Monday, March 9, 2009

I needed someone to write to. I hope you understand... sometimes I just need the idea that someone is reading what I'm writing, maybe even understanding it. I wouldn't say it's a dependence, just standard human behavior. We're a social species, dependant on exchange and physical contact for growth and development.

I went to Venice Beach yesterday, to sit on one of the hills overlooking the strip and study until it was too dark to see my books. I was exhausted from the schedule I've been keeping lately, but it was something that needed to be taken care of. A few people came by, strangers, to talk to me, ask for money, ask what I was doing. I listened to the jazz guitarist, the piano man, some rappers with heavy accents. It was a beautiful afternoon.

I studied through all the distractions, distractions I love for the constant static they create in the back of my brain that helps me focus. But then I decided to put my books away and walk down the strip before people started closing down for the evening.

I walked north, to the part of the beach where the people suddenly fall away. It's like an invisible barrier where the tide of people turns back in on itself- nothing of interest past this point. You probably know exactly where I'm talking about. I walked past that point, then turned back around. Still had an hour or so left of sunlight, but it was feeling like it was time to go home.

So I turned around, went back the way I came, lacing through people, smiling at dogs, watching the antics of performers and people under the influence of the drug of their choice.

Someone shouts "Hey!" at me, a kid, maybe 18 or 19, short of breath, runs up behind me and taps me on the shoulder. "Hey, my friend back there, says he knows you, wants to talk to you." I look down the aisle, several booths down, and there's a man looking back at me. I don't know him, I tell the kid this. He drags me back anyhow, I assume for a sales pitch. But, as always, I'm polite.

"Hey, she doesn't know you," the kid says to him, me looking with amusement at the two of them. A girl walks up to us, drapes herself over the kid's shoulder, smiles and introduces herself. Her eyes are hidden behind large sunglasses, but she has a wonderful, friendly smile. She tells me I'm beautiful, that her name is MJ, and gives me a hug, and says the guy who summoned me back to his booth is a sweetheart. She and the kid wander off, leaving me staring at this man.

"Hey," he smiles at me and I wait for the sales pitch, "Sorry about that. I just saw you walking by... the way you move, it's so graceful. You walk so confidently, so apart from everyone, you just glide. And you're so beautiful... I just wanted to talk to you. You free tonight? Tomorrow night? Dinner? Coffee?"

I wonder if he does this often, near the end of the day when he's closing up shop, looking for physical satisfaction, for comfort. I wonder if the people working the booths next to us see this every day, and laugh at the sucker tourist girls that fall for it for the "Venice Experience". Sleep with a resident Venice Beach artist! Two dollars will get a photo keepsake!

Fortunately, I'm not a tourist. Fortunately, I know the games, know them inside and out.

He asks me to stay and talk with him while he works. He asks my name, introduces me to the series of people that come up and talk to him. He appears to be a fixture, and more and more kids run by, shouting his name, most of them back from their winter trips. I hear stories of train-hopping, of traveling, of people and places. Everyone is filthy, but happy. Everyone is smoking but me. He offers me a clove, I smile and tell him I'm one of those boring straight-edge people. I think this is unheard of on Venice Beach.

We talk. He tells me of his travels, tells me of how he ended up in Venice, but spent four years on the road, alone. He asks me my sign, I laugh and tell him. Then I tell him that if he's into that stuff, it's more important to know that my given name means "truth". He tells me he's a Gemini, shows me his tattoos, across his forearms: "Casa" on the right, "Nova" on the left. House of the Universe, he says. I show him mine, the eight black squares running up my side, from my hip to below my underarm, the letter in each block spelling "visceris". Your core, I tell him, the flesh, the guts, the entrails, your innermost parts, your heart.

I'm not sure if he was expecting that.

He tells me he likes my look. The boots, the cut-off black combat pants, tight black shirt. He likes the black, likes the elegance. Says when I walked by, it was like a scene from a movie, where everyone is moving so fast, yet that one person is slow, focused on. He tells me it looked like I was floating instead of walking.

I dance, I said, I dance and I wind up in terrible situations where the only thing you can do is move a certain way so people leave you alone. You unsettle them just enough. I tell him of a concert I attended a few weeks ago, a crowded industrial concert at the Avalon, and how during the entire performance I had a bubble of space around me ranging from a two to four feet radius. No one would settle near me.

The sun starts to go down, the drum circle to the west picks up the beat, people are shouting and jumping into the air in this sort of frantic energy. The hill full of homeless kids behind us starts to dim as it gets colder. Their relaxation and freedom gives way to chilly uncertainty and I can't imagine living that sort of life. I ask him where they go at night, he says some go back to their homes, their families, and some just go home. Where is home? He smiles at me, tells me that not everyone's idea of home is like mine, and that to most of these kids, home is where they lay down for the evening.

It's night now. The cops start coming out, firemen too. They talk to the stragglers as they pick up their booths. The man I've been speaking to takes apart his table. Pieces of plywood, he throws them into a construction area, and the heavy bricks supporting the table follow. He picks up his bags, the ones he earlier told me were his life. Three bags and his jacket, that's all he owns, all he wishes to own.

We walk down the strip, tourists are long gone. Venice Beach is no fun at night. The metal booths that line the backs of the buildings facing Pacific Ave look more like cages for human slavery now, stripped bare of merchandise. I expect to see meathooks swinging, but instead see wire coathangers. Close enough.

Sidewalk Cafe is still open. I did not realize anything on the strip would be open after dark. I suggest we eat there and find he never has. Working on the beach for a year and some months, yet he never has been to some of these places. I forget the reality of doing what he does, of the difference in values, difference in income, difference in wants and wishes. I love the cafe because it's open and on the strip, love it because it's next to a bookstore. At night, though, the bookstore is closed and they roll down heavy sheets of plastic to separate the beach from the inside of the restaurant. But it's warm. The beach got so cold so fast. We sit under a heatlamp and talk.

He wants to know about me. Wants to know why I'm so quiet, so serene. He wants me to smile.

I tell him people tell me everything. They open up to me when they find I'm so comfortable with my own damage. They want that comfort, they feel obligated to disclose their own, they want the lack of judgement, they want to drain their wounds.

I tell him that when I'm stressed, I need pain. Physical pain centers me. Sometimes I get so out of my own skin, I need another person to bring me back in with bruises. I explain that it isn't some mental need to be punished, but falling back into something known and comfortable, and having to survive when someone physically lays into you takes all of your being, all of your concentration. No part of you can be reserved, nothing can be held back... and I always hold back.

He tells me how lonely he is. How he knows himself so well because he spent the last four years before coming to Venice on his own, and how sad that is. He says no one should be alone for that long. That he sleeps with women every so often, wakes up in the morning next to them and sighs at himself because it's just a mask. It's just a need that is not fulfilled by physical action. He says people come to him for their troubles because he always makes them smile, always makes them feel better, but no one takes his troubles, partially because he has such a hard time showing weakness.

I realize, in this conversation, something about myself, something I had never noticed before. I overwhelm people quite easily. Men find me desirable, but intimidating. And then we talk and my intensity becomes a bit too much. But they want my body, so they listen. They sit and agree, they disclose their own damages, they stay up with me until the early morning hours, discussing life and ideas, but not because they understand, not because there is a connect, but because they want. I barter my body for a false understanding. I exchange myself for the comfort that there might be a connect somewhere, that someone might understand all of what I've done to myself, what has been done to me.

I explain this to him, testing the words and idea for the first time. And it's right. It is what I do sometimes, when the feeling of being alone shifts into the feeling of being lonely and detached. I'm always outside of everything, always outside of the group, and normally it doesn't bother me too much, that I can't relate to people. Sometimes it gets to me and I take action to dull the edge of that need.

He speaks of his father, and how he was taught to show no emotion, that emotion was weakness to be avoided. I tell him of mine, of growing up in an abusive household, of the realization that my sister and my mother could not take the abuse from my father, and how I began to provoke him when his temper was high so he would reserve his rage for me and leave the two of them alone. I tell him of how once I moved out of my parents' house, removed that buffer, how my mother and sister would call me in tears, needing a place to go for the night, my little sister needing to understand why he was suddenly doing this to her. She was daddy's little girl, and now she's daddy's little verbal punching bag.

He tells me how he searches for love, for that companionship, that partner to be with him, to die with him. He says it's his dream, to have that beautiful woman to share all the times with: the good, the bad, the sad, the angry, the happy. He wants someone beside him, he wants that perfect mate. He tells me it's not about the sex, that sex is overrated. But he needs the love, needs to have a person to make love to, so the sex has meaning.

I tell him how I determined at a young age that attaching emotion to sex was a weakness, a weakness that I had to burn out of myself, and did with much driving enthusiasm. That I can't remember the names of all the people I've had sex with, that I can't even remember all the times, or the number. I tell him how I burned myself out just before I turned 18, hit a wall and realized there was no more damage I could do to myself at that point, so it was time to heal the wounds, form protective tissue. And I did. Sex means nothing to me now, rape is meaningless, save the wounds your body sustains. I don't connect physical love with emotional, don't care if someone thinks they're using me for my body. They never are successful, never quite get that emotional satisfaction of conquering that they're looking for, even if they don't know exactly what it is. I explain how it's been quite correctly pointed out to me that my entire worldview is based on strength and weakness, that I have an obsession with being strong, with surviving.

He asks me if I think I'll ever be able to love, ever be able to make love with someone. If I would be willing to try with someone, not necessarily him, in the future, or if I have completely sealed myself off.

I tell him I don't know. I don't know how deep this runs. I know my ideas of sex, of the act of sex, are different than most people's. I've been in relationships since I was a teenager, been head over heels in love, completely trusting of my partner, and never, ever made love. I explain that even during sex, I'm never fully in the moment. Part of me is always planning the next day, planning my evening, writing out an idea, exploring a philosophy, monitoring my partner, their twitches and moans. No one has ever caught me doing this, no one ever realizes I'm not completely there with them.

I think this saddens him.

I consider, and then take a leap. I tell him of past relationships, how they ended, why they ended, how I overwhelm, how my driving intensity gets to be a little too much. How my last partner assumed he could do anything to me on an emotional level because I was so strong. How the only man I've ever truly loved broke up with me because he said he felt like he was being consumed by me. I tell him I've created a shadowman in my head, a faceless man who is always with me, and because of this perfect creation, this one man I will not overwhelm, this man who is enough like me, I can find no one who will measure up.

He asks me about my shadowman. But not in a typical fashion, not asking me the whys and the hows, but he asks what emotion I find in my mental construct. I don't really talk about this much, so I ask him to let me think for a minute. I bring him into my mind and try to sort through my emotions. The answer, oddly enough, is not love, which is what I assumed it would be. No, the answer was understanding. I created a man not with the intentions of love, but with the idea that the most understanding I could get from anyone would come from something in my own mind.

I tell him this, thinking it through as I speak. When I finish, he asks me if I feel that he understands me.

Parts, I say, parts of me you understand. We're both damaged. Everyone is damaged in different ways. We're not damaged in similiar ways, but we are still able to talk, still able to exchange ideas. We heal ourselves differently. You deal in denial and hope, I wield my truth like a bludgeoning tool to my soul.

He wonders what he doesn't understand. I have a hard time shifting gears to explain this, I'm tired and things have been so mellow. I backtrack to him, about my sexual history, about my experiences... and then I explain that while I am quiet and nonaggressive now, I'm very predatory. I'm very good at the games people play when attempting to use another person. When I meet someone I want, I am insanely good at determining how to have them, and then employing those methods to my determined ends. I explain to him how I keep a small stable of lovers, and I tell him of one of my most recent acquisitions, a gorgeous man known for his ability to seduce and play women, a one-night stand king, and how I spun his head so hard he cannot figure out why he keeps calling me, but he does. I tell him how hard it is for me to respect so many men because I am so used to the games, when I see them playing them... it lowers them in my eyes. Give me a man who is smarter than me, give me a man who can keep me on my toes, one who I don't see through like glass, who I can't engineer and manipulate. It's just more distance.

It leaves me more alone and disconnected than I previously was.

But when you do things to yourself, when you hurt and wreck yourself to become stronger, when life helps you along that path, you end up being alienated anyhow. I became who I am because I wished it... and now I am left alone, left apart. Because the people who can relate to what I have become are few and far between, on their own paths of strength and growth. We find each other occasionally, nod, maybe smile, sometimes spend an afternoon together comparing ideas and experiences, and then move along.

Every one of those people that I've met has been male.

It makes me wonder about myself.

Eventually the conversation hits a point where we could shift topics slightly and continue, but I have a bit of a distance to drive and work in the morning. He walks me to my car, parked in a little service station on Pacific and Windward, and we exchange phone numbers. He's shocked by this, because I am so unavailable. I tell him that I've let him know I will not enter into a relationship, I have the romantic notions of a tea cup, and that if he decides to push me away and make himself miserable by fighting those facts, that's his own choice.

And then I drive home.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Amazing stuff. What i would have given to have your self-awareness and understanding of people in my mid 20s.. however, i've had a much more sheltered life.