< valparaíso chile seen for the horrible place it is (pt 1)
I am typing away at an email for my friend who is far away and sad in Chile, where it is winter now, and so I understand why he, or one in general, could get down. But then Julia comes in and starts talking about how, whenever she talks about ghosts she starts to cry, or more accurately that her eyes start to fill with water, although the weirdness of the whole thing usually knocks her around emotionally enough that it all can’t really be described in a better or more concise way than crying. She uses the word 'crying.' I will admit that I am a little interested and so I turn away from the tiny backlit screen of the little chunky powerbook I use, so as not to distract myself by complex features or capabilities, on which my email has started to get unwieldy and pretty digressive anyway, in my opinion, my having always kept it in the back of my head that I want to help alleviate the apparently growing or looming stress or isolation of my friend in Chile, which I can tell or discern by how he tells me things, and so I have taken to (and in hindsight this might be actually the wrong approach: good thing I save my emails in checkpoints) describing my own worries and fears to him, as well as the pretty flavorless mundanities making up the bland but supportive or nutritious ‘oatmeal’ substrate of my ‘oatmeal-raisin’ days (the raisins being, as I exposit in the third paragraph of the email, my metaphor for the punctuating, in-theory exciting events or lodestars of my days, the fact that most people don’t particularly like or hate raisins fitting pretty well with my intent to imply my days as marked by pretty ambivalent or ambiguous events or lodestars). In our email exchange my friend, living in a coastal town in Chile that was once a massive port, now apparently rendered useless and husk-like following the advent of the Panama Canal and air travel and revolution and other things like that, has described his growing suspicion of his apparently nurturing and present host-mother, who he believes is actually a very lost and perhaps even self-harming person, his only real evidence to this conjecture being that he hears her watching various Chilean and South-American dramatic television shows very late at night, which would seem healthy for any emotionally rounded person, of course, he told me in his most recent email, except that during the day the host mother is very engaged with current events and current literature, and seems to exude or project a level of self-curation and academic patina which, my friend tells me, when juxtaposed against the late-night binges of TV-soap, can only mean severe and no-doubt impotent depression. He knows this; he’s lived it. He tells me that people who try to be smart during the day and emotional at night are in for a very bad time indeed. They are being thrown the proverbial loop of life. Because nothing is really going wrong for them: not on the outside. Their disease is inward and quiet-stepping. I am reminded of all the things we have been through, me and him, and so of course I believe him. My friend also describes to me how far he bikes and walks, how the guards at the museums and tourist centers and plein-air cafés, in buildings that have filled the voids left the death of shipping, ply their trades calmly, with seeming super-human reserve and patience, and how he remembers himself as a younger person, back when he read a lot of Camus and the like, and thought about suicide and personal struggle in incredibly dense and academic terms. We both talk with some joy about the time a long time ago when we spoke about the severest depression with the most frenetic joy, and naturally whether or not we can ever return to that sort of joy. It is pretty depressing. That it is depressing, though, is a source of small hope. Of course now that we can understand and discuss our past joy, it will never come back, not the same way. Besides this I get his recount of how intensely he has buckled down to study Spanish, how he is preparing to jump also into hunkering down to learn some real Portuguese (I imagine him saying it like ‘pour-two-geese’); basically how language is the seat of all his problems and also spurrings and stirrings of his soul, his proverbial lodestars or aforementioned ‘raisins,’ a personal philosophy or grounding that I whole-heartedly support. Julia is still at the door to my room, which is just an empty rectangle where a door should be, the original door having been donated to our bathroom’s previously empty frame, which everyone can agree needs a door more than my room. The bathroom door was broken by Clara’s ex-boyfriend Bojack, back in the winter months, when tensions ran high. Things are chiller now, for sure, in a way. While I don’t always like not having a door, it making it hard for me to get with my online dates and also to masturbate, which I don’t do a lot but sometimes feel like I need to do, and thus want to reserve at least the possibility for, should the need arise, the lack of a door has however resulted in Julia, my other roommate besides Clara and J.C., coming by my room to tell me things. And I like this development. She always says an open door is an open door even without a door to be open.
Julia speaks up again, staring into the middle distance, a soft sad smile’s residue on her dewy lips and stuff, eyes glistening in the light of my small gooseneck lamp that I point upwards at the ceiling, because I like and can really only tolerate reflected light. She asks, “Are there any things you feel different when you speak about: where words and emotions crash together?”
I rolodex through my head for a while, going through important, saved conversations. Once in middle school I tried to explain to a classmate that I found them very cool in a way that made me want to kiss them, and especially that I felt this coolness when I was talking to them about how I thought they were cool and how this talking about coolness made me want to kiss them even more. We were talking on a bridge that connected the two halves of our school over a large canal built in the 1950s to prevent flooding. We were literally at a crossing or bridge: water lazily sliding below. It could be described as a precipice, although chain-link containment fences prevented teen jumpers. Not that I was so fatalistic back then. I felt incredibly exhilarated in discussing how what I said made me feel, especially in sharing how talking about this translation or transmutation or transubstantiation from talking to feeling made me feel, and even though we did not end up kissing that day, this girl and I, the climax of our thing being me feeling under her shirt one time at a Hanukah get-together of sorts year later (her family was Jewish, which I found cool and nuanced and considered as a direction for my life for about one and a half years), I did feel like I was hooked for good on the idea that my talking could indeed make me feel. Involuntarily so. Explosively and epidemically. I tell Julia there are definitely things that I feel when I speak, feel as I speak, and that speaking about specific topics is a sure way to re-experience strong emotions. The big question though, is whether or not she thinks that the crying or eye-watering that starts when she starts talking about ghosts is because there are ghosts and they are making themselves, their inner-selves, known when one speaks about them, one’s speaking somehow permitting ghosts to assert themselves in the embodiment of crying, or whether it is all just internal to the speaker, endogenous and rationally explicable, and one’s idea of ghosts or the beyond is emotional and evocative enough that one cannot help but feel oneself so moved as to cry when bringing the topic of ghosts up. I do not think this is silly, I tell her, either way. I do not think that at all! I stop for a second, biting my lip like when I do when I am grasping for something to say.
Julia calmly says, “I don’t have any doubt that ghosts or some sort of post-vita existences are around us and so, if you are where I am, you are forced to admit to yourself, ‘these ghosts can only express themselves by inducing what you call ‘endogenous’ tears’ which means that the abilities of ghosts are pretty limited, right?” Julia is looking at me, and I see that she is holding one half of an Asian pear, yet un-munched. She continues, gesturing the half pear, “and so I don’t really have any way to go forward but be sad about the limited capabilities of ghosts to really be remembered or known—like, should I be listening even harder and focusing on this crying even more: trying to do right by them? Whatever they want? Maybe they have unfinished business, proverbial lives to live.”
I say, “Well I guess one thing that is not clear, in your theory, is whether or not this is about specific ghosts trying to say specific things, or whether it is more of a rule of the ghosts’ probably pretty non-logical and whimsical world, i.e., some sort of global effect whereby the mention of anything having to ghosts induces some sort of field or wave whereby the eyes water and the stomach feels upset in a deep and gutty way. A sort of what you call ‘post-vita’ onion cut by anecdote and mention. And an onion is not limited communicatively, right?” I think for a while, realizing that someone must be always cutting the onion, and so I have just created a curtain of Oz, as it were. I am embarrassed. I think, and then ask her whether or not she feels the same way when she discusses ghosts in French.
Julia thinks, and then starts speaking in French, which I can only understand very basically because of an online course I took where I met a lot of cool people, her saying some kind of nursery rhyme about the graveyard and the paleness of the moon. She is using strange conjugations and is very good, very fluid, very melodic. I am a little transported. I have never been to France. She finishes and waits but says she cannot totally tell, because she was crying so recently that it might just be the salty crust of past tears irritating her eyes into further tears. There may even be a placebo ghost-cry-effect, she muses. She invites me to check her eyes, whose sclera are dense with red squiggles, and which are ringed by salty crust and residue, nevertheless also striking and pretty, but I also concede that I cannot pinpoint the origin of her present tears, or their origin in relation to the discussion of ghosts or the French language. “I am sorry,” I tell her. Julia also speaks Chinese and of course English, in which we are, as they proverbially say, shooting the shit, and I suggest that sometime later we should try all this again from a clean slate or, in this case, dry eye. She agrees.
Julia is still at the threshold of my room’s lack of a door, which I invite her to cross, come in come in, into the light which is reflected off the ceiling and so gives everyone a healthy glow, like they are under a real sky, I say as a means of explaining my zenithal lamps. Light comes from above. It should always. I have not ever seriously considered trying to seduce Julia, though I do find her attractive, my reserve mostly because of the roommate thing, which I am not afraid to say! but also because I severely like or appreciate being talked to, and once you are involved amorously or otherwise seriously with someone, the talking can become linear and regular and almost historical, historiographical, hagiographical, which I do not think is suited to how Julia talks to anyone, her ease possibly meaning that to become involved with her would mean my total eclipse by her strong inner life, her supreme comfort and trust actually mortaring the most invisible and impregnable of prisons. I do not ask her too closely about her big project, even, because I am concerned about altering the dynamics of what we have, which heavy discussion of one’s production is damned often to do. I have spent the better part of the summer attempting to come up with a theory of imprisoning language by studying online blog posts. I should really relay this to my friend in Chile because he is excellent at getting out of the standard communicative slumps or traps, which is part of the reason I can manage to email him even during the summer months. He reads many blogs too and probably together we could cover a lot of ground, swapping stories. Julia has also never given me a super strong indication that she is a ‘sexed’ being with physical needs, which I am cool with, and probably helps the form of my conversation with her, which is driven as I’ve described before by a bunch of associated feelings and moods relating to what I am speaking about, as well as the fact that I can discuss these relations, and often do around people who I am attempting to ingratiate myself with, which is not always easy as I do not think I am the least perverse person ‘in town.’ It is my personal theory that a lot of people, or at least more than the casually assumed percentage, are pretty perverse and also societally conditioned from a ‘young age’ to hide that perversity with complex series’ of conversational ‘voodoo,’ mostly under the aegis of what we call small-talk, which is deeply fascinating and which I could also flesh out in my emails to my friend in Chile, who also prefers things a little on the edge, and engages in various fetish forums actively and apparently proactively, which I am too quiet or sheepish to try despite his extolments. My most recent email as I mentioned is getting pretty digressive, which is why when Julia offers to smoke weed with me I respond excitedly (but not too excitedly) that we should definitely, and that if she wants me to throw her some cash, some bills or some coins, that she should definitely let me and also encourage me because I am here for her one-hundred-percent of the way.