MY LOVE DON'T COST A THING
We live in a joyous age. By which I mean all is available to us. And while life under the imperative to enjoy the self-annihilating transmission of our bodies elsewhere as we conform to it remains cryptic in its universal demand that we rapidly cycle through all that we adore, all the time, its moments of clarity are just as preciously encoded into the bouts of ‘feeling’ that mark these times as are its moments of obscurity too. On Facebook, I have recently noticed a series of viral, click-bait posts with headlines that assure us we “won’t believe” what we’ll see if we click on the link. This woman came home to an intruder in her house. You won’t believe what happened next. This man found a sick dog near his house. What he did next will shock you. These posts often lead to nothing or nothing consequential, just other websites that lead to other websites, stupid videos, or ads, ads for ab work outs and coupons for groceries and cheap flights to China, you won’t believe what Obama isn’t telling you, you will be shocked at this simple trick, I have noticed you, I have noticed you are very interested in cheap air fare, including trips to London, Paris, and Beijing. I look up the cost of a flight to Beijing, a city I’ve always wanted to visit, where my mother went years ago and said was so unbelievable she could not really explain what it was like in any way that my sister and I could understand. Only that she liked it and that we would some day go there and like it too. The airfare site loads Beijing’s prices, reasonable as you’d imagine on travelocity.com, the name of which has always been oddly suggestive of some transcendent escape of any present moment, hunched over a laptop or on my phone on the J, in its argument that travel might be a function of speed, only, per usual, the site has trouble loading the good deals it promised and so I give up, head out to a party on a Chinatown roof. Vape terror of heights, vape the feeling it draws out from your stomach and through your asshole as you later approach the ledge of the roof when you’re a little too drunk to socialize. Vape those curious hours, swallow them, make eye contact with a dozen boys across the dark roof, lean against the wall while Anton, who’s out of money, explains how he came to New York only six months ago and now works in a Japanese stationary store in Chelsea called Muji. He’s gotten a little lost since his girlfriend left him and moved to Paris. Listening to him talk about the literal and figurative ocean that separates them is similar to the feeling I get when listening to Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” In Prince’s original version of the song, the lyrics divide between a male and a female speaker, suggesting at least in the reciprocal confusion of longing that they might at last be some day reunited. Like at least they know they are linked together in mutual song. Without changing the lyrics but singing both parts of the song by herself, Sinead O’Connor, whose version is perhaps more famous, eliminates the lover and shifts that role to us, turning to face the camera in her music video, turning to us, across the unbridgeable gulf split by the screen that divides us, to confer the impossible weight of absence on us. Like it’s easy, but also such a burden I’m overwhelmed to the point I seldom finish watching the video, switch back to travelocity.com, and dream of elsewhere. Earlier, Anton and I had gone through Washington Square Park, sat in the grass for a few hours, and then went our opposite ways home, only to meet up by accident later at the party in Chinatown. We watched jocks throw a ball back and forth in the grass. One of the jocks kept shouting, “Hit me” several times as his partner waited for the crowd to clear a space for them, impatient to keep the game going, a crowd so densely invested with libidinal drive that it never really divided; or in its temporary incoherence it subdivided briefly until it formed elsewhere, between others. “Hit me,” they shouted, and then we left. Prince and Rosie become elsewhere while in the spring that overwhelms them the park’s tulips bend toward the light. As it turns out, all the flowers in the backyard have not died as Prince and Sinead said they did. Rather they have situated themselves in the colors that stream toward their sites of radical incoherence, flushed in the afternoon, a place I can never really find, but nevertheless continue to seek. It is sufficient and dense, but must end—or never exist—in the consummate declaration of an additional end to the present configuration of the afternoon that encircles me. Later on the roof, I vaped under the World Trade. At 9 stories up the space between the ground and me was entirely ‘poetic’: vertical toward the summer night’s clouds, the city fixed itself into it. Backgrounded by “Nothing Compares 2 U” and it’s the world. “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and the slow feeling of its subtlety extracts from me a secondary belonging to whatever sky that relents finally to sunrise but differs in almost no way from sunset. Exalt that dumb feeling or else its precious logic collapses in crassly romantic self-possession. Manifest nihilism in the body, summer is the shittiest time for looking cute. Winter, too. Leaning in, Anton whispers to me that I “have time” when I tell him I’m so tired of having to work, but I’m not sure that I do. Time for what? To chill, he says. At that moment I check my phone and see that a girl has posted a selfie to Facebook with the caption: “Spring is here, I look like I’m dying lol,” reduced to the negligible poverty of remaining earth available to her, a little frame on a cell phone she’s died within for the cuteness of the world has been vastly damaged, gasp or whatever. I’ll take of it what I can, get high, ask Anton what he means by time. “I don’t think we have time,” he clarifies, “or not in a way that isn’t fought for.” Therefore implicit is the injunction to seek new, still more tenuous martyrdoms via the terms of employment, daily baptism through which we are made eternal pilgrims to global capital’s realm of internationalized leisure, various martyrdoms we will survive without the redemptive pleasure of extended vacation. Or rather, it grants us in the flavorless wafer of its inexorable host our own host body by which we hobble forward until the endurable progress of this narrative reverses and we are erased from it. The city lights go on. The view has become the same everywhere. You can tell it won’t change.
ANDREW DURBIN is the author of Mature Themes (Nightboat Books 2014). His work has appeared in BOMB, Boston Review, Mousse, Triple Canopy, and elsewhere. He co-edits Wonder, curates the Talk Series at the Poetry Project, and lives in New York.