Roundtable

4 minute read

Where I post stuff from the archives, the stuff I like. This is from 2005.

Do you remember how when we first met, I thought you were Adrienne? You were in blue jeans, and a black, backless top. I was in what I used to wear years ago, and still do. Haha I guess things change, years pass, we move on, but not our dressing. Well I’m a bit drunk now so pardon my bluntness. I think about you sometimes. I often wonder if you do. I mean, of course, fondly — you know. We used to be close. I still don’t know what to call it, but I miss that. The uncertainty. The testing of boundaries. That streets had no name. The desperate feeling of wanting what you can’t have, the intense guilt. God the guilt. How intimacy was so innocent, how we were young. Adrienne. You thought I was someone else, who had the same name, but different hair. On my rare night out tonight I was with people I hadn’t seen in years. Classmates. People I knew back when I still bothered to dress up, before this jungle and this inanity became my home. People I knew back when there was you. Us going out in school uniforms. Disappearing. Years ago. When longing was young, and we were even younger. When longing was never wrong.

***

Let it go, pal, let it go. It hurts like fuck, sure. We can’t ever see beyond our pain or our loss. [glaring sideways for a second, then corrects himself] I’ve been there before. Recently. When you love someone so much and want nothing more than her happiness, yet she thinks you can’t give her that anymore. How can you go on, knowing you can’t make her happy, and she won’t let you try — knowing every moment you hold her, she’s thinking of that goddamn woman — [tense, tearful] It used to be simple, you know. Boy, girl, happy photos and expensive dinners. Birthday surprises and Christmas presents. It was simpler when we were younger. But at twenty five I suppose we know by now this is transient, that things run their own course. At least they’re — she’s — happy now. [wistful, sideway glance] And that should make us happy too. She was the first woman I loved. Only, perhaps. I suppose I should be happy to be the only man she’s ever managed to love. It’ll be our turn to be happy. [Inshallah.]

***

Semi-imaginary dialogue involving several people who have never met each other, all speaking to me in a bad dream: I had a part dream, part nightmare; we were kissing in my room and our parents caught us. I need to know it didn’t mean nothing to you. I had a luscious dream which ended too early. We were kissing in my room and our boyfriends walked in. Did it? We lit types — so obsessed. With symbolism, coincidence, signs, literary devices. Pregnant pauses. So obsessed with tragedy, and obsessed with obsession. You’re in love with the idea of being in love with me. And I’m in love with the idea of you being in love with me. Another lifetime perhaps, another place. Am I just a friend to you? It stopped being simple, the moment we kissed. You don’t know what it means to be loyal. She was my friend, you know, God, the guilt. She even hugged me. Come to London. Come see me in San Francisco. (Don’t come to my wedding.) You’re loyal, and well, loyal. You’ve been different things to different people, in different dimensions and places. In another time and place when this longing is never wrong. See me there, won’t you? I’ll dream about it, and hope it doesn’t end earlier than it should. /dream Did I mean anything to you? becomes a cry in the dark, though it’s no longer clear now from whom.

***

Down Monivong on a motorbike with you we went around in circles, lost. Moving onto Sihanouk Blvd it was the same, everything here was the same, looked the same, in this strange place. In the Trasak Pham of memories we were happily washing away the day’s thoughts — of Tuol Sleng, of genocide, of despots who died untried, of the white trash along Sisowath and starving children they literally kick away over chianti and foie gras — the lights went off. The whole street of Trasak Pham liked stealing electricity from this house, as our host had so graciously warned. The water stopped too. At least the soap suds were off, and there was always the prospect of sleep. With the air conditioning gone too, between stale air and mosquitoes, we chose the former. You tossed about, sleepless, bothered, while I fell flat and slept. I remember sleepless nights with you well by now. That night you stayed up to wait for Guy’s bike to pull into the porch. Many months, nights, later (we have no luck with electricity) we braved mosquitoes, escaping to the veranda at four a.m., telling each other jokes to stay awake until sunrise. We set out thus far without a purpose, returning with some. From Changi to Klong Prao, Arab Street to Trasak Pham, riverside to Thansadet, they say the woman in whose sides you seek refuge and who makes you laugh at four in the morning, is the one to want. In the right time and place when longing is never wrong, and we’re not getting any younger. Where the streets are never nameless, even if a little obscured. (I keep wishing I could write a little better about you, but as you know by now, happiness does not lend itself well to engaging literature.)