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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in dan carville (28)


In Which We Overcome The Sirens We Look Both Left And Right

Second Summer


Leavened and unleavened bread drops from the sky. Someone, perhaps the ghost of Keith Moon, sits on the edge of the scored lake. He is breakfasting on the noodle. You know he is out of his mind because he sings to himself, but no sound comes out.

The cabin remains very cold at night. The gate shakes when the wind moves through, but mostly the reason for the noise is the people who used to live here. They want to get back in.

Letters arrive by the hundreds. The mailman gives me a snooty look. He told me that this is part time stuff while he gets his PhD in abnormal psychology. I said, “OK.” He said he measures everything in mail, and so should I.

I did meet Gabriel, who is a student at the extension. I asked him to come back to the cabin, but he made a choking gesture with his hands. “You can’t breathe up there,” I said. He doesn’t speak much English, but when have I ever let that stop me? (This is the kind of joke my mailman is not entertained by.)

Hey, you can’t connect with everyone. The closer you get, the more apart you are in your heart, because a pernicious separation is an aspect of all closeness, the same way sometimes you can see the moon when the sun is out, but it’s not the moon you know. Instead it’s a reflection, or more properly described as the Etch-A-Sketch version of what you thought was there.

I have this vision that when I go down to the convenience store to buy Cheerios, the fire department trucks have taken this opportunity to invade my person space. I told Gabriel about this paranoia, and I asked him where it comes from. “God,” he said, “everything comes from God.” He couldn’t prove it, but neither could I.

At the local church our father - the people here like him very much - is obsessed with this letter he received from an old congregant. You see, the letter began grateful to the father for assuaging the man’s doubts and all that. Predictably, something went wrong in the man’s life again, and he fell from this throne. The father said he could rise again, but maybe he wouldn’t and that would be up to him.

The next week the father reported the congregant had left a note saying he stopped by but the father wasn’t there. In his little talk he didn’t say where he was that he missed this gentleman. My second guess was a grocery store.

I want there to be people in this life who knew me the way that people in the other life knew me. I doubt it will happen. A flower never opens as fully that second summer, and that is when the flower (the flower is I) notices that even the street smells of body odor.

There is this place I go to for lunch. They only open for lunch, while tells you how completely important this meal is in their sphere of understanding. There is this guy who waits outside for them to open, OK. He wears about half a sweatshirt, and some nice enough pants, and no shoes. Dirt cakes some of his body, but you can discern a sincere effort to wash as much as he can. They are plenty of public bathrooms around here, although if you go in the grocery store you have to take the elevator down one floor, and that is not recommended. Everytime I see this guy before the place opens, he seems like he is really keen to go in, but then he doesn’t. His feet do not move, and his posture slouches. It took me three or four days of solid mail to discern his emotional reaction to the opening of the restaurant: he was relieved.

Some of the letters say don’t go. Others tell me to stay. To leave a place you know is what Gabriel calls a channeling, because you are going into not only a new environment, which may or may not accept you on a molecular level, but a place where none of the stimuli are familiar. In New York I had the advantage of myself; nothing was threatening above 22nd Street, and the elevator always worked.

The letters sometimes say, predictably, that we have heard your latest broadcast, and we wonder if it is still you. On the condition that it is, here is a check for seventy five dollars, and a card that says we miss you. I put it away.

In the new place, you can still see movies, but they are not the same kind of movies – they are a jaundiced, petrified version of the same, as if Reese Witherspoon is exponentially less sure of all her choices.

I could not list all the people I miss after reading their letters. Reminders contain a hopeful and a sorrowful melody, and so we must engage in them or deny ourselves. On some level I know that is exactly what I ought to do. I am so near sighted that someone when I only open one eye, in the dark, so that I can see the screen, and then I realize I have been pressing the other one shut, and I open it, I think I am seeing myself from above. It is a challenging view but the mail never stops.

She never liked it when I talked about my dreams and she will hate reading this. It’s too abstract.

This one type of person you can only find in the early morning. She dresses all in black because you can imagine some cranky executive wearing his old black clothes, but hers are too worn to merit that appraisal. She does wear socks in her black sneakers, because white socks represent the last vestiges of humanity. On some level, this is the way I remember everyone I meet, to myself.

And then one day the father says to those assembled, he finally connected with the man who wrote him all those times. Maybe the man was lost, maybe he wasn’t. Sometimes people exaggerate the depth of their despair, and he might have a very good reason for that. In a few months he might receive a check for $75.00, or that could be the low end of what proper faith bestows upon the devoted.

My mailman does not want to hear about such things. He is into the following: what it takes to climb over a high fence, how much gas is consumed before the day is done, how two people connect in a more meaningful way than three or four or seven, whether to carry a basket on a shoulder or under an arm, choosing the proper words for the occasion and then showing up at the proscribed time. In contrast, I display the words as they come to me, and if they never arrive on the scene, I say nothing at all.

The gate rises higher and higher, and opens at odd hours, and then only to me. Impresarios, vagabonds, milquetoasts and strangers.

In a frosted-over envelope, next to one with the check, a message from the one I loved. “Come home.”

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which It Is Never As Intimate As We Expected

Theater of the Absurd


This rough-looking, pinned back challenge. You only laughed among your friends, those you knew for longer than you knew me. That is how I knew there was something dark inside you, and the laugh was a kind of easing.

There is a castle in a place we both know. Inside the tower, spaces oscillate between cramped and open. Part of me wanders from room to room there. I just wanted you to pose for one photograph. That was all. Candids aren't my style.

Rub a particular spot in concentric circles. Tell lies the whole time you are doing it. Tell truths afterwards.

Once I complained that you never asked me for anything. Then you demanded much that I never intended to give. You used my phone for a calculator, metaphorically. It was only good for that, I was only worthwhile to fill in some aspect of a desire. Sections of you, pieces of yourself never resemble the larger whole. I am so much more complete than you.

80, 50, 42, 10. Fold the rope so it burns at both ends. Near the castle, but not inside it, a little girl screams, "Take me with you."

There were much worse heartbreaks than this, much more awful people. Over time you start to admire the honest ones. Now I tell what exactly it was that made me feel nothing, so that the abscess never has to wonder about its removal. This is only kind: a ghost is a vicious kind of creature, the sort that never leaves well enough alone.

Meeting someone new feels impossible. So much of me is stuck behind somewhere. The only thing that takes my mind off the pain is reading. In one novel, a man visits the realm of Faerie. When he goes to leave, he sees the spectre of himself still resting on the beach. He says that he wishes he could spend the rest of his life there, in the dangerous and wild part of the universe. "Doesn't part of you remain there?" his friend asks.

One thing that bothers me in all the love stories I read is that they have such definite boundaries and strictures. Moving up and down on a wet point. Bending back the focus, rough at the base. Delight.

Fading out, the softness of your hands and shoulders. Light from the kitchen, the vastness of the pillows. The city stretched out behind us, everyone else planning for a future that was bound to come. I shook nervously, too far from home, and the refractions preyed upon me. We all become too much like one another, merely through proximity.

Let's be fully open. Even when you screamed at me in Bloomingdale's, I blamed myself. I always loved you, but I didn't bother saying it. You said that you loved espresso and popcorn, bedsheets and black boots. Those were all the things that can't really love you back.

In the mornings it is so much worse.

In my sorrow I go back to these old places. It is better than being taken by surprise, casually walking onto the grounds. I need to prepare myself for the fact that you will always inhabit this New York for me. I know you will never think about me within the walls at all. You have to be warm inside to notice the cold.

Putting my fingers in someone's mouth is never as intimate as I expect. Placing them elsewhere with the lightest touch. I try to be kind until I have a reason otherwise, but that reason usually arrives, coming up through the bedsprings.

Winter is the worst time to be alone. I received a letter from a woman I loved. Of course I never told her. It was an apology, an unneeded one really, since she at least had the courtesy to never promise me what she could not give. At the time I called her cruel, but now I think she was just being merciful to never give me a chance. She knew her heart better than I did: how small it was.

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording.


In Which We Crave What Has All Gone Wrong

Living with Me


Dear Daniele,

Tonight an exceedingly rash act was performed by a man who should know better. It may be that there is no completely moral act, only I hope there is.

The lights on Mott Street were fading to almost nothing on the way back. I walked from there to Astor Place, where I saw a kissing couple bang on the door of the McDonald's. But it's always open.

I used to take you to a bookstore near there. They kept all of the fiction in the back. Up front were the true things. It may be that there is no completely moral decision.

The rest of the way home I saw them pressing against each other, lights interchanging, flashing. It is a way to communicate, but not the last remaining method left to us.

Dear Daniele,

I understand why you felt all that was too impersonal, like I was addressing an effigy. Your analysis of me is nearly always dead on, a frightening fact that will scare our children when they read these old letters. I can pray they will not know even what a letter is by then.

Well, when I got home I did call you too many times, but that is just excitement. I remember when I slipped on the ice and hit my head (I was eight or nine that year) and all I wanted to do was tell the person who meant most to me. This was sort of like that.

If you had answered, I am sure I could have convinced you.

You were so composed, sitting on your own couch. Picking the place to fall apart is as important as selecting the time.

Dear Daniele,

I have been back and forth to the hospital too many times. The food is even beginning to taste good. I would be stupid to think this evokes any sympathy in you. That kind of caring is short term – what we feel for the suffering of others. You were more capable of the long term variety, which my mother calls devotion.

Changing someone's mind is very hard. I know that changing yours is impossible, an aspect of how it was constructed in the first place.

Then, of course, I met someone else. You couldn't pin down the reason for her beauty. The difficult god had returned. It was in the clear low span of her forehead, when her eyes found someone farther out than I could see. You don't want to know my problems.

Dear Daniele,

That night, I got off the subway a few stops too early. I wanted to see who was really awake, if I could be provoked into dismissing all of this. The following weekend I went to the country. The more decisive any act is, the more chance there is of it being absolutely moral.

The hibiscus, the crafted fern. Deep in the woods the smell of a hostage to the trees. I sat peacefully, I was at rest. Here you could forget about what brought me to this farm, what brings to me to this prolepsis.

You see, I am a different man! Completely! I wrought all the meaning out of what I went through! The plasmids, the certain, last goff! You could see me at the apex, and then prancing down like someone you barely recognize! That will be me, holding the bale!

There were bats in the barn. I don't know what they fed on exactly, flies or bugs, maybe?

Dear Daniele,

I am back in the city now, and I feel somehow you know these things, what I think to tell you before I say it in my own inimitable voice. We sold the lingua franca, we bought the flowers and a potted plant that it could be said might last for decades. Those last hours in the arbor, before forty-five minutes of stopped traffic on the FDR. Are things becoming worse or better? For you, I mean?

Candidly, I hope you dream of me. A promised life is real enough. I can't meet another woman in a sweatshirt, or find something derelict next to the castor oil. I am not that type of person, or even if I am, I am not the type of person to realize I am that type of person.

It is always kind to shut the door on the way out of your room.

Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.