On the flight home late last week I watched the pilot of The L Word over the shoulder of someone in another row from me, and then watched it on my own screen, bewildered I remembered the whole show so well. It was my dad that suggested I watch the show when I must have been like, 12, because he thought I’d be a fan of Shane. (Of course. I have eyes.) Still, I didn’t think it’d have burned into my skull so thoroughly that I could still recite lines from the first episode. It’s still so formative, though! The first time I heard “the lesbian urge to merge” - when I was 12, and hadn’t even kissed a girl yet! ICONIC, you know?
Anyway, it felt suitable to watch, because I’ve been reading a lot about love, and how it restructures us. Rebuild us, keeps us sheltered. Makes us want for little else when capitalism would have us starving with invented needs and wants and call that treating ourselves. Keeps us running. I’m super tired of running, and so this year I have spent most of my time to myself, wrapped in love, trying to unlearn wants that you have to buy to use.
It’s been successful, in the sense I couldn’t tell you what I’ve been doing in between work - just trying to be happy, I suppose. It’s mostly been spent in sunshine. In Paris, I spent whole days on the window ledge in my underwear watching my girlfriend sleep and reading my friend Trisha’s new book, Socialist Realism. It’s not out yet, but there are a few excerpts I keep chewing on:
In Highsmith’s pulp lesbian novel, The Price of Salt, the way Carol and Therese fall in love is painfully casual. It’s not graceful or fortuitous. It just happens the way life happens, for no reason at all. They spend time together because of senseless, mundane events. One woman sends the other a Christmas card for no particular reason, the other happens to respond. They drive to Utah because it’s literally just something to do. I love how haphazard the narrative is, the way it seems as though they can’t ever remember why they’re doing what they are. Nothing fits. They can’t help the way they gravitate toward one another; it happens as a simple consequence of going about their lives. In Carol and Therese’s romance, nothing seems new even though they both know everything will now have to change. And as strange as it is, their love becomes the reason anything makes sense anymore. It becomes the ground.
Then there’s Vivian Gornick, in Fierce Attachments, which remains easily one of my favorite memoirs:
Love was a swamp of overwhelming proportion. It covered the ground once I stepped off the solid territory of miserable, blessed loneliness.
And a stanza of my favorite poems:
Love is like an enourmous house
full of ornaments worth nothing
to one who doesn’t love and at a glance
assumes he knows the place and what things cost.
Back to Trisha:
In her book The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym sees nostalgia as the byproduct of a capitalist world in which progress is fetishized. According to Boym, humans were once allowed “a space of experience” - a span of psychic time that allowed us to assimilate the recent past into the present, and to reconcile it with the unknown horizon of the future. But capitalism’s centralized, often nationalistic ideal of a better future is inextricably tied with rapid spatial expansion, colonization, and renewal. Speed becomes essential. In order to survive, we can no longer live in the present. We are forced to dwell in a compulsive and never-ending race toward the future. And in this new normal, there is no longer any psychic space for synthesizing our experiences. We suffer a sense of constant displacement. Exhausted, we desire a place to rest. We mourn the comfort of the vanished past, made all the more glamorous by our inability to wholly assimilate it into our present, our inability to process its flaws. We begin to long for home. Nostalgia, therefore, is a symptom of our ever-encroaching capitalist future. A future that promises us everything but the solace for which we long.
This paragraph is so interesting to me for the strings it tangles: speed and fear (Virilio would be proud), home as a space of assimilation of experience, but also an impossible solace, a futurity that isn’t queer or hopeful but a horizon of endless, exhaustive capital that will spit us out. That all seems right, even though it hurts, you know?
Here’s some of the excerpts of Paul Virilio that this reminds me of. This is from his book, The Administration of Fear:
Fear is a problem of identity in the proximity and interpenetration of different realities. . . When you are occupied, fear is a State in the sense of a public power imposing a false and terrifying reality. [Why false?] False because no one is inherently a collaborator, especially as a child, no more than anyone, is inherently a resistance fighter, even though the moral reality imposed on us follows this bipartisation.
[…. in your opinion, then, fear is the product of speed, which causes anxiety by the abolition of space, but is also amplified and vectorized by it.] Speed causes anxiety by the abolition of space or more precisely by the failure of collective thinking on real space because relativity was never truly understood or secularized. The question is not the end of history but the end of geography. The classical definition of the acceleration of history is the passage from horses to trains, from trains to propeller planes and from planes to jet aircraft. . . but the current era is marked by the acceleration of reality: we have reached the limits of instantaneity, the limits of human thought and time. [The loss of place is joined by the loss of the body.] Yes, and people are required to transfer their power of decision to automatic responses that ca function at the immobile speed of instantaneity. . . . I believe that the mastery of power is linked to the mastery of speed. A world of immediacy and simultaneity would be absolutely uninhabitable.
Sorry it’s all a bit academic, but in spite of this, Virilio remains one of my favorite writers, and I see him in lots of writing.
I do not see him in my friend Ocean’s new book (my favorite book I have read in years, I am so happy for him, my king!!!). But I do see all these writers in conversation. Like so:
“To destroy a people, then, is to set them back in time.”
“They say nothing lasts forever but they’re just scared it will last longer than they can love it.”
But back to Trisha for the closing.
What might we dream in place of the familiar security of home? Sometimes, when you are falling asleep with your arm splayed across my rib cage and your knees nestled into my back, I think about what shapes we’re making with our bodies. I think about the little extrusions that don’t fit into the good, sensible shapes, the way we can itch them like wounds. The way we hold each other anyway, make spaces between ourselves in an effort to find new geometries. I think about this line in The Price of Salt: “She wished the tunnel might cave in and kill them both, that their bodies might be dragged out together.
I write Staiti. I ask, weak and pathetic and soft, “What do you remember about us falling in love?” - that instant when the world seems it can be molten and reformed.
……isn’t love terrifying? And time. And home. And caring for anything at all. It’s all worth it, though. Because if not, then what would be? Who?
So when I say I love you very much, I think it’s fair to be afraid of the sound of the words. So much power housed in the words. It’s the ground we walk on. And yes, it can crumble at any point. It means the world. It’s a home. Homes crumble, though. The rents keep rising. We still want to live here, and it gets harder. I know.
I love you very much. How terrifying!