Love is a Serious Mental Disease

Jack says, “Fairytales are stupid,” and I ask, “This is the first time you’ve thought that?” and Jack says, “No. Maybe. No more so than now anyway,” and I reply, “You only hate the impossibility of them, that life’s not how books are, how films think, how TV shows portray it.” He taps at his phone, the light bleeding like paint on silk, not contained by the constraints we put on it, and I imagine what he’s looking at: Blair’s dress, Chuck’s expression, quotes from both or either of them. When I ask what he’s doing Jack says, “Plato thinks we’re doomed, and we’ll not find what we want, and we’re halves, and our navels are scars the other left.”

“We are?” I ask, knowing he’s not into fatalism, hasn’t been held by a doctrine since he was ten, not consistently anyway. But you always hope, or I do, to be the one to change things. Then hope is erased and the traces left are outlines of altogether different concepts, words from the mouths of people we’ve never met.

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A Faulty Camera in Our Minds

Jack says if I’m the unstoppable force, he’s the immovable object. I ask if he’s sure it’s that way around and he says he thinks so, he does, at 8 in the morning on Tuesday, but this could change depending on how drunk he is, how fed or fed up he may be.

I get déjà vu often. I’ve been places in dreams first, then ended up in them, eventually in life. But these are never exciting places, it’s more the feeling of sealing an envelope, of pacing a hall in the right sort of light.

“What if my family never moved where they did? What then?” I ask him.

“Then,” he says, he replies, “I guess I’d have a version of you who was really someone else, but I wouldn’t know, and you wouldn’t. You’d know even less because you’d never miss what you’d never seen: the paths and the places, the geography. But I’d know more, like I’d lain in wait for a summer and no-one had shown up. But I’d make do. I’d find something. I’d have someone now to stop me. Just not you.”

Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle

Jack says, “I wish my image was specific, that there were sets of clothes I wore on weekends, that if photos were taken of me I would look consistent and you could expect certain things about me.”

He’s been looking at the Barton Hollow inlay, wondering if we’ve the sorts of voices which fit unexpectedly, if we should be cultivating our images presciently, if there’s hope for us being self-made successes together or separately.

“You could make a choice now,” I tell him, “to always wear a tie or bow tie, to never be pictured without suit jackets or smart shoes. And there’s coming up with a band name based on Plato or a philosopher you think that we stand for.”

But we did this in school. Made a list in history lessons of what to call our band when we had one, or if. And the best that we came up with? Overeaters Anonymous.

“Maybe this starts with Philosophy Book Club?” I ask, knowing it should start with an accident.

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A Guide To Being Social

Jack says, “When my mum gets Facebook’s the day I leave,” and I ask, “Really?” because he’s changed his mind over less and Jack says, “Sure. Yes. I left home and her turning up on my profile and her finding the pictures of Andy would be tantamount to stalking. If there’s something she should know, she’ll know it.”

But I sort of thought something’s fair game once it’s out there, once it’s online it’s anyone’s. There are things I wouldn’t broadcast, and others I shouldn’t, but I like it being in this hemisphere, paddling in a chat room atmosphere, pretending bad things only happen offline, not on, but unfortunately, there’s darkness everywhere, and hindsight sheds light you don’t always want it to, and what someone once told you was normal or true is a hypocrite, is a youth group leader getting out the shower to a room full of students, or whatever the informal term is for a group of girls he runs Bible Study for, wearing only a towel.

You learn good things too, when you look back. But mostly it’s just shit.

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Like the Word Crazy Carved into a Chair

Jack asks me what the film’s like so I tell him, imagine two people, maybe Jessie and Celene at the end of Before Sunrise, saying, “Let’s do long distance. Let’s pretend it works even when we know that it won’t. And we’ll make trips between our two places in our respective countries and there’ll be something romantic in the traveling – in the changing skylines and altering imagery.”

“That doesn’t sound great,” Jack says. “I dated this girl once. She was in Scotland, I was here. And despite how many texts I sent or how swift I was to reply every time she tried to call or email, it wasn’t enough, and I ended up strung out, unsure how relationships last even in the same city.”

“Me too,” I tell him, “I agree.”

And even though we’re here, and we meet most days, and we like enough of the same films and bands and restaurants to spend enough time together to warrant being together, there are moments at 5, at 7 in the morning when I wonder if the space behind my breast, above my rib bone, behind muscle and fat, ever felt full, or if that’s how it’s been, always, since I slipped from my mother, like the loose piece in the skin behind my ear or the lump on the left side of my skull.

Chagrin

I ask Jack why we don’t watch Joey, expecting him to say spin-offs are lovers staying friends once they’re done, like making stew out of yesterday’s meat. Instead he says, “Joey won’t feel shame for anything, sees no consequence to sleeping with women then not calling them. He lacks etiquette, isn’t gentlemanly about it, with anything he does, and I can’t stand that shit any longer.”

And that’s a feeling I get – it’s one I’m akin to. Some instincts kick in – altruism, apparently, according to Jack, although it’s hard to believe that – and others are learned. Mine, from church, is a strappado of sorts, sputters up when it should or shouldn’t which is relative depending who you talk to. And I know dishonour, disgrace, are just a way to maintain a sense of restaint against offending others, but my shame’s public, built around beads like rubbing plastic, praying on it, can solve the things we do we don’t want to do, but don’t know why we don’t think we should do them. I don’t get it until Fassbender does. And even then I’m skirting schools of thought. And Joey Tribbiani, in reality, you would run from.

A Nicole Sandwich

I ask, “How are you meant to know what you like when sometimes you’re not sure?” and Jack says, “You just know. You make that decision. And if it’s not split you’re doing something wrong. If your like or dislike isn’t instant, there are problems.” But I always thought things warmed. That people don’t gel, necessarily, naturally. That you take a pinch and a meet-up in a second could sputter into something or just as easily lose you Facebook friends. Face to face is difficult.

“I didn’t like you first,” I say. “You were uptight, obnoxious, you didn’t know the name of Tom Cruise’s first wife or even the name of his third one. But you’ve grown. You watched all my suggestions. You’ve seen The O.C. all the way through. You’re actually an alright person. Now.”

Gwyneth Paltrow

Jack says, “Brad Pitt dates a lot of people. He’s dated lots of them. He settles sometimes but sometimes I think that it’s only in cycles, and we’re ready for the next one nearly.”

I list other examples I think are better – Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Bradley Cooper – but Jack doesn’t listen, instead asks “What’s your favourite film of his?”

“The River Runs Through It,” I tell him.

Jack replies, “What?” then quotes Fight Club then picks up a kitchen knife and mimics Brad’s character from Basterds.

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Engagement Ring Etiquette, or, Reese in That Film

Jack says, “You should wear it on your left hand, on your penultimate finger.”

“Are you sure?” I ask him. “Because there are girls at work who wear it on their right, who don’t wear one altogether.”

Jack Googles it, reads me lists, histories on it, from Wikipedia first, and then home-made sites by people as misinformed as I am. When we made the decision Jack promised we’d check out every tradition, so we’d know which ones were right, and which were antiquated, like only virgins wearing white or veils being equivalent to hymens.

Jack says, “There’s something in structure, apparently, in which fingers bend and don’t, and you wear your wedding ring there, on that finger, because it’s the hardest to move independently, so according to Sally, or whoever wrote the text on this site really, it means that you’re bound to your husband, subjugated to him.”

We have a week of rom-coms, wedding themed ones, or ones with weddings in them, trying to align ourselves with the ideas, with the idea of completing something old and not going backwards. But every woman wears her rings on the same finger in the Western hemisphere, in England, America. So now we’re looking for lists of European films, ones which can convince us it’s okay to choose other fingers, that it’s alright to break with tradition even at the expense of other people’s feelings or because of them.

But Reese’s finger in that film couldn’t hold a bigger rock better and she’s far from under somebody’s thumb, she’s far from trodden on. But I don’t know if that’s our answer.

Jane Krakowski

I ask Jack, “Do you remember Ally McBeal?” and he says, “Sure, when we were at school, we’d stay up later than we were meant to, and at the time it seemed good, but I couldn’t tell you what happened now, who they are, how she ended up with Jon Bon Jovi.”

“She didn’t,” I say. “Ally moved to New York, started again, forgot all the men and the office, the ones alive and dead, and each series before, every one leading up, seemed a pointless expense when she didn’t find the one. All that whining got her nowhere.”

“She’s got Indiana now,” Jack says, “So she did okay. And that was the nineties anyway, and 2001 and 2 are responsible for shit like you’ve never seen – A.I. anyone?”

But no-one’s excused, mistakes aren’t erased by an easy confession in a darkened box, and they aren’t by water. Someone will always remember, buy the box set, start a blog for other people’s benefits to stop them watching something that just takes time and is ultimately pointless. Although point is really subjective.

“I liked Elaine,” I say, “I related. She never got noticed the way that she wanted, and everyone dated Calista. At least now, she’s changed, she doing better. I mean, I like them both, but my pity is an in built switch I can’t help feeling. I’ve dated people because of it.”

“Thanks,” Jack says and I say nothing.