our relationship develops, the feeling will be replaced by feelings like the ones I’ve felt with others, what is to stop it from happening?
As we were leaving I looked at the picture of us on her mantle, taken by her roommate on our second date. It touched me, our happiness then. “Look, baby,” I said, “this is when we fell in love.” At that moment I saw her again as I had in the beginning. Where has she gone? Or really, where have I?
A man in the future remembers a woman he saw as a child, before the outbreak of World War III when the human race was forced to live underground. He is chosen for an experiment in which he either goes back to the earlier time or dreams that he does, going as himself today. He meets the woman and without a word is accepted by her. I too fell in love with her. Or not with her but with these photographs of her, of the two together, their tenderness. Two pictures in particular I love, both of the woman. In the first she is prone and appears to be naked, though this is uncertain: she has her arm crossed before her. In the next photo, the next moment, she has opened her eyes and is looking at the camera, at her lover, with happiness and wonder.
I told her last night that I want to feel more happiness with her. But what I meant, I think now, was not happiness but love.
In Akerman’s film a couple lay in bed unable to sleep. Finally the man says, “What are thinking?” The woman replies, “I wish that summer were over,” and then, “We no longer love each other.”
“You’ve been thinking that a long time,” says the man.
– I suspect I’ve never been happy with anyone beyond a few months. When I think like this, I wonder if happiness isn’t another red herring.
– Meaning happiness can never be a stable condition, so if I expect to find a relationship that makes me happy in this sense, I’m doomed.
– But if I understand you right, you lose something different from happiness if you lose her.
– Yes, closeness, intimacy.
Happiness is the possibility of happiness. It is the belief that something pleasurable is coming, or may be.
So long as I put off checking the message, it remains possible that it’s from her. But once I check it, it becomes what it is, which may not be a message from her. Until I know what it is, it can be whatever I want it to be.
I thought again of giving up everything and setting off. But where to and why? Truth is, I need other people for my dollop of happiness.
Camus does not say that we must imagine Sisyphus free, but that we must imagine him happy. Though, again, he does not say that Sisyphus is happy, but that we must imagine him so.
It’s possible that one only completely remembers or completely forgets, that there is no middle ground of half-rememberance. Still, I’m dubious. A thousand grains of rice is surely a pile, whereas five grains is not. When does a collection become a pile? At a certain point it’s definitely not a pile; at another point it definitely is. Somewhere between these points is the point at which collections become piles, but where that is, is fuzzy. It’s fuzzy because the idea of a pile is fuzzy. A surprising number of ideas are fuzzy like this: love, happiness, [more examples].