Our Stop

I could be demure / like girls who are soft for / boys who are fearful / of getting an earful / but I gotta rock.

Slept for 11 hours last night and still, I woke up anxious. Sat on my bedroom floor and meditated for ten minutes, which helped a lot. Didn't, you know, think of anything or accomplish anything. Spent much of the ten minutes acknowledging feelings and thoughts as they came up, hopefully putting them back down. Felt a very strong urge to continually shift my physical position, to make myself more comfortable. Which I fought, a little bit. Or, I acknowledged that I was not sitting in the most comfortable position possible, but I think that that is okay. In the new Kristin Hersh book I'm reading, she says (and is right): "Comfort isn't necessarily comfortable, after all, sometimes you gotta wander into the woods. Everybody knows that."

But it was good to kind of center myself for two reasons, today.
1) I'm going to the dentist, again. The good dentist. The cheap and good secret amazing dentist. To see about these fillings which everyone at NYU assured me I have. So I am a bit nervous, of course.

2) I rode the train this morning with Linus (not his real name). I happened to be standing next to him on the L train. I was and am continually intimidated by this guy, at least at first. He's a friend of a friend. I don't remember where I originally met him, I think at some "party" downtown. Linus works in the art world. When I was recently home in California, I spent an afternoon cruising Japanese fashion magazines at the Kinokuniya store in San Francisco's Japantown. In a Japanese men's street style magazine was a picture of Linus, snapped on the streets of NYC, with a quote from him detailing his "style tips". His tips were translated into Japanese though, so I don't know what he said. Something, I think, about denim.

Anyway. This morning on the train. He was wearing a nice-ish suit, a cute striped t shirt, fancy black leather shoes. A big chunky sweater wrapped loosely over his blazer. He looked good, well-paid. Casual, in the way that people with money often do, as if this is the thing they just threw on in the morning, but the pile of things they have to just throw on in the morning are all really expensive and nice clothes. He's shorter than I am but I felt dwarfed by him. I am wearing a black polo shirt and yellow jeans, both made by American Apparel. I bought the shirt online at a discount store and my room mate who works at AA got the pants for me as a birthday gift because she knows I like the color. I felt, all of a sudden, really sloppy. Slovenly. As a ransom to this insecurity, I kept my sunglasses on while I rode the train with him.

Linus was talking about his job, his weekend. He has the sort of high-level art world / culture job that involved clients. The kind of job where he couldn't tell me exactly what he does. I think it's because he's still figuring it out, but also perhaps because there is no real set job description. It's something glamorous. He was at a client's birthday party last night, he told me, where he saw a very famous rapper perform. Y'know, no big deal. He just started his job around the time that I started mine. So we were kind of comparing notes, but I felt embarrassed to talk about myself.

I felt, fleetingly, so jealous of Linus. He had this kind of job and lifestyle which I think is particular to New York. The art world career. Something vaguely related to the actual production of art, much more concerned with the dissemination of artistic culture. When I first moved to NYC I was desperate to get this kind of job. At a gallery or something. I could never make it happen for me. Or, when I did get cushy art world jobs, I always felt like an impostor. I could never pull off the look. I've never owned a pair of boat shoes in my life.

I think the key to the look and this lifestyle is to exude a kind of sense of... "rightness". I want to say that word instead of it's evil twin, which is entitlement. I'm not passing judgment. I just mean that I've always envied the sense certain people have of themselves where they just seem to know that they're in the right place at the right time. That they are assured of success, of understanding, of comprehension. That they "get it".

And I felt this tremendous sense of difference between us. There was this huge sense of longing I felt, talking to him about his life, envying his shoes. I felt like he and I were so, so different. Like he is part of culture and the world in a way which I could never be. For whatever reason. Maybe we come from different family backgrounds. Maybe not-- maybe he's poorer than I am but he's just more determined, more skilled, more intelligent, better connected. This is all conjecture. So I was talking to him, and just noticing these really intense feelings of shame and envy I was having. For what? Really glad I had meditated before I left the house! I was just... having the feelings. Just noticing how I felt. We said goodbye when we got to our respective stops. Then I had another memory.

I remember once, before, running into Linus at a party very late at night, and he and I took the L train home from the west village. We were both very drunk. And we didn't know each other well, at all. We still don't. We were waiting for the train for, like, forever, in silence. When all of a sudden Linus confided in me that he was super tired. I told him I was, too. The party was on a weeknight. He intimated to me, then, that he was so tired because the night before, he had gone out as well, and just been so horny when he got home, he just went home and cruised guys online. He had been up all night, fucking. Linus wasn't even telling me the sordid details of what kind of sex he was having, or even who he was having it with. It didn't seem like he wanted to relay the experiences of desire or pleasure to me. But it did seem like he wanted me to know about this side of him. And I don't even know his last name, what sign he is, what he likes to eat for dinner, where he's from. But it seems like he got off on this sort of confessional thing. Maybe he was hoping I'd have stories about hooking up with guys online too. (I didn't).

So Linus was talking about staying up until 7am having sex with strangers before getting dressed in his designer finery to run to his cushy job in Chelsea. And although that experience is so different from my own (at least these days), I felt this tremendous sense of empathy. I felt like, I knew how tired he felt, maybe. Not to say that i was projecting onto him, imagining what I could only guess his feelings about his sex life were. I mean that his confessing it to me on the subway platform, someone who he does not know, is not friends with (he doesn't think I'm cute or anything), someone he doesn't seem to want to know anything about. That confession seemed kind of sweet. I dunno. Normally I would think it was obnoxious or bragging or something, but it struck me as really honest. And I felt sort of privileged, in a way. Like, he wanted to share something with me. Something not quite vulnerable, but something which he seemed to be working through some shame about. It was striking.

And I'm glad I remembered that today. It helped me put into perspective the "distance" I thought we had between us. I think: everybody has shit they think about, they feel insecure about, they want to confess. Everybody is holding back. Everybody is trying to impress each other and repress ourselves. And everybody, in these varied projects of impression and expression and repression is epically failing. To say that there are cracks in the facade is a gross overestimation. It would be truer to say that there is no facade, there is only a beautiful lattice-work of cracks.

It would be truer to say that "forest" is a cruelly simplistic way of talking in detail about some of the most beautiful and unique trees in the world.


Ben said...

Max! This is so wonderful and important. No doubt the meditation helped empower you to write so honestly and perceptively. It so proves that the deeper and more specific you are in your own self exploration, the more universal your observations will be in their humanity. I love you and am inspired by you.

Anonymous said...

I love the last paragraph. So true and, to my recollection, never better said. Regressively, Tim Gage