Emir is back in the United States. I knew that he was, and knowing made his presence glow- - like New York City had a particular energy. I returned from the beach and got to experience his glow again myself. I walked down the avenue through the rain, with the umbrella held in front of me like a crusader’s shield. Its ribs inverted from hard winds, splaying open like a tulip cup instead of curving over my head in a protective arc. I marched forward through a cluster of street people, past a few still-softly-orange-lit businesses that remained open, despite the stormy weather and the holiday season. I had forgotten his apartment number, but queried the man at the front desk to look him up in the directory. I always feel like I’m on sexual display when speaking with a man’s doorman. Obviously I am here to fuck this man whose apartment number I am asking the doorman to look up for me. There is no pretense. I often imagine that the doorman is imagining the details of my sexual relationship with the man I’m visiting, but I do also hope that doormen generally have some innate tact or tacitly codified Doorman Way that prevents them from excessive visualization on that front.
Arriving at ###, I buzz the buzzer and imagine Emir doing Emir things on the other side of the door, as I hear small sounds for about 15 seconds before the lock flips up and the door opens. We say hello politely and I hug him quickly.
It’s so good to see you.
How have you been?
Good, good, how have you been?
I have gifts for you.
I have a gift for you too.
I dig through my bag, take out the shell on braided yarn and gently place it in his hands.
Did you find- or make- this?
Coffee cups. I hand them.
Did you make these too?
No, I bought them.
I look for a long time for the scarf before realizing it’s in my lap, folded. I had placed it there while looking for the mugs. I hand it to him.
He gives me a bag with phrases in Turkish and Christmas designs. I open it, and there is a soft, blue wool scarf. It alternates pale blue squares and very light gray squares. The fringe is chic.
It matches your eyes, he says, in a way that’s simultaneously sexy and spiritual.
We keep saying the same things to each other, several times in a row. Like, how have you been? and a few moments later, how have you been? Or, it's nice to see you, and a few minutes later, it's nice to see you. Soon, the awkwardness begins to disappear. We start telling stories and laughing again. We talk about getting Thai food, but start making out instead. Later, we go for Thai food. Emir tells me about his business ideas, and we debate their respective virtues over crab rangoon, duck rolls, and Pad Si Ew. I order mango with sticky rice and eat it before the main dishes.
It makes me happy when I hear Emir say his own name, which he does sometimes comically in the 3rd person. It’s like he’s taking a bit of impish delight in the simple fact of existing. He is really hilarious, and does very silly impressions. One of the first times we hung out, I literally laughed till I could hardly breathe.
I also like it when he rests his head on my chest when we’re watching movies, and the way he wraps my arm around him when we’re sleeping. It makes me feel like he needs me.
I’m concerned that he finds me to be a bit anxious and rules-y. For example, I am very focused on Safety. Safety = not biking in the streets, wearing bike helmets, eating vegetables, not drinking Diet Coke… I guess that’s about it, actually.
I think we’re sort of cuffed.
London part 2
The next evening I was doing something in between “flossing” and “the Charlie Brown” in the room, in velvet shorts and a souvenir t-shirt that said LONDON, ENGLAND, and sipping lemonade. I pour the rest for Emir. It’s called… The High Street, I say, flipping the glass bottle upside-down over the cup like a jigger.
His friend from Turkey lives here and wants us to meet them for a double dinner date. I’m excited about meeting new people, although, familiar with the double date experience, I know there will be a pretty much unavoidable parading / comparison of our various dynamics. I put on one thing which is too casual and then something too fancy before picking a dress and borrowing one of Emir’s sweaters to wear over it. He’s tired this evening from some things at work.
We play some light electronica and joke around for a few hours and then leave. I’m wearing my favorite sage-green satin heels, with a jeweled chain around the ankle, and I’m probably a bit over-hyped. Emir doesn't seem to mind.
We meet them; Emir’s friend Yusuf is slim and lightly balding, with pale hair and square engineer glasses. His girlfriend Zade is pretty with hay-blonde hair, wearing tight jeans and a flannel shirt, with no makeup. She’s chill. She also works in tech, makes illustrations, and recently wrote a novel.
We have good energy as a group, and talk about South African wine, St. Petersburg, Gartner reports, and the arts. A cover singer plays Waterfalls, Under the Sea (from the Little Mermaid), Outkast’s Roses, and I think Hit Me Baby One More Time. The situation revealed various psychological and emotional subtleties, and then we split ways. Overall, the evening was somewhat stressful for me, even though the memories are great.
The next morning we walked around. Ran into one of Emir’s friends from Turkey on the street in Knightsbridge. His friend has an inner nobility. He and Emir talk elegantly, half in Turkish and half in English, while I kind of stand there quietly. The friend holds his daughter’s hand. Weekend run from drama to swim class, the friend says quietly and politely. Emir waves goodbye to the girl, bids his friend goodbye, and sends his well wishes to the wife. Emir seems like he is the outgoing and funny one among his friends.
back in the states
Emir is never available, and it's stressing me out. I made myself go for a walk. Orion’s belt and many other stars are visible tonight clearly, jewels, behind the silver light-frosted edges of tree branches that interlace across the darkness. Once Mike could tell that I got lonely when he was in the Hamptons, and he said well why didn’t you go out to a cafe or something?
I got so crushingly bored, I watched TV shows about Queen Victoria, and read all of The Economist, and signed up for a programming class, and volunteered to take blind people tandem bicycling.
Emir continues to be very unavailable and never wants to hang out. He “doesn’t believe in Valentine’s day,” which generally means someone is either completely self-centered, or they’re fucking / dating someone else, or they just don’t want a relationship at all.
Do you want to hang out a week from tomorrow and do non-sappy, non-romantic activities? Or should we avoid seeing each other on that day entirely, lest we violate your anti-valentines day belief system
I don’t really get what our relationship is or what to expect with us, maybe we should talk next time we’re both in town.
Going back to Silicon Valley in the morning for work. Corporate day parties… chic chatter… soft skills. It’s all on the agenda.
at my corporate hotel
At my corporate hotel, I work on math problems for 6-7 hours, taking breaks to walk around in the fresh air. In the brief moments outdoors, my face gets burnt to a lightly blistered red. :( When I finally get too tired to keep solving rational expression equations, I make a sandwich on challah bread. Irish butter on the roll, with organic turkey and swiss inside, and snap a photo of the receipt to upload to Expensify. I’m getting a bit lonely, and tune in to cable TV and land on a recent favorite, Say Yes to the Dress. I literally cry like every single time anything happens on this show. It’s deep and moving and extremely fluffy at the same time. I’ve definitely developed sort of an emotional relationship with TV lately that I’m not totally comfortable with. Fortunately, the cable went out. After 30-40 seconds in front of a blue screen, I was compelled by fate to reconnect with the reality of my solitude. I did not need to watch hundreds of people getting married on reality TV, I needed a boyfriend. I feel like it’s likely over with Emir. I do NOT handle break-ups well, because I get really, really attached to people, and it’s like I’m personally a destitute, broken non-being when they leave. Which is too bad because this happens all the time.
someone to talk to
Within an hour I am walking into [local location] to have tea with a lead software engineer at Google who’s finishing a remote degree in practical ethics at Oxford (doing the degree partially online, from Palo Alto), for a non-physical purely social hangout. He’s lovely, very effortlessly hot in a button-down and a leather jacket, kind of Adam Driver hair, and a relaxed way. He doesn’t want alcohol either, which is cool.
He went to Duke, and sets a hand across the back of my chair to point to the players on the screen as the highlights reel plays. It’s pre-March Madness. I watch as the guy shoots from outside the 3-point line, it hits the rim, and his teammate flies out of nowhere to ali-oop it. The fans pour onto the court. We take a seat at the back booth.
We talk about ambition, the Valley, graduating in the recession. His mom wanted him to be in banking, so he’d gone to Duke for econ. After school, he stayed around to study with a behavioral economist, because the economy was so bad. People were getting dropped from their internships at Lehmann Bros. (Emir has actually mentioned this to me also- he was actually one of the guys that got dropped from Lehmann Bros). After a while, the software-Palo Alto-Duke guy ended up reaching out to a local programming hobbyist group in his town, and asked if someone would be willing to teach him to code. A few years later, he accepted a job with Tony Haddel, the guy who invented the iPhones, at his startup Nest. This was before Google bought Nest. I had just watched a documentary that Tony was in, talking about his days at General Magic.
We ended the non-physical purely social hangout with a brisk goodbye and wave, and parted ways.
Emir finally suggested we meet up for brunch.
, I answered with pallor.
Then it rolled across me, this rolling sheet of pain.
Not a pain like nails, not a pain like I imagine Mary Jo Kopechne to have felt as she swam toward the last bubble of air in Ted Kennedy’s Delmont 88, before resigning herself to drown- -
it was like the complete silence before the outer edge of a storm starts ripping across a landscape. For a moment I felt nothing, then I suddenly felt an inextricable union of being with him that was in the moment mortally jeopardized, and in imagining the wrenching apart of us, I was made all the more aware of how interwoven he had become in me. Like faced with removing one’s own vital organs, nauseated, I began to flat-out cry.
I would not partake of this theatre of sadness.
if we’re not going to see each other again, I’d rather not meet up at a gothic cafe to have brunch and cry about it. I don’t really get what the point of that would be.
What time do you want to meet for brunch?
Oh is this the last time we are meeting?
I don’t know what’s going on. I thought that’s why you wanted to have brunch tomorrow.
What makes u think that
Well no point meeting if we aren’t gonna hang out again
because you haven’t wanted to hang out for the last month and you didn’t want to spend valentine’s together
So if that’s your intention
Please let me know
I really like you
I want to be with you. How about we hang out this weekend but do something besides brunch, like go to the Met or something?
Since when brunch is a sad & dark event
I was hoping to have brunch, hang out a bit and do work
But we can go Met instead
I knew it was time that we pin down the ephemeral- not in the manner of pinning a once-living butterfly to a foam-board as an object of dull didacticism, or clipping the wings of a finch to keep its life in your possession - -
but in the way that by signing a lease, you feel at ease enough to sleep in a particular place.
Without this contract, the future is too fraught for most people to rest- - unless they’ve so forsaken the possibility of their own future that they sleep without fear of what they may lose if harm comes their way.
Likewise trust has to be there for the space of feeling and experience to open, or you’ll be in a state of clutching and fear- - unless this loveless future no longer intimidates you, and you can hold its possibility so near to you without conceptualizing that it could be yours, that you feel no pain when it is not.
At brunch, I asked, do you want to promise, that we’ll be faithful to each other and be there for each other. He nodded quietly, as I reached out my pinky finger. He extended a pinky finger and we locked them for a moment. Thank you. My heart rests easy.
What is that, a pinky promise?
I nod, grinning.
on overcoming fear:
ekmek arslanin agzinda.
Want to hang out tomorrow?
I pretty much want to pounce you like a wildkat
Snag you in my little paws
and kiss your beautiful beard
That sounds fun!
I have a late meeting, but I should
be home after.
I knocked on his door, which was interestingly adorned with a holiday basket decoration. It’s the kind of thing I love about him. He actually purchased a holiday wicker hanging basket with tartan ribbon to hang on his door. It’s reflective of a genuine enjoyment of the experience of living, and an openness to cultural suggestion and personal experimentation.
We talk a bit and watch the democratic debates. At one point he dives over to the couch to type a bit into his iPhone.
Gotta join in my politics group chat.
We make out a bit, a bit like strangers.
It was nice. He seems a bit fatigued. He has lost some weight recently, and he talks like he wants to lose more. Personally, I like his body. He’s tall and strong, and, frankly in fantastic shape.
Why do you think you need to lose weight?
I love your body.
Thank you. I’ll eat if I’m hungry.
I’m doing intermittent fasting.
We watched Drive at my request, but when it got horrifically violent (I did not remember it being that way), we switched to The Office, which was more racist than we remembered it being. Whatever I guess.
He rests his head on my chest, using my breasts like a pillow. Usually when we do this I end up gradually sinking into the crack between the two pieces of the couch, which always shift apart tectonically, because the sticky things on the bottom of his furniture seem to have low friction. I always mean to bring over the good ones that I have, and I -always- says, Oh, I meant to bring over the things for your couch, but I forgot. I always pretend that I am comfortable throughout this process, because it’s like having a sleeping kitten on your lap- you don’t want it to move an inch, and you’re so emotionally involved in its happiness at that moment, that it would probably be more distressing for you to wake or move the kitten than it would be for the kitten to be moved. So I sink into his couch and kiss his forehead, as he falls asleep on my breasts, his wavy black hair soft on my neck and face.
He slid his hand over mine and wrapped our fingers together. It was a bit surprising; we never hold hands. I don’t feel that I’m like pushing things to hit objectively quantifiable Relationship Metrics, like We Held Hands and We Did This or That whatever stuff, and my feelings are not wildly overintense or underwhelming- I just really like spending time with him.
As I read passages in The Wedding Trip by Cesare Pavese, in which he callously reduces the wife’s marital glow to the realm of the pathetic, I wonder if Emir ever regards my puppylike attachment from this passionless, analytical distance, with a combination of patience and pity. I would say no, because he is not the type of man that would be in something he didn’t want to be in, and there is a really sincere quiet joy in the way we are to each other.
I’ve noticed that the tendency to bond like a motherless puppy leads to more equitable relationships with foreigners. (I feel that foreigners feels abrupt and carries a moderate connotation of xenophobia- like something you’d say in a hushed tone while dropping off a casserole at your neighbor’s house - *have you seen the foreigners* - but foreigners seem to use it often to self-describe, so I’ve changed my perception of the word and added it to my vocabulary). Both in a vacuum, we seek a harmonious coterie, with the fundamental drive, the fundamental necessity that pulls together the halogens and the alkali metals. Recently, some friends told me that they felt they might be more free if they were not bound by their sense of honor to their family. Annalise followed it up with, Of course, if I shaved my head and moved to Berlin, the first thing I would look for is people to hang out with. And these would be my new oppressors.
Indeed, the various foundational conditions of being bound to a human consciousness stem beautiful desires and subjectively and objectively beautiful experiences, just as these conditions also limit and bind us to certain orders and syntax of structuring it all.
Like if you can’t see 27 dimensions,
should you try to portray it?
Recently I was reading about how universal ideas of beauty are, and how tied they are to our biology. Like basically the things we find beautiful, like the view from the top of a mountain, or flowers, are beautiful because they are positive signs for our survival. They are biologically advantageous conditions.
Or should you enter like a humility state
and be like, this is the conscious experience
I was given. Like, you don’t want to be like
“oh, love is a hormone ~ “
[melodramatically pantomimes stabbing
self in the heart].
I would love to be working right now. But you can only really do so much at a certain time; stepping away from the situation when it rains is part of the mental discipline involved. I've been thinking about the usefulness of art as a record and as traces of original consciousness- it’s like, why draw a flower if you’re not going to render it with the accuracy of a botanist? To disseminate a lie about what flowers actually look like?
At twilight, the atmosphere, normally a demure presence, flumes quickly in deep pinks, corals, and gold- streaks across a soft periwinkle. It deepens slowly to a deeper, still soft indigo. Venus shows herself, just as quickly- and hangs like an eye, burning a hole in the sky. Each leaf-studded branch delineates an impossibly baroque overlay in what seems to be a flat, formless black layer, like a cut-out placed before the sky. Layer after layer of emerald is swathed in shadow, each layer of distance deepening in color to the horizon. Soft silver glances off metal surfaces, and palettes of material fade into shades of payne’s grey.
As I walk, my mind kind of projects Emir next to me. He would walk, listening to me walk- ducking his head a bit as we go so that he wouldn’t not hear me if I say something. If we paused for a minute, he would bend his head toward me so I could stand on my toes and brush lips together, just quick, and we would keep going. But he is not here.
I contrast my body with the life along the path, noting how imperfectly organic my body is in its state of moderate decay. It cries out so often with need, and becomes stiffer, less agile, slower to move and quicker to require the indulgence of rest. If I could only breathe in more life from the air.
The earth itself breathes out and in, through the fingerlets of the trees that twist and wind before reaching up and out, like African dancers that dance crouched low and reach their hands up with outstretched fingers. The material world ends abruptly here, at these many, many quick edges- becoming suddenly air, so far, so much higher. I walk only on a small bit of material, and spend my life in air. Air is what nurtures me, second by second. Cool and beautiful Earth, I love you.
There are times that I have my doubts about Emir. It wouldn’t be difficult for him to be kinder, to answer me sooner when I ask him things, and to not push me away a bit at times, seemingly inexplicably.
Once I had been thinking about asking him to play poker with me sometime. A few days later when we were hanging out on his couch, he mentioned he’d had some friends over for poker that week.
That’s so funny, I was actually thinking about asking you if you like to play poker. I was thinking about bringing over some cards sometime- -
I mean I don’t like it that much, he said flatly.
Ok. Whatever, I guess.