The Rock Star
I ran into the Jamaican at his place of work the other night and he had a question for me.
It was election night. The election had just been declared for President Obama and we were waiting for him to come out and say his victory speech.
The bar was going crazy. People were drunk and hugging each other, laughing and cheering. It’s Park Slope, what? We don’t pretend to hold diverse political views.
Now I don’t know the Jamaican’s politics, but I’m fairly sure he has no objection to four more years of a Portuguese water poodle in the White House.
But the Jamaican seemed unmoved by the historical events unfolding around him. He had only one thing on his mind—why hadn’t my friend, the one he’d put the moves on—returned his phone calls? I told the Jamaican I didn’t know.
I lied. I know exactly why.
My friend, whom I call the rock star, has recently encountered some difficulties in her personal life. And she’s cut up rough.
I say she’s a rock star; I speak metaphorically. She’s very, very good at what she does and it’s not rock music. Not even close. She’s one of the more intellectually accomplished mammals on the planet.
Not only that, she’s stone cold beautiful. And let’s not stop there, shall we, because it’s probably incumbent on me to mention that she has a body that would not disgrace a woman twenty, or even thirty years her junior. (I have come to know well that feeling of, oh, how to put it, invisibility, that I experience when we’re in the company of men.)
So the rock star is unaccustomed to having men say, “nah, don’t think I’ll bother if it’s all the same to you.” And yet it has happened. Her heart has been interfered with by a man whom I suspect did it just because he could. We’ll call him the asshole.
It distresses me to see my dear friend in such pain. But I also find it curious. Since she is such a superior specimen of intellect should she not be able to rationalize her way out of it? Use that super charged brain, or whatever. Explain it away? But she can’t do that. She combs over the details of the relationship, wondering, always wondering, where the hell she went wrong and how did she manage to get there so quickly?
Now we have, I hope, already established that emotionally speaking, I should be locked in a small room with physically binding clothing, comfy walls, and having no contact whatsoever with the outside world. Somebody should poke my food under the door a couple of times a day, along with a few back issues of the New Yorker in which Anthony Lane has written the movie reviews. That would be safest.
And yet I lurch about, unguarded, in the wider world.
Somehow I got bail, pocket money, and a change of clothes. I’m free—and, oh joy—I’m a great big accident, waiting to happen. Good for me. What could possibly go wrong?
Oh, let’s start with this, shall we?
I have a crush.
It’s a word teenagers use—or at least they used to, when Donny Osmond was top of the charts. 1971, something like that.
A crush hurts in an exquisite way. It’s a specific, pointed kind of agony. Lighter in tone than the whole husband-left-via-the-emergency-exit pain, but somehow no less horrible.
It is not becoming. It’s not sensible. It’s not real; that’s part of the hurt.
My crush doesn’t fancy me, not really. I know he likes the way I look. But I can tell when men are into me, and, as a general rule, if he’s not laughing at my jokes then it’s fairly certain that the road ahead is rocky, uphill and involves sherpas, beasts of burden and freeze dried food. And even that’s only after several weeks at base camp.
I get it.
It’s so delicious to want what we can’t have. So easy. The Jamaican wants the rock star. The rock star wants the asshole. And I want my crush.
There’s this Belgian guy—a singer—who says you can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness, and maybe that’s what I’m doing. Transferring the hurt from my husband onto my crush. Maybe hurt and I have become so friendly that I don’t want it to leave.
I don’t know. I’m too poor to spring for psychotherapy.
My parents are Christians. They raised me well. When I was a teenager I read the entire Bible. Genesis to Revelation. And when you think about all the other things I could have been doing as a teenager, I see that clocks in as very sad.
One of the few verses that I remember is from Jeremiah. It goes like this: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?”
Those words have always haunted me.
When I was a teenager I assumed that verse meant that we were all evil. But now I think that it means we don’t really have any control over what we feel.
Turn your back for a minute and your heart will deceive you. Turn your back for a minute and your heart with shank you, right under the floating ribs. (Is that a mixed metaphor? Yeah, probably is.)
Anyway, my point is that your heart is not your friend. When your heart and your brain go hand to hand your heart will win every time.
Why is that? Your heart isn’t even a thing. Your heart is a muscle. That’s all. Your brain is this gigantic slab of evolutionary marvellousness. Capable of making Hubble telescopes and machine washable wool and remembering, so far back, what it’s like to be a lizard. Your heart is an idea. Your heart is a fancy. That’s why the Romantic poets had to be invented; to spin this shit.
Yet your heart will bitch slap your brain in a skanky alley any old day of the week.
The reason I know this is because of the rock star. Her IQ is off the fucking charts. Mine is dragging average. And yet she stumbles around, just like me, trying to reconcile the way she wants things to be with the way they actually are.
The Jamaican wants the rock star. The rock star wants the asshole. And I want my crush to go away.
I want to want what I have.
I really, really, do.