Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What Sticks

One of the better movies I've seen in the past few years is Paprika, which, if you liked the ideas in Inception, you should see. The thing that's stuck with me the most is not, according to my Google searches, what commonly sticks from this film for people. But then it's kind of a rich film. One of the main characters is haunted by recurring dreams of a man in a white shirt falling down in a red hallway. I could not find an animated gif that shows the whole moment, but this is the best I could do:

The man in the white shirt falls, or hovers, or moves backward and forward like a special effects clip from a cheap 50s movie, multiple times in the film. His hands dangle, his shirt flutters. The mustachioed man did not see enough about this man's falling to resolve the mystery within it, so tries to steam out everything he possibly can from these few seconds that he did see. Like watching the Zapruder film. Back...and to the left. Back...and to the left.

This image, of the man in the white shirt falling in the red hallway, is the best visual representation I've come across for demonstrating "unresolved". Or for showing an entire story pivoting on a central problem. Faulkner has said about The Sound and the Fury that the whole book, for him, derived from the image of Caddy's muddy drawers, and the Compson brothers looking up at Caddy in the tree and seeing them. That was the image that made him write the book (or so he said in later years); that was his man in the white shirt falling in the red hallway.

Of late, I can't get out of my mind a friendship that had multiple stages before it finally ended ten years ago. This was a human who mattered to me significantly, but whose regard for me was, and remains, obscure. Someone who made me feel understood even as he made me feel small, someone whom I admired enormously even as I saw - could not fail to see - how self-aggrandizing and blindly privileged his behavior was. He abjectly ruined my life, and gave me reasons to keep living, at various times. God, I learned so much.

I dreamed of him just under a year ago, and when I woke up the ache of missing him was almost unbearable before I remembered everything else. Since then, he's been my man in the red hallway, falling. Of the many unresolved relationships in my life, he is the one who looms largest right now, and I haven't the foggiest idea why. Aside from seeing pictures of him with mutual friends on Facebook from time to time, he's totally out of my life, and in totting up the sums, his absence is a positive. But I feel as if I'm not finished with him. As if I have been through it, but not beyond it. In The Chronology of Water, Lidia's future husband says to her "There is more to your story than you think." It's a moment in which she's required to reimagine herself, from her bones out, and I don't think that's what I require when I think of this man I once knew. But the phrase sticks.

Like the man in the red hallway. Like the specific way my friend walked, and the texture of his hair. His huge, nasal laugh embarrassing me in a movie theater. The view of the river from his desk, where he did God knew what with the nascent internet and doled out the best music anyone will ever give me. All of the things he did not say, the pain he must have suffered under a veneer of ego. The man's hand, dangling, his slipper sliding from his foot. Have I steamed out everything I can from this relationship? Or is there still more wealth that he can give me, even in his absence?

What do I build with him as pivot point?

I don't know. I don't know the answer. There is no answer to be had right now; there is no resolution to this story, easy or ugly. If I'm ending this post in a dissatisfying way, I'm sorry, but that is how I feel about the end of this friendship. Uncertainty aches and nags, and I suspect it will even if I put it, put him, on the page one distant day. He'll stick, I'm sure, through whatever else gets resolved between now and then.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, friend of mine, THIS. The people we leave behind, and what we make of ourselves on the journey ahead. I, too, have a couple ghosts from my past I can't seem to let go. Both were high school best friends with whom I parted ways on heartbreaking terms. I think it has something to do with the setting of formative years. I gather by the timeline you mention here that this friend came into your life at a young age. Those early soul friends help us establish our fundamental identities, and I think that's why it's such a mind fuck when they disappear from our lives completely. Sort of a, "How can you be gone from my life? You MADE ME ME." The falling out I had with my high school best friend during college remains the most painful heartbreak I've ever endured. She shows up in my dreams several times a year. To have someone who helped me discover everything I like about myself decide she no longer wanted me in her life is a wound I'm not sure will ever stop stinging.