LINES IN A MIDORI NOTEBOOK
He’s in a small town where she once lived, thinking of their old friend. He’s in the grips of something horrible, as if nauseated by how quickly he uprooted himself. He ran away because he was afraid, a coward in the way he suddenly packed his bags in the middle of the night and left. He was searching for photos of her, he said. He was angry that they were lost. His photographs of her in their bedroom when she was reading a book; photographs of their bathroom, tiled red and heavy with steam; photographs of their kitchen table stacked with dirty plates and backlit by a light that fell from a window. In the end, they were photographs of them together but never with their togetherness. In his hotel room he drains his beer in the sink. He thinks of ways to tell her she is going to lose a friend.
Last night I dreamed about an argument of ours. You tried to convince me that it was all a fantasy. The facts of anything can shape anything else. A fantasy, you said, is a coloring of reality. A delusion, in short, is unconscious fantasy — is ours closer to a dream? Dreaming feels unconscious. I never remember the creating of my worlds. For example, I dreamed the other night I was being held prisoner in a strange, unlit attic, except it wasn’t against my will. If I had the will to wake up one morning and go to the bodega where I could’ve bought grapefruit or beer, if I had decided to join you downstairs, I could’ve done so. I could’ve jumped up and left at any point. If I had the courage to leave, I would’ve known this prison was my own. There, the doors that morphed into years, the footsteps of you waking up, and the sounds of making coffee. What kept me in this prison was a fear of capture: I was, in this dream, a political exile, but I was also in love with you. I don’t have the language for what made me stay in this attic of my home. It was my delusion to believe it was revolutionary. Before the dream left me, it argued that before fact or thought or image or imagination, reality was first the blurred moments of a relationship: the many yawns and burps, the half-hearted hugs, the dishes half-eaten.
Destiny, he said, was in our myths, those told by our grandmothers, where we find those images of heartbreak.
My friend Juan, now much older and balding, told me a story about Raul. He said before Raul married Teresa, the most beautiful woman in town, Raul was a slob and fat. As a child he lived alongside the white people in a trailer park. His neighbors were a brother and sister with blonde hair who nobody in school talked to because rumor had it, if you did, you’d get ringworm. As Juan told his story, I realized he was drunk. His eyes were bloodshot. “To describe a love story,” he said, “to catalog how two people meet, gets closer and closer to a story that never ends. Instead of one origin, there are always two,” he said. “Instead of saying I love you, there were explanations on why Teresa insisted on wearing a sweater in the dead heat of a Texas summer.” What Juan couldn’t understand was how a fat brown kid like Raul could grow up to be a man who married Teresa. “It’s a bad picture,” Juan said. He said that he didn’t know how it was possible for a “pig” to grow into a “horse.” In the years after Raul left town with Teresa, there were rumors that she had married him only to bury her shame of being a lesbian. There were rumors that Antonio, the town drunk, had raped her and now she was ashamed of her womanhood. “The evidence,” Juan said, “was at the feet of Antonio weeping away on a barstool.” Although the story meant nothing, there was one line of Juan’s that reminded me of my own measuring of love. It was toward the end, when Juan began explaining how Teresa was born, and a star called Cygnus had misaligned itself twelve degrees to the south. Destiny, he said, was in our myths, those told by our grandmothers, where we find those images of heartbreak. He covered his eyes and said to picture a scorpion underneath a rock in the middle of the desert. To place the full weight of your own longing in this insect: A lonely scorpion had once loved a distant star, one buried in the deep waters of night.
The shadow self, if that’s right to say, has overwhelmed me. Not because of you, I fell into a deep depression and sunk into a negative energy. But what if it was necessary for me to understand that I am possessive, jealous, egotistical, selfish, and insecure? What parts of me led to this skeletal binding? These feelings are telling me something — or they might be false impressions, ideas that relate to or come from the world but are warped images of reality. They also might be self-imposed realities, as if seeing the world from a barred window. What happens when the force to create is turned inward and made destructive? Must I accept this part of me in order to get better? Maybe to see is the first path of healing. To get better I must acknowledge my shadows, give them credence, allow myself to say they arrived to signal I need help. Spiritually, they are manifestations of healing, ways of showing me where I need to adjust. So how do I do that? I remember I cut you slices of a strawberry so thin they seemed to cuddle together on your plate. Is it better to say I am jealous, or to say that jealousy is when the heart burns itself loose and sinks to the stomach? What makes me red in the face when I see you give other men attention? Is it fear of losing you? Is it a feeling of being inadequate? You are more than right in giving anyone attention, but why does it hurt to know you could go a whole night without ever looking my way?
You start to doubt yourself entirely, losing yourself in those highly combustible and exhaustive parts: anger, resentment, grief.
Of course, I could start by saying I am hurt. I could say I’ve never been this hurt before. I could start by saying that one of the most important people in my life — a person who I loved and cared for — broke my heart. I could start there, but what would I find there? If I start to write about it, who would listen? There’s no explanation that would help me forget this pain, no word that would make it any less heavy. The only way forward is to enter this unfamiliar pain. It’s hidden, biding its time. Nothing could have stopped what happened.
You start to doubt yourself entirely, losing yourself in those highly combustible and exhaustive parts: anger, resentment, grief. The quieter parts are still there, like an undercurrent or a daydream, but you feel like you’re sinking to the bedrock. And the soft parts of you — the mindful, the receptive, the heartfelt, and the honest — seem like they have betrayed you too. You feel sick, and it is always worse in the mornings. You are vengeance, hate, spite, venom — undone and unraveling. You are a baby scorpion, you begin to see, glowing in the dark. Some life is born with poison, you say. Some life has venom. You are born with sickness. At night you are exhausted. Your eyes feel like they are submerged. In sleep the meter burns. The days feel unglued. The mornings are inescapable. You want to jump out of your skin. You argue against ghost stories of her. The myth is swollen, and your eyes are limp. We met at the wrong time, it seems.
Freddy Martinez is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a former Stevan A. Baron Work Scholar at Aperture Foundation, and was an Artist in Residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock. His writing has been shared by VICE, Remezcla, Aperture, TIME, and GUP Magazine. He is a co-editor of Sótano and one of the authors of Los Sumerigdos (published by Alejandro Cartagena y Carlos Loret de Mola, 2019), shortlisted by PHotoESPAÑA 2019 and Arles 2019.