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On a Line
Part IV, Chapter IV of Lovely Kiss, Kiss, Kiss
After a long hiatus, for no good reason, here is Part Four, Chapter Four in Lovely Kiss, Kiss, Kiss. The previous episodes are in the newsletter or the book site. After finishing this chapter I’ll be putting this project to the side and doing something different here.
With no immediate thoughts of what to do, Ian watched the perpetual black-and-white movie play out on the back of his eyelids. In the processing of grief after his mother died, Ian built a habit of keeping his eyes closed for extended periods. A habit he found himself needing to build to continue feeling. He had found that feeling something, even if it was the unbearable pain of permanent loss, was better than feeling nothing.
In this moment, he stretched his arms out and noticed the weight of his body pressing against the floor. His left leg was off the side of the rug and was touching the exposed oak floors, a much colder sensation than the rug. He noticed his right fingertips against the coffee table, sliding them against the cracked paint. He laid still and continued to watch the moving shapes in his eyes, sensing his body and noticing the pain and confusion moving in circles. He moved his breathing through his nose and let his mind begin to wander; his mother, the desire for love, the emptiness of work, the way it feels to look into Lailas eyes, the Wallace Stevens poem that says "fire-fangled feathers". The wandering led him to a place he hadn't been in a while. A place he wanted to be. He felt a sense of calm move down his body from the top of his head. The calm became safety and he felt like he had completely let go. And then he felt a new weight come on in his body, starting in his chest.
He knew what was happening as the heat moved up his throat. The calm moved onto his skin like it had been pushed out from the inside. He felt his eyes start to get warmer and then it all collided back at the top of his head and into his face. A new pressure built behind his eyes, in the middle of his head, and he rolled over to one side. Then there they were. Tears building in his eyes from some deep well of acknowledged pain. As with many times before, the tears felt like they were coming from many places all at once. As with many times before, the tears moved down his temple and across the bridge of his nose. It was painful to try and keep them in. It was painful to let them keep going. Ian noticed these as different kinds of pain.
Ian rolled again to lay flat on his back. He felt the tears roll down his right eye just like his left had done. He was coming to the feeling on the other side of tears. A feeling of being renewed. He felt better for having let the pain come alive when he became safe enough with himself to let it go. He wondered how much coming down from drinking had to do with it. Just like being on a plane, somewhere between places, when he wasn’t exactly drunk or exactly sober, he felt more connected to a sense of self. A self that made him capable of feeling things. He rubbed the tears from his temples and put both hands over his face. The palms of his hands helped him relax more and his thoughts turned on themselves again – what's the point of paying attention to what I'm feeling when I feel everything and nothing at the same time?
He sat up and leaned his back against the couch. Three slices of pizza were left on the coffee table with an open bottle of Tapatio next to them. Ian stretched his head back and looked out the windows directly in front of him. He could see part of a beaked yucca tree at the bottom of his window, blocking one end of his neighbor's clothesline. Ian started closing his eyes again when he heard some footsteps coming up to his door and then a single knock. The door opened quickly and Ian knew exactly who it was.
“What’s up donkey fucker?” It was Kurt, Ian’s neighbor. Kurt loved to come over uninvited and always let himself in after knocking once. Ian looked over at him with a small grin and the ache of having to deal with him for the next 10 minutes in his stomach. "What's wrong with your eyes? You cooked?"
"No" Ian replied directly.
"Damn you've been crying, that same Tupelo Honey?" Kurt had walked straight into the kitchen and opened the fridge. He leaned his head inside and was looking around. He was wearing a black bathrobe, the same one he always wore. His wiry grey and brown hair had perfectly merged into his beard and the entire effect made him look like a character in a Coen brothers movie.
"Yeah, same one. Why are you here again?" Ian asked.
"I need two eggs" Kurt replied. He picked his head up from inside the fridge and held two brown eggs over both of his eyes. "Whatever you do man, don't listen to any more of that funeral music, of course you're crying listening to that shit."
"Thanks for the reminder," Ian replied.
"The only outcome of love is pain," Kurt said next, as a matter of fact, while he opened the door to let himself out. Ian looked up, but Kurt kept his focus going forward. He took one step into the doorway and then paused, looking straight ahead out the door. He took a deep breath and turned to look back at Ian sitting on the floor next to the couch, “but it’s always worth it.” And then he took a final step into the hallway and closed the door behind him, taking the two eggs he had come for.
Kurt had never said anything with weight or substance before. He was more like a spirit neighbor who operated in the realm of raccoons, taking trash and moving in and out of visibility. Ian smiled thinking about where this came from and why Kurt showed up in this exact moment. His gaze moved back to the window and the clothesline. Ian reached around the side of the couch and grabbed his notebook out of the tote. Sensing a connection to feeling the pain and his desire to think it away, he scribbled a few lines that became a poem, leading his feelings toward a more acknowledged self.
The clothes are outside
hanging on a line
I am inside thinking
Avoiding the feelings
I know are hard
To give the air or sun
I think my feelings
Should know by now
This is how it feels
The clothes are dry
The sun decides
One or both or nothing
Closing this chapter was difficult. This lovely story has gotten past 12,000 words and because I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing, it’s become a bit of a beast to manage. There are parts of chapters two, three and four that I like. Chapter one is absolute dogshit. I spent a lot of time trying to edit and then I lost sight of the feelings I was digging at in writing it. I found some of those feelings again in the last few weeks.
In this final episode of chapter four, I wanted to explore some of the unpredictable aspects of grieving and spend time describing what it feels like to cry. Crying is pretty new for me. Recommended every now and then. When I had approached this conclusion of the chapter before, I couldn’t reconcile the movement of Ians feelings with some language to describe the exterior sensation of crying. This is it for now.
A couple other little bits that nudged into this episode.
A few weeks ago I watched this documentary on Martin Scorsese. Six minutes in Robbie Robertson plays Tupelo Honey while they share a nightcap. It’s exactly how every nightcap should be. After watching it I’ve listened to the song a bunch, so it felt right for Kurt to name Ians source of pain a “Tupelo Honey” as perhaps he assumes it’s singularly about a girl.
While the Lovely Kisses story has been fun, I want to explore some other stuff. I’m looking forward to setting these 12,000 words to the side. Rough idea is to write more first-person and try and understand why I hate it so much.
With a lovely kiss,