The old writer, like all of the people in the world, had got, during his long life, a great many notions in his head. He had once been quite handsome and a number of women had been in love with him. And then, of course, he had known people, many people, known them in a peculiarly intimate way that was different from the way in which you and I know people. At least that is what the writer thought and the thought pleased him. Why quarrel with an old man concerning his thoughts? (Sherwood Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio, The Book of the Grotesque).
So C.C. writes to me:
The “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” is a derogatory meme in art criticism, particularly film. According to critic Nathan Rabin, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl "exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writers and directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” You are a better writer than I am so who am I to be opinionating but I think it harmful to the process to make oneself a slave to a pixie. Bad juju there, bwana. You will not get any real work done.
First of all, C.C. makes money from writing, and as Frost so famously extolled, "everything must go to market." I know the market value of my writing. C.C. wins.
But leaving that aside. . . old chap, I've got romanticism deep within my bones. No matter how it seems, I'm a mere fawn in wolf's clothing. I am perpetually in love whether or not I am loved in return and even if there is no tangible object of my desire. As a lover, I'm a dreamy, cuddling fellow, I think, not a carnal monster (we won't check with any tainted primary sources at this point).
To wit: after getting my second Moderna injection today, I went to the gym in an attempt to return to some lost former glory. Somehow my body has retained something of its previous look despite the fact that it is an absolute wreck, but it needs much work if I am to be the thing I wish to be again (even as I hear Dylan singing, "You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way). I figured that a workout would help work the vaccine through my body and perhaps lessen any side effects that might be in the offing. While I was working out, a woman I had never seen before and her trainer were kibitzing with me, a man in a black shirt and black mask and my very long blonde hair. It is what I needed, of course, a little attention after a year of being locked away isolated and alone.
As someone used to say, "Alright, alright, alright, alright." Who the fuck was that, anyway?
After the workout, I was feeling good. I took a shower and made a light lunch and ate outside. The sun was shining and the air was perfect and the sky was a very deep blue. I couldn't stand to sit alone in the house on such a day, and shoot, I had to be at least 80% protected at this point, so I decided to put on my fancy Chinese hippie shorts (which are not short at all and make me look like a Mexican hipster) and a white V-neck t-shirt of the type I've been wearing since they were bought for me after my accident (not the same ones--I've ordered many more). A pair of flip-flops and I was out the door. I was headed to the hippie market to get some crusty bread.
When I got there, the place was packed and it took me two trips around the parking lot to find a space. Good god, I thought, everyone must have had their second shot. But of course, that was not the case. I had found a place at the back of the building, so I had to walk through a service hallway to get to the main floor where many little businesses had set up shop--pastries and deserts, hippie lunches, artisan coffees, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, and of course, wholesome organic never touched by heathen hands crusty bread.
As I opened the door, a woman was walking toward me down the long hallway, and being a CDC follower, I held the door and stepped aside so that we would not have to come too close. It was fun and easy, too. I mean, she was fun to look at. Just as she got to where I held the door, I nodded and said hello, to which she responded, "Nice hair." I looked quickly deep into her eyes to to search for any trace of sarcasm, but nope, it wasn't there. I had no response other than to smile a smile that was hidden by my Covid mask. It was over in a second, It was done. But. . . fuck, yea, it was good to be out.
I will concede that a mask does not detract from my looks. Indeed, I am one who looks better with most of my face covered, leaving one to gaze only into my very blue eyes.
The crusty bread lady was nice and we talked about bread for awhile before I made my selection of a big, fat French loaf. When I told her that it really was a lot of bread for me, she said that I should cut off what I thought I would eat and freeze the rest.
"It will be good for up to three months."
"I will do that," I said, though I knew I probably wouldn't. Still, she was a nice lady.
As I headed out of her little stall, a pretty young woman turned and looked knowingly into my eyes and waved. I thought I recognized the eyes, but I wasn't sure. I couldn't place her. I smiled, again behind the mask, and waved knowingly, too. Did she want to speak? Fuck. Who was she? I calculated in milliseconds but couldn't bring her up in memory. Maybe I didn't know her. I don't know, I thought, but her eyes seemed very inviting. I think I was waiting for her to say, "Nice hair," as I moved away through the passageway and back to my car where I sat a moment. Holy fuck, I thought, it has been so very long since I've been out. My blood was pumping in an old, familiar way. I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to be loved.
These are the things, old buddy, that make me want to live. Pixies, you call them, and they may well be, but it is far from carnal, these encounters. I only want to be taken home, lain upon a couch, given wine and a head massage, and told that I am loved.
It is mere enchantment, Bub, a Neverland of love, no more than the desire to be desired. A safe haven. Someone to feel my own mortality and to help keep it at bay.
Oh, I'm a wreck, I know. But none of you--NONE OF YOU--have spent a year like mine. I didn't think such a year was possible. At the beginning of the year, I was adored at the factory and had someone to keep me safe. Within moments, all of that, the adoration and sense of belonging were gone. All that was left was the melancholic longing of a silly romantic wrapped in a thin coat of stoic despair.
And there may be worse to come for all we know. But today, if only for today, I felt the King's Highway open under my feet again, or at least the little pathway that leads to it. There may be life and adventure and emotional treasures along the way, or maybe only treachery and murder, but even that seems better than the endless solipsistic onanism I have been living in.
Tink. Where are you? Come on, Tink.
* * *
I wrote that in my mania last night intuiting that I may not feel so well today. Indeed, as I made my dinner, I began to feel a little achy and tired. The workout and the excitement of the day had been too much for an old body dealing with an injection of alien RNA. I took two Advil as precautionary palliatives and sat down to watch t.v. The news was repetitive and boring, so I switched over to YouTube. For some reason, interviews with Natalie Portman on the David Letterman Show popped up on my "Recommended for You" list. I ignored that and searched for some documentaries on Matisse. I liked the way the first one framed the relationship between he and Picasso--Matisse was a colorist in search of drawing and Picasso was someone who could draw in search of color. That pretty much sums it up, I think. I watched the first documentary which was an hour, and began to watch a second which was not very informative, and so I switched it off. It was still too early to go to bed, but I was sleepy and didn't want to watch anything that would require much attention, so I clicked on the Natalie Portman interview. I ended up watching them all, and there were a lot of them. The first was when she was thirteen and had just finished "The Professional." Holy shit, she was a little charmer. And when that was finished, YouTube just went to the next, then the next, and I swear, I watched them all. It was fascinating, like watching evolution. By the last one, she was married, had a son, and was moving to Paris with her French husband. I am an idiot, I know, but sometime when you, too, are feeling less than intellectual, I would recommend it. My take away--Natalie Portman is one of the most charming people to ever grace a talk show, even when Letterman blunders.
I am going back to bed now. I don't feel any worse than I did last night, but I can tell it will be a lazy day. It is overcast and will be rainy at some point, so a lazy day is really just the thing. And later, when the sun goes down and I have made my dinner, I will decide to watch something educational before I slip into something stupid again. I think I already know what it will be as I am only partially through the newest season of--dare I tell?--"Below Decks." Maybe I'll precede that with a doc on Modigliani or Bonnard. But you know, it is important to stay well-rounded.
Oh, and I must comment, I am so very pleased with today's photograph. It is one of those I've been dredging up from years gone by. It was taken crossing the Mighty Mississippi River from New Orleans to Algiers Point. I got some good pictures there. I may go back just to make more as soon as I am safe to travel.
And that will be soon, my friends. Very, very soon.