My Life As An Object
by DAN CARVILLE
It was as stupid a piece of advice as I ever received when someone told me to do what I love.
You know those old cartoons where the eyelashes of women are so carefully managed they appear to twinkle, extend and shine? That is what I felt like in the world. Seeing anyone more than once was either too often or not enough.
The last time I saw her she met me after a salon appointment. The fact that when her hair was viewed from the correct angle it substantially improved her countenance only added to the trauma. She looked bored. But then she said, "How's work?" and for a gripping second I thought that something more important hinged on the small talk.
After that, I knew the only reason she had come was because she did not know how to tell me no. She said, "Can you ask your mother something for me?" A moment later, she received a phone call from her friend. I never did find out what it was she wanted.
In Portland the shapes of the others changed, becoming more ethereal. I could stand on one corner and see something completely desirable, so much so that I felt like crossing the street, but never did. There is a politeness that restricts me from making a fool out of myself, and it constitutes a retaining wall impervious to anything except for lust and coincidence.
Waking leaves me in this same body again. So many have taken it in, pressed against it for one reason or another. Even if the number were only a few, the sensation it gives me now is inexhaustible.
Everyone that I know is thinking of another place to be other than the one they are.
She had moved in with me on a Friday with the thought we'd have the entire weekend to ourselves. She only took the drug when she was alone, and she did not use at all until I came home from work on Monday. She was watching Adventure Time with a glassy smile. Under the influence of the drug her features became more refined, her body assumed an enticing flow. Of course she was more detached, I had to keep telling myself. Watching her, it felt like one part bled into another.
To write of this when I had not lived before with someone in this way still strikes me as bracingly familiar.
I read Susan's story, and it seemed like a nightmare and heaven in equal parts. She makes a kind of sense, but only a kind, like seven slices out of a pizza. I read Tropic of Cancer and felt like a scarecrow. In these last months I have learned to accept the wandering mindset, even let it infect me for a time. But I cannot imagine, even for a moment, their fantasies.
The words which trigger the onset of understanding are all the first ones I learned, and the last.
I did not want to give her something to do. I knew that if she did well at anything — writing, fashion, her relationships with friends — and it went sour, it could come back on me. I might be blamed for it. When I told this to my therapist, a grim look came over his face. He said, "That is not very loving."
We argued a lot. I have heard that is not a good sign. We constantly went back and forth about sleeping arrangements. She was not comfortable at rest. She was lactose intolerant, but always drank milk in her coffee. It took her a month for her to say that she sometimes left our bed out of embarrassment. I bought her a dairy free creamer but she never used it.
When I talk to someone on the internet, I try not to construe them as a virtual, a computer program designed to respond to me and only me. I am shocked all I say will not be remembered.
I drove from Omaha to Austin with a wedding present in my backseat. I went from San Jose to San Diego; even up close the cars seemed like ants. Sensing the presence of another hinted at a prelude to intimacy, but in fact the reverse was true, or as true.
Do you like the poetry of Dr. Williams? Do you think that any of it is a lie?
The drug would put her to sleep. I will not say what it was, not out of respect for her, but for myself. Whether that is loving or not, I don't truly know.
In New York things speed up or slow down completely. Now, in the darkness, the others sit or stand. I can make nothing of strangers and to try to know them is a losing battle. I want them to know me, not the other way around. It's easier.
Whatever I did, I take it back.
When I go online, there is a reminder written in ink on my hand, twisted into a circle, but many-sided. The green icon, percolating like water on a stove. To step faster, per diem, and allow the change to render itself completely. Available.
Two months before she left, when things felt like they had reached some kind of pleasant equilibrium, I bought a kitten. I know that's a dumb fucking thing to do. My therapist told me that I did not do this for her at all, but for myself as a reaction to the change.
She would use in the morning and fall asleep. By the time I walked in the door she was happy to see me. She wanted nothing more than for it to be the weekend. I came home one night and she'd prepared dinner, a task she had never shown interest in before.
In San Francisco, where even the wind blows mild in comparison, someone once told me that the way you could tell between a human and an automaton was the manner in which they held a book. I asked the man who said this what would happen if books disappeared and he said, "Do you have a Kindle?"
Running in place. Everybody does it. I hate that word, everybody.
My therapist told me that there is nothing wrong with a personality shift if it is conscious. The only unintended personality shift that is positive comes from conditioning, whether it be in a military setting or a prison.
The cat died the third week we had her. First she went blind, and then she died.
My mind feels sharper and I know that I am myself more educated, due to an increase of neurons firing in the brain. On one level I find this invigorating, filling me with the thought I have changed and the process by which others notice will, at the end of any given moment, start to begin.
When I do carry a book, I struggle to figure out how I should hold it.
Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here. He last wrote in these pages about the moon.
"When A Woman Loves A Man" - Paul Kelly (mp3)
"Cold As Canada" - Paul Kelly (mp3)