THE SEMANTICS OF CHRONOTOPES

Posted by @ 12:01 pm on August 2nd, 2013

BILLY: THE SPORT

“Billy” fucked the love of my life. [1] I had known Billy for a longer time than I had known the love of my life, and that still holds true from an objective standpoint where time is universal. I knew him to be the person I was not expecting to be friends with today, not because he fucked her–because I was actually not expecting that at all–but because our friendship was extremely mild. [2]  There were also haphazard and unrelated–as they pertain to each of us as friends–shared chronotopical coordinates. We happened to be at some of the same places at a lot of the same times: the concert where I met the girl I dated before I met the love of my life, the liberal arts institution in the Midwest we both attended and, finally, New York.

Understanding how memory is determined by the chronotope has always been an arduous battle between logic and emotion, because time becomes connected to the space the memory is produced in and the intensity of the experience held in each memory shapes one’s perception of time. Time may appear to no longer be measured by any watch or clock, but by the strength of one’s emotions. Space is also prone to personal subjectivity, as past memories tend to engender feelings of the past, arguments fought and wet kisses shared.

To construct an understandable narrative, the creator must give in to the limitation of linearity, regardless of how convoluted the structure of the linearity becomes. [3] As a producer of memories who also chronicles them in prose, I have often manipulated myself for days until I surrender to an objective need to stop giving in to my desire for the (re)production of an intense memory.

Last time I saw Billy we met at the Highline, [4] which is always awful and never ceases to surprise with how awful it will be over and over again. Time definitely stops forever at the Highline and the space becomes a mini-simulacrum of all that is hell: enthusiastic teenagers, people who like to document their everything for antisocial media and runners who run for fun. No wonder Billy had a freakout and cried, even if the space actually had nothing to do with it. [5]

This time I was meeting Billy at a Vietnamese place in Chinatown called PHO-BANG. I go there a lot, because the wait-staff is extremely rude, but also because I like their pho and it is definitely enough for two meals, or even sometimes all the meals of a day if you get the large size with the beef chunks.  My favorite detail about the kitschy exotic ambiance is the clock that is next to the counter, a clock that ticks but has stopped forever. On the clock there is a visual of the Twin Towers, a space that real time has made a non-space. I find that definitely inappropriate, but maybe I am silly to think that, especially after really loving the Tom Junod article in Esquire that beautifully conveyed the tragedy of imagery recounting the 9/11 tragedy. [6]

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THE JUGULAR

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One evening we had one of our little fights. [7] Eventually, a black kid on a bike asked me:

“Hey, can I use your phone?”

I quickly rolled my eyes and told him to get the fuck away with all the frustration my previous interactions with the love of my life had garnered. I knew of course,  that the kid did not want to use my phone, but rather he wanted to steal it. Indeed, I was right, but the facial expression I chose to convey this knowledge resulted in continuing the dialogue.

“What did you say?” asked a black kid on a bike, but it was not really a question, and in a second there were many more black kids on other bikes, but they were not kids and they were beating me up and the love of my life was crying reasonable tears as I fell on the ground after the first few kicks and punches.

The memories for me and her were very unclear but there was blood on the pavement, and “Through the Wire” by Kanye West is a song I now skip on Pandora, because it reminds me of when my jaw was wired shut. The two fractures you can feel if you examine my chin with your hand now seem funny, but the medical bill that equaled tuition for a year is still very unfunny. Eventually I received victim’s restitution by the state, but the time I spent–a total of six months–not being able to chew [8] or getting used to start to chew [9] again might have been even worse. I do not really remember how we kissed during this time, or how we fucked and if I was any fun at all. It seems like it would have been impossible, but she probably did notice and it did matter.

This incident occurred on 9/11. Of course, this personal tragedy is nothing in the context of the specific time, but an undeniable part of the human experience is how we inject our stories to broader events.

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MAYAKOVSKY: THE PASTIME

Recently I was locked in my apartment. My roommate was out, I was inside and we had to call a locksmith. The check was $657 and even if eventually our landlord would cover it, as the locksmith insisted he would, I had to get out. [10]  After my roommate got in, I was at a train station, and after choosing Aunt Annie’s over KFC I then got on a train, and I was Out. Out was great: the fridge was full of Whole Foods, [11] the cigarettes cheaper and the space gave me time.

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I thought out loud when I was Out, and here is a conversation I had with my friend who made the escape possible:

“What was the last good thing you read on love?”

“A memoir on Mayakovsky. And you know what he did? He blew his brains out.”

I cannot clearly remember which of the two lines belongs to me and which to the friend who made Out possible. But I know that we then talked about a Frank O’Hara poem [12] and stood in a bathtub together crying.

The problem with young love is transfiguration. The intensity of the feelings coded as  ‘love’ can drive one insane with expectations, but to an extent there is some blame to fall on those who idealize an intensity that could make them crazy. To trust someone with the same conviction may prove impossible.

Then we tried to put on clothes and I tried to convince myself to return, or at least to try to return harder.

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NOTES

[1] I hope you noticed I did not use the heteronormative term of “girlfriend,” because that is what she was, if it matters to you, even if sometimes the alternate, but awfully cheesy and Romantik in a gauche way “love of my life” was used.

I always feel cheap when I accidentally observe loud people talk about the people who they call(ed) that. So transformative has been my experience in using the term that I fear using the phrase because there is so little I think I share with the corny, overly emotional narrators I have overheard talk about the “loves of their lives.”

At the same time, I find the common thread of humanity as it pertains to emotional trust and romantic affection a broadly unifying paragon to be beautiful. However, I am revolted by the combination of words that resonate with everything powerful semantically in its linguistic totality. It is hard to remember that the different levels of intellectual depth every partnership yields and attains does not necessarily link to the vigor of the emotions its participants experience. I have believed the love I felt was less of a cognitive choice and more of an absolute necessity that was becoming more and more toxic with every fight. Others would astutely argue that that is exactly what love is, but I do hope they are wrong.

The problem with trusting someone when a connection is so definitive and dangerous is that then someone else knows who you are fully. They know your deepest fears and your biggest insecurities, and if you should not have shared that knowledge they will use it during a fight, and try to apologize by saying they just said the most spiteful thing they could. But worse than saying it, they might do it, or worse–and in this case–him. The lesson from this was initially to never let anyone else near my darkness because if they try to destroy us collectively I might lose myself individually, too.

[2] The mildness of our friendship was the reason I trusted him. I have always felt strongly about a lot of things, and in a way the mildness of our interactions were refreshing, never too intense.

[3] I do not suggest by any means linearity must be presented in a simplified manner. I consider it a meaningful success when constructors of narratives persist to create a complex puzzle of intense, or mild but intensely presented, memories.

[4] Not hating solely for the purpose of hating. I challenge anyone opposing this view to email me a personal narrative where they were able to enjoy themselves and make memories that were not awful. If you succeed, I promise to give you your money back.

[5] In reality Billy’s release was all about space, but on a broader scale: a new environment on an urban niveau. People often blame cities for things, but usually they are mirroring. I explained this to him, and I let him cry, but in the end I convinced him he was wrong and then he bought me a sandwich, which I accepted because I am certain it would have hurt his feelings had I declined.

[6] The key difference between the clock at PHOBANG and the purpose of the Junod article–which you must absolutely read here— is that of humanizing tragedy. Junod’s article is about empathy, the clock at PHOBANG is an amorphous monument that no longer exists, a former proud moment we all know tragically ended. Hence, the diner experiences heightened discomfort, as the image on the clock is not one recognizing the time, but one celebrating a lost space.

[7] Neither of us will ever be able to remember on what subject area, but we had a gigantic range of argument topics, sharing always a vitriolic prowess that scared people in our vicinity.

[8] The sum of months equaling four months for this status.

[9] The sum of months equaling two months for this status.

[10] Locksmiths are worse than cabdrivers, because sometimes they are objectively inevitable. This was such a case. The one we placed our hopes and heavy stacks of cash on was the one who was strategically shrewd to place a sticker on the lock. I hope he holds an honorary degree from la Sorbonne, because who else makes $657 per half hour of work? Clearly this career is my new professional aspiration. My dream-job has now acquired a new form and it is the key to all happiness, but I do take issue with fucking people over when they are in trouble, especially when I do it full-time. If it were a part-time gig, I might indulge.

[11] Do you ever wonder if children raised on sliced fruit coming in bowls ready for consumption will know the real shapes the fruits arrive in, when in their natural state? Will there soon be teenagers who think watermelons grow in pink squares and grapes are like gummy bears but good for you and with more natural juice in them? Whole Foods makes this possible, if you do too.

[12] Specifically, the poem we tried to understand from experience was “Mayakovsky” from Meditations in an Emergency. No other meditations were (ab)used in this process, unless you count legal substances, even Out of California.

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