Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Armenia! Alone!

In the antepenultimate room at the Armenia! exhibit at the Met, I seek solace in the giant tapestry of repeating crucifixions, which has transfixed my attention. There are certain musical tunes that trap me, pulling me into their cadence. Repeated ad nauseam, they never grow nauseating. There's enough contained in them that to enter into a practice of perpetual repetition only highlights what is enchanting in them even more. I wonder if this image of the crucifixion that grasped this mad Armenian several hundred years ago was the same for her or him.

Detaching myself from the side of the tall, sandy-haired artist-poet, I return to this wall of Golgotha, to lose myself in its patterns. This tapestry is a heart split open, revealing in all its chambers the same scene. The scenes of Calvary drip across the expanse of the wall like blood. Fresh with images of Julian's cross, bleeding and loquacious, my imagination demands this cross to speak to me, like hers.

I stare at the red-inked face of Christ like it's my salvation and sink into the silence of the threaded image. In the solitude, I feel the waves subside into something tangible: I am sad. My heart sinks like an anchor, and I am steadied by its weight.

Something calls to me. I cannot tell if it is Domenic's absence, my sadness, or maybe even Christ à la a Julian-esque showing.

Maybe they're all one and the same, a repeated pattern across the tapestry.

In front of this tapestry, I am not at peace, as my heart will, for at least the next two weeks, tear itself in two with longing and distress.

But I am finally alone.

I cry on the floor in the bathroom of the fancy Lower East Side restaurant. A woman opens the door that I thought I'd locked but hadn't.

I wonder if she thinks I'm some strung out banker, snorting coke off the bathroom countertop or taking pills, as I finger the rosary beads.

Or maybe she, too, has been on a date that makes you want to scream, and she has also hidden in a bathroom and cried.

Probably not.

Being on dates with people when you are in love with someone else is good character formation. I notice that I am an asshole, and the only thing preventing me from being one usually is that I care what other people think of me. With that prophylactic removed, all my absurd pride and inane self-interest bubble to the surface.

I have never felt anything like this abandon, this absolute lack-of-caring before, and with a masochistic sense of vivisection, I lean into it, examine it, picking it up and poking its functioning organs. I feel how hard my heart is in the middle of dinner, and, instead of truly softening it, I act as though I do: I ask a question, feign interest, not out of cruelty, but out of a forced desire to be virtuous. In the meantime, I am sounding the stony depths of a heart entirely disinterested in what is happening at table.

Every comment is simply another reason for resentment: as it is a reminder that the person speaking is not you and if you were here, you would say something different, I would feel different, respond with something different than my bullish pigheadedness (maybe). I would try to charm you, in the exact way I am not-charming him. With you, I would pour out the charm, opening up both the hot and cold taps full-throttle. There isn't even a drop of charm dripping from my faucet now: it's dry.

I am again at the Met, but this time it is not summer, and I refuse to fall in love.
We pass my favorite painting, and I think of pointing it out—but don’t.
No need to share that, or the quote of Dante in the journal, or the Final Redactor.

I tell the tow-haired man all the things I don’t want to tell you and, begrudgingly, some of the things I do.
I think he can sense that I am sharing each scene with you, not him.

I notice different things than I would with you—we walk around the rooms with a different rhythm and pattern.
And I like his questions—I practice with him all my good observational habits from art history class. Objectively, this conversation is elevated, curious and edifying.

And as arousing as cardboard.

My heart is feeling around for you, pulsing underneath not silences but conversation: an all-too-visible standard he is invisibly being measured to and comes up wanting, simply because he cannot provide the one thing I want:

With your rippling laughter and your strange shynesses, your anecdotes of Nashville childhood, your bursts of lightness that flash across your face, and your crushing analytic nature.

Right now, as I stare at the vast riches of Armenia pinned like butterflies to shadowboxes, I am in love with not the present but the subjunctive. I love the conversations we would have here, where you aren't: an omission that feels like an intemperate waste. I miss your laughter and your wit. Perhaps we are too effervescent. Perhaps we talk like two young people who have no responsibilities, who still wear life lightly, despite our scars. We do not talk with the maturity and the gravitas with which I speak to him.

Oh. God.
I know you don’t think I love you, but I do.

Impatient Delacroix tries to get the pieta right and fails.

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