Monday, August 9, 2010

MODERN HATE: What is "Reframing? (#2)

Reframing is a device used by positive, optimistic happy and successful people to create a positive outcome from a negative set of circumstances
A Kite That Couldn’t Be Tied Down - "Modern Love" - NYTimes

“In honor of Persephone!” she announced, cracking open a pinkish orb. She handed me half and I stared, shocked, at the gleaming maroon seeds—yes I was literally shocked.  (You haven’t lived till you’ve seen pomegranate, mes amis.
She was plucking them with abandon, letting the juice stain her fingers, not caring. I tried to breathe. I was overwhelmed by the sensuality of a woman eating.  Not simply ‘eating’, mind you, but eating, and eating fruit.  Eating with such a wild, raw, craven desire to put food in her mouth, chew it, and swallow it and then, yes, oh yes, so very, very slowly, sweetly, digest it.  Yes, digest it with enzymes and stomach acid and pulsating soft muscle tissue.  And perhaps belch a bit of it back up. 
The act was so alive with sexuality, and I realized that I had not been this aroused since I shared a stick a gum with the girls’ softball team in my freshman year—to be more precise, one of them punched me in the gut, stole my backpack and they split my Halloween candy. Still it was marvelous!  (All of the chewing gone amuck like some insane Bachhanal orgy of insane desire, writhing gums and gnashing molars, jaws clasping together in an ecstatic revelation of corn syrup, xanthine gum, disodium glutamate and sucrose—I tell you that you have never seen such a sight!)
It was winter in Pittsburgh, I was 18 years old, and I had never seen a pomegranate. I’d never been to a produce aisle, and now I was confronted by this magical and enchanting adventuress who had! I could only imagine her other possible retail escapades—perhaps a trip to a store that still sold Dungeons & Dragons figurines?
I’d met her weeks after arriving in Pittsburgh for college. Somewhat randomly—he actually rolled a die and read the corresponding answer from a piece of paper--her boyfriend had asked me: “Would you like to come to our party? We’re going to have this Albanian singing the Rig Veda in Frisian, an Indonesian shadow puppet performance of Glengarry Glen Ross, and then we’re all going to smoke hash and discuss how the flappping of the wings of a butterfly imply the existence of the executive washroom at Citibank.”  Yes, she and her bohemian circle of friends were a load of pretentious poseurs with delusions of mystical knowledge! I could never meet such a load of self-involved wankers in the suburbs!
She was a poet living in a castle-like apartment flooded (yes, literally) with books I’d never heard of--Dr. Seuss, Curious George Goes To The Adult Bookstore, oh and yes many more.  (Apparently I’ve never been to Barnes & Noble either.)
The details of her exotic childhood, I learned, included an organic farm in rural Texas—rural fucking Texas, can  you believe my luck? How fucking exotic is that?  Pretty fucking exotic, I’m sure, as anyone who’s ever been to rural Texas can tell you.  Imagine a beautiful lunar landscape devoid of ice, snow, living creatures, trees, grass and add in some reactionary freaks who think they’re living with the reincarnation of Jesus Christ! Ah! My heart races simply at the thought of her, plucking roses and singing hymns to Athena while knee-deep in cow shit!
She did origami and left it hidden for strangers to find—and I’m sure those people were thrilled to the marrow to find a piece of folded paper.
She was into queer theory. (Her boyfriend was something of an idiot.)
She got her clothes from the Goodwill Dumpster. She was everything I’d dreamed of but never knew existed—a 20 year old bag lady. Correction: A 20 year-old bag lady who was possibly a lesbian.
She was on a mission to soak up the magic humming just beyond the ordinary.  This involved never holding a down a job.  In the most magical, spiritual, and profound sense possible, of course.
Blah blah something blah more stuff.…She’d bought a one-way ticket to Japan.
The only person more devastated than me was her suddenly ex-boyfriend. Our common heartbreak inexplicable to the outside world, he and I mourned together. Only we knew the depths of her enchantment and, thus, the tragedy of our loss. Everyone else seemed to know we were suckers. While I sent her letter after letter, he actively plotted to get her back. In one hopeless ploy, he reasoned that if the two of us could lure her into a three-way relationship, our combined appeal might jointly win her over.
At 19 this seemed plausible to me—let’s face it, I’m about as smart as a box of broken hammers--and I went for it, pawing at him in the dark, remembering her.  His vagina felt a bit weird to me though.
After he’d fall asleep I’d sit in their living room and trace my finger over the books she’d left behind. (Seen it in a number of bad movies. so I felt obligated to do so.)
I ached in the presence of her ghost, even though she wasn’t actually dead and ghosts don’t exist.
With everyone I deemed important now abroad, I mustered up my newly developed confidence and hatched my own plan: I too would study in Japan and properly declare my love once and for all.  I would have done it earlier in the year, but then finals came and I was like super busy and stuff.
By June I was at Peking University studying Mandarin; six weeks later the program ended and I was standing in Tiananmen Square. And to my disbelief she was there, too, standing next to me, flying a makeshift kite. A kite! How magical and enchanting and shit!  And of which we were all completely bored after 30 fucking seconds, when we all realized that the phenomenon described in Bernoulli’s Principle isn’t all that exciting after your sixth birthday.
We decided taking a train across Russia was a good idea because it involved a lot of not-working.  She slept a lot on the train; she also read for hours and barely ate. I bonded with her brother over spoonfuls of Nutella and ruthless make-believe gossip about our fellow passengers and how much more interesting we were.  I was a bit sorry that none of our fellow passengers died but that’s life huh? We got to the topic of her ex-boyfriend.
“She only liked him because they read at the exact same pace and turned pages at the same time,” her brother said, rolling his eyes. “Not exactly my idea of romance.”   Well I did mention her boyfriend was pretty thick, but look who’s talking?
I swooned at the thought of her reading something undoubtedly wonderful in the adjoining compartment but forced myself to nod.  Ah, reading, swooning…don’t get me started.
Nights were hard. She was inevitably inches away, sleeping peacefully as my desire for her boiled. In Ulan Bator, under a sky thick and white with stars, we decided to sleep in a yurt on the steppe.
As her brother slept, she whispered to me: “Have you heard about that hand-built, nine-grotto Virgin Mary shrine some priest spent 42 years piecing together in Iowa?”
I told her I’d build her a bigger one if she wanted.
She laughed and played with my hair, knowing it was true but not wanting to show it. The shrine I had already built for her was painfully exposed; in two years my mainstream existence had been razed to the ground to make room for a garden in which her every eccentricity was welcomed to bloom. What was I doing in Mongolia? It seemed I would follow her anywhere.  Being a complete tool, I it apparently never crossed my mind that I was acting like a complete tool.
While staying with a family, our kindly Russian host mother instructed us to strip and smack each other with birch branches in a backyard sauna. This is where we finally did kiss, under an orange moon, but her heart was elusive while mine was unsophisticated and greedy.  Russian mothers are sick bitches.
We whiled our days away in bookstores and second-rate amusement parks, eating hot dogs and forgetting to go to the Kremlin. When she and her brother decided to ditch the train and hitchhike their way through Finland and the Baltic states — all the way to relatives in France — I suddenly felt like an impostor about to be discovered. I wanted to keep going but couldn’t keep up.
I was too afraid not to return to Pittsburgh, not to finish college, not to tell my parents exactly where I was. I didn’t have much money and was too afraid to hitch. She seemed genuinely sad but did not stop me from leaving. As I turned my back on her at the first major fork in the road, I was grudgingly conscious of a painful realization: My life was not one of one-way tickets. Not yet.  The painful realization that I was a complete tool is still decades away.
Over the next few years (an actual quote people) she passed through Pittsburgh many times and we’d always go swimming in a fountain, or stencil poetry onto sidewalks, or cook pizza or kiss, only for a day or two, and then she’d be gone. I’d beg for her ever-changing address and she’d write, inconsistently, sending short stories and watercolors too good to be from someone I knew (Not even I’m sure what the hell I mean by that—I reckon it just sounded like a good way to close a sentence). One day she showed up with a new boyfriend.   Quelle surprise! She’s not even queer.  You would think at this point I would have realized that I’d been an utterly, completely bamboozled tool whose chain had been yanked for literally years by this poetess-vagina-tease extraordinaire.  (Please, I’m in way too deep.)
The only thing worse than losing her was the realization that I’d never had her…And it only took me five years to figure that out.
She is now an accomplished writer, the recipient of many fellowships and awards. My first thought: Thank God professional judges of the potential for magic in artists have justified my fanatic obsession.  For now, I told myself, I could tell myself that I had not been a total chump under the control of someone who couldn’t care less about me, but instead believe that this relationship really mattered.  Surely if someone has talent, they have to be a good person and not some manipulative sociopath, right?  And there’s no way you can discover about love and art without being dominated by some egocentric, self-loving freak? Right? I’m right, right?
And then I saw it. Among her various honors and residencies, chosen out of the hundreds of cities she has visited and thousands of experiences accumulated, out of the many, many, many dupes she has used and tossed outside like worn rags and broken toys…out of all those idiots and fools, she had written that she once flew kites in Tiananmen Square. She couldn’t remember why or with whom or couldn’t be bothered to mention it but it’s okay because she’s an enchanted magical artist.  And that validates my totally insipid behavior.
I tried to breathe. (Love gives me asthma.)
But we never forget who showed us that there were fruiter fruits, not just fruit—even though that person can’t be bothered to write or call or answer emails or respond to messages left for them or telegrams or satellite calls or personal deliveries or documents or suicide threats outside their house screaming at the top of my voice. 
So please take a few minutes to wander down to the produce aisle at Trader Joe’s and have a gander round—with the proper and suitable awe, of course.  And if you write some half-assed poetry about how spiritual it is to suck on a mango or some crap, drop me a line—I’m a sucker for narcissists, sociopaths, and other assorted, nondescript fuckwits.
The author is and remains a giant chump who can be led on more easily than a dog on a leash following crumbs of bacon. But her expertise at reframing is fucking great.

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