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57 - just somebody i used to know

We can settle at a table
A table for two
Won't you wine and dine with me?
Settle down

I wanna raise a child
I wanna raise a child
Won't you raise a child with me...

      —Kimbra, Settle Down


We were sitting at the E Street Café in Encinitas, up early on a Sunday morning for a hike on the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. We’re the café’s first customers, sitting at a corner table by the window. Camille’s backlit by the sunrise streaming in, so striking she is, and she says to me, “What?”

I was staring at her, had my hands wrapped around my coffee cup, sipping on a hammerhead with foam, feeling the warmth, and I’m smiling, thinking it’s definitely a “kill me now” moment, one of her simplest of things, and I respond softly, “I love you.”… and as one moment bleeds into the next, the flux and flow unceasing, I’m taken back, nearly 20 years, having to watch the fond memories of a past self intrude, and Maya’s right there, it’s like the scenes are being compared, and it’s crazy-making, and Maya and I are at another corner table by the window, Greta’s Café, in love… Yes, I get it, she’s not just somebody I used to know, damn it, and I’m seeing and hearing her all the fucking time. She’s showing up too much, now in my dreams, something new, and it’s weird and nutso and I just want it to stop. WTH!


Camille and I got to talking about the films we’d seen this year, both of us looking forward to the Academy Awards, popcorn and mojitos, a quiet night on the couch, cuddling up, watching some of our grandest artists get recognition, and again, Maya’s right there, intruding, and this time I can hear her going off, condemning our once revered routine of couch cuddling and “TV watching,” as if it was a failing of mine, that I was the reason for the spirit-murdering habituation and dying love, as if the couch cuddling was nothing but a time kill, now a bore for her. Whatever! Never shouted back or responded that when we first hooked up, downtown Sacramento, I didn’t have a television. The TV entered our relationship because of her, not me. She was upstairs in a remodeled flat in an old Victorian that had been partitioned into four units. I was in the downstairs flat on the western side, long and narrow with windows in every room opening out to a kind of public garden, light always streaming in. The front room was the study, the middle room the bedroom, and then you went from the bedroom into the kitchen, then to the bathroom, then out the back door to the porch and gardens. Tomatoes, basil, zucchini, and three flipping rows of corn. There was a stone path along the fence of blackberry bushes that led to the alley parking lot. An everlasting memory, a blessed love nest, and in the study and in the bedroom, bookshelves as furniture, and on the floor, stacks and stacks of books. Books, books, books, everywhere the books. I used a bean bag chair to read, and along side was a tome-stack of Lewis Mumford’s work:

Technics and Civilization

The Culture of Cities

The Condition of Man

The Conduct of Life

The City in History

Myth of the Machine #1: Technics of Human Development

Myth of the Machine #2: The Pentagon of Power

… and now, come to think of it, the night we first made love, she had come downstairs all worked up, talking about her Lit Crit seminar, juiced about a group she had just joined, graduate and post-graduate lit students getting together to talk literary theory, Eagleton, Bhabha, Butler (Octavia not Judith), even Stanley Fish and Camille Paglia… fired up and horny she is, and I’m sitting in the bean bag chair, holding a copy of The Conduct of Life, and she just goes for it, and she kneels down on the edges of the Persian rug, then works her way into my arms, and I’m still holding on to the book, one hand, surprised, smiling and aroused, and I’m still not getting it, as if she’ll kiss me and leave, and I’ll continue to read, a pleasant interruption, and of course that was that, and the Mumford tome-stack got sent flying as our intimate friendship turned into love, fiery and unexpected, and there we were, splayed out on the rug, exhausted.


With Maya, and now with Camille, I have always thought it a simple and magnificent joy to be able to sit side by side, reading, enjoying a “book” together, that’s what film-going and DVD-watching is for me, a shared experience. Like the splendor of live theatre, of playgoing, enrapt and intimate sharing: art, artistry, and aesthetic delight. Camille and I don’t have television service but we do have "wideband" Internet, a Samsung high definition TV, a BluRay player for streaming Netflix and YouTube, and we’re about to engage the new HBO show Enlightened. We get most of our fiction from films/DVDs, and since HBO, Showtime, AMC et al. began to ramp up their production budgets, giving creative folks leeway, pushing the envelope, television as literature, stepping away from the mindlessness of routine and “reality” TV, it's as if they're harkening back to the Golden Age.


I remember seeing Schindler’s List in the theater with Maya, and there’s a point where we were holding hands, the story so heart-rending and brutal that we needed to make contact, and it wasn’t a typical reaching out but something reassuring, a want of holding each other close while entering into the pain and suffering of others, through art, through narrative, through the fearless storytelling/filmmaking of Keneally and Spielberg… and that’s what “television watching” and filmgoing is for me, and Camille sees it clearly, shares the sensation, she comes to it as a poet would, appreciating what the narrative can conjure and call forth, the connection to each and all, and it’s underlining and a boon to our intimate life, a broadening and stimulating expansion of the day-to-day, and now I’m sad, that I couldn’t have found these words for Maya, that I couldn’t have imagined settling in, struggling through and settling down the way I have with Camille.

God damn it. Didn't think it was possible. Two women. Thought I was over her, through. Shit, shit, shit.

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