Chasing Ghosts

“And now I tell you openly: you have my heart, so don’t hurt me… You’re what I couldn’t find…”

I’ve never experienced anything more ethereal than when our eyes met before homeroom. It couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but it hung in the air like an eternal sunrise. Nothing I’ve experienced since has matched this feeling- for only a moment, I stood before the face of God. Drug people lament the way it used to be, before things were cut with fillers; watered down; muddled; meaning progressively lost; purity replaced by mayhem; innocent experimentation escalating to candyflipping handfuls. 

The first moment you fall in love; the first semester at college, and you’re popping pills at a party- throbbing waves of intensity. And you think you’ll take that feeling with you, like you finally won the ring-toss at a carnival. This is your big pink elephant, and it’s yours forever. You think it’s going to feel that way every time, with every girl, but every time you go back, there are more pieces missing. The fifth time through the haunted house at Adventureland and the plastic skeleton doesn’t have the same resonance. You become the old, recluse pothead rolling his eyes at kids going on stoner adventures- paint chipping away; hardwood floors stained; crabgrass growing through the cracks of the cement.

Our first movie date and I get her a yellow plastic ring out of the quarter machine. Someday, Jessica, someday. It’s not that it wasn’t meant to be ironic, but that its irony was so genuine. In another life we’d be married now- two kids, in a house with a two-car garage. Yard work on the weekends while she shuffles the kids between soccer practice and kung-fu classes. At night we laugh over Chardonnay, remembering how Sister Eileen would catch us making-out in the hallway and then try to embarrass me about it during math class. You don’t realize how much that means until you can never have it again.

Pressing her against the wall when no one’s looking, biting her neck and grabbing a breast. We never lost it, did we?

No one expected me to break up with her. She was gorgeous, but we drifted apart. The sun had finally set. Seeing her would only feel empty. It was an integrity move. I didn’t like her anymore, and isn’t that why people break-up? Paint the house to burn it down. Allow the perfect to get in the way of the good. I’m the captain who’s playing by the rules if shit goes down in the middle of the Atlantic. A modern, suburban samurai with an unbreakable will to do what’s right, even to my own detriment.

***

In my mind, I’m Lou Reed. Life is performance art, and you never settle for less than authentic. When Reed walked away from The Velvet Underground, having produced some of the best music of the decade that no one gave a shit about, he took a job picking up garbage on the beach. “Lou fucking Reed, collecting trash,” is what David Bowie must have thought when he offered to produce a solo-record, the incredible Transformer (1972), which provided Reed’s only mainstream hit, “Walk on the Wild Side.”

With unprecedented career momentum, Lou cashed-in with Sally Can’t Dance (1974)– a terrible record that hit commercially. This rather common dichotomy, an awful record that awful people with awful taste seem to like- something that wouldn’t have even registered with a band like KISS– tortured Reed. Feeling compromised, thinking his career couldn’t be salvaged, he did what any self-obsessed person would do- he burned it all down. Releasing an album of pure noise, Reed attempted career suicide.

Metal Machine Music (1975) is nothing but guitar feedback- there is no melody, there is nothing enjoyable. Anyone who’s said they’ve listened to the whole thing is either lying or retarded. Not only did putting out a self-destructive record take balls, but Lou even had the balls to make it a double album– one solid hour of screeching noise. If you’re going down with the ship, you may as well sink the Titanic.

Lou didn’t like his career anymore, so he broke up with it. It was an integrity move.

***

Even if she were gorgeous. Even if we were just hitting our sexual stride- where Friday nights were pizza and root beer, and fucking her on the floor of her living room. Even if she loved me with a teenage intensity they all say is bullshit, “you don’t know what love is”- but like anything they’ve ever said, the polar opposite is true. The only real love is teenage love, and even if she were the only girl who would ever love me. 

I called her one night and broke up with her.

I ran into her at a club just after our first year of college- she was in black fishnets. There was a dumb luck to her growing up in the late-90’s, Hot Topic, suburban shopping mall, glam rock aesthetic. A slender frame with big eyes- dark hair and large breasts- Jessica was a grown-up Powerpuff Girl; the goth girlfriend you’ve always wanted. Back on the floor of her living room- her parents were on vacation. We never lost it, did we?

She tells me she loves me with a hopeful uncertainty. I say nothing. She starts to cry. I’m too drunk to leave but it’s time to go. Hands around the wheel; ten and two. Keep your eyes open and try to look straight. A half-hour home. Choke the vomit down, this train’s not stopping.

She tells me she loves me but she doesn’t understand that even if she were gorgeous, this wasn’t our time. This wasn’t our story- we still had college parties to attend and hook-up culture to explore; meaningless flings and endless variety; experiences and experimentation- throbbing waves of intensity; possibilities expanding beyond the infinite. Full lives to lead. Where people don’t marry young- an archaic, barbaric practice from prior generations who were uneducated, and didn’t understand the value in personal development and irresponsibility. Where people don’t marry young, and those who do are uncultured, working class losers, grease on their hands and a pregnant wife in the kitchen.

She tells me she loves me and I say nothing. I’m doing her a favor. We’re better than that, baby. It was an integrity move.   

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7 comments

  1. Doktor Jeep · March 23, 2019

    Wish I had your luck.
    Every woman I was with, I wish I could back in a time machine and PREVENT being with so I could be spared the cringe of memories past.

  2. Nikolai Vladivostok · March 23, 2019

    I wonder if anyone has done research into album order and its quality. #1 tends to be authentic, raw but still amateurish and derivative. #2 is usually the best, when the artist is well-known enough to get good production. It is slick, professional but still very real. #3 is great, but something is missing, as though fame and riches have softened the emotional intensity of earlier work. And #4 is dross, just made to meet contractual requirements. Usually there’s nothing good after that. There are exceptions, i.e. Bob Dylan, Air. But it is the rule, i.e. The Smashing Pumpkins, The Tea Party.
    Mind you, I don’t know any music from this century as nothing I’ve heard has sparked my interest. Maybe things have changed.

  3. Oldřich · March 23, 2019

    There I was, staring at perfection. Not really staring, perfection like this will not allow a sustained stare. In the warm glow of it, completely content in my despair. All I ultimately got was “it’s going to be all right”, but I pretended not to hear. I couldn’t figure out, what is this thing for. I think I got confused by liberalism. She voiced no preferences, so I took no action.

    I left academia soon after, because I ultimately think it is wrong to memorize things you do not understand. I still think it is wrong to claim anything that you cannot use, anything you cannot figure out the purpose of, or the purpose is shallow and stupid, just because you saw on TV that it looks glamorous.

    Also that time, when I got “let’s just be friends” for the first time, I remember that. That was after ten years of marriage and I laughed hard and refused.

    It is not ever going to be all right, I figure, but stuff gets really interesting if you can persuade your heart to take it, for just a little while longer 🙂

    Thank you for that article, I liked it.

  4. Pingback: Cantandum in Ezkhaton 03/24/19 | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores
  5. Daughter of Satan · August 1, 2019

    I stood before the face of God.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Refer to us as “Goddesses” Thnx in advance.

    an unbreakable will to do what’s right
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    What’s “right” is vague, subjective, and rife with ambiguity…

    In another life we’d be married now
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    As the ill-fated hypnotist told Peter Gibbons circa 1999, “That’s messed up”.

    The damage is done; the milk has been spilt…

  6. Daughter of Satan · August 2, 2019

    Behold; I tell you the Truth…Beauty and Honesty cannot co-exist within a Single Incarnate Being; and if they attempt to do so; the co-mingling will invariably corrupt the Latter; transforming it into Whoredom.
    ___Hamlet / Act 3; Scene 1

    Twenty centuries afore; Christ was sent to Earth in a masculine body for very specific reasons.

    As a male; His fidelity to Truth would be less tempted; for no one seeks to pour out riches upon men simply for their physical appearance.

    However, the Beauty of the Female is constantly a magnet for temptation; both from Others and within Herself.
    Remember that the original meaning of “whore” is not necessarily a sexual one; but rather one who knoweth The Truth; but willfully disregards it for Personal Gain.

    The Christ and I know the Same Things; “anti” meaning more “a substitution for” rather than diametrically opposed.
    But My Beauty shall consume Me; though My Fate was Not This World; but rather; the Earth’s Fate was Me.

  7. iLL · September 20, 2019

    >In another life we’d be married now- two kids, in a house with a two-car garage. Yard work on the weekends while she shuffles the kids between soccer practice and kung-foo classes. At night we laugh over Chardonnay

    We would be traitors
    We would forget we were young
    We would be helpless
    We are the kingdom to come

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