This month’s theme is Infinity, about what cannot be articulated; the infinite feelings, colors, sounds, experiences that we do not have words for. Starting today, we’ll be publishing a few entries from Tavi’s diary that show how, for her, “it’s gotten shockingly effortless to live in Infinity, and trust that I’ll retain what I need to later, and if not, accept the price of a life fully lived.” (More on that in her Editor’s Letter, which you can read here.)
Last night, my birthday. I went up to his apartment and tried very hard not to think about all the times I went up there before and he let me in and I asked for a glass of water and he sat in the chair and I sat on the couch and he launched into his preamble while I stared at the steam from his cup of tea clouding his face like the Wizard of Oz, about to free us both from our pact of shared illusion. I thought of when we sat on that couch in December and he put on Lou Johnson’s “Always Something There to Remind Me” and I got to watch him just enjoy it for the whole song (so cute and engaged) and afterwards he was like, “What a journey! That felt about 15 minutes long.” And because there’s so much around to remind me, because I haven’t lived here long enough to associate anything with anyone other than him, because it’s been a 38th of my life while only a 62nd of his, because I wasn’t writing throughout and getting that constant perspective, our brief six months felt like a Forever. How life would always be. As innate to plain existence as the oxygen in the air. So few inklings of The End.
Whenever I feel nostalgic, I try to remember that what I really want is not to go back, but what I have now: the image, the memory. Isn’t that picture a writer’s friend more than any gibberish feeling? Today, though, that feels untrue. He said that by ending it now we can avoid falling in love; I wanted to tell him it’s too late for me. I am sad because I’d recalibrated my brain in order to open my heart, and now those efforts seem futile. A year ago I would’ve claimed how much my love is a reflection of me—that thing where you make a defense mechanism seem like self-empowerment—but now I’d like to know I actually connected with someone. Writing about this at all feels like a betrayal, to him and to my own desire to graduate from vampiric tendencies.
Chris Kraus wrote that every letter is a love letter. David Foster Wallace frequently used “Every Love Story is a Ghost Story” in private writings, though its origin is unknown. Lorde says she doesn’t write love songs, but how can that be true? Every song is a love song, is a ghost song. We love something so much that we have to write it down, and in doing so, we’ve killed it, like Barthes’ characterization of loved ones in a photo: “anesthetized and fastened down, like butterflies.” Now I’m interested in a love, in letters, in songs, that are not so concerned with the end; that are incapable of accessing an aerial view, an image, a story; I would like to stop trying to conquer death by documentation, feeling like the end-game will always only be the page.
Famous Nora Ephron: “Everything is copy.” And if I wanted to find a way to make this universal, I could talk about what that means to a generation of people who actually are sharing everything exactly as it happens, how much slow suicide takes place in the careful curation of a personal brand, how much we limit ourselves by deciding who we already are, how much of what can feel like self-actualizing—my blog?—can go the other way; tell you only the things you already want to know about yourself; cut off discovery; cut off the possibility for connection. Connection is different from approval or validation, and so much more lonely-conquering.
But I can’t be universal. I’m obligated only to the universe in my head.
A lunch in mid-December.
ME: We’d met a few times in groups but he never really paid me any mind but I’d been hanging out with Man’s Friend and Man’s Friend was like, “You should go on a date with Man,” and I was like, “I agree!”, because I’d thought he was cute. So Man’s Friend gave Man my number but texts me two weeks later like, “I’m working on the Man situation but the age difference might be too weird.” But I figure that I am 18 and just moved to New York out of my first relationship so I’m like, “Even if it’s nothing serious?” And Man’s Friend is like, “You want to hit it and quit it?” And I say, “Not plainly, but more on that end of the spectrum than the end that’s like, Expecting Anything,” and an hour later Man’s Friend is like, “He’s in,” and calls me, and is like, “He’s going to call or text — probably text — you. He just doesn’t want to seem like a creepy old man.” And I’m like, “Calm down, you’re making this really middle school slash Wikileaks.” But already I feel like I’ve somehow talked Man into something before even talking to him, AND I’m insecure about seeming too young, AND I have lunch with Man’s Friend’s friend, who sort of knows Man, and who, when I tell her I’m going on a date with him, throws her head back and laughs and goes, “MAN?! He’s a sex addict!” And I hang out with this other girl who sort of knows him and she scoffs and calls him a snob, and one of our other mutual friends says he said he doesn’t believe in love, and I can’t remember who it was who referred to him as a sociopath—
TAYLOR: He’s like Christian Grey.
ME: Yes. But so am I? Or rather, I was also told that he’d made some joke to his friends about needing a girlfriend who dresses in a way that doesn’t embarrass him in public—which I’m like, “gross, Man,” but also, I have known myself to have a concern for the picturesque? Or rather, what would that be like, to be so committed to the values that years and years of literature have taught us only make you unhappy; surely I’m not immune to the fantasy of being image-based; why not find out this thing about myself by dating the exact kind of boy-person who would’ve been repelled by me in middle school?
ME: But he texts me! And I think I can match whatever sociopathy is in store and start reading The Secret History and half-jokingly write the outline for an essay called the Sociopath’s Manifesto to gear myself up for recklessness, but I never actually finished it, and also didn’t realize at the time that the characters in The Secret History aren’t just beautiful creative people; they’re murderers? But we make plans for my day off. First I go to the Bowery after my show one night because a bunch of our mutual friends are there and I guess it would be good to hang out in somewhat of a group setting before this set-up. And he doesn’t really make eye contact and he talks a lot about luxury watches and how when you learn about them it’s “actually really interesting” to recognize them and be able to unpack the layers of cultural history, which is I guess not dissimilar to my own material relationships, but then he refers to something as “Proustian” and I shoot a brief cringe at my friend but am also, I guess, intrigued, while also somehow knowing he hasn’t actually read Proust. So then it’s my day off, and I spend the whole morning picking out my outfit with my roommate. I change about five times, and I’m late to a hair appointment because I spent so much time deciding what to wear—
TAYLOR: What did you wear?
ME: A black-and-white striped turtleneck, a gray pleated skirt, white platforms, and this clear plastic pink purse. Also, I’m like, groomed. And it’s not so much about worrying he’d find my brows uneven, because aren’t straight men just psyched to be around a female form? So much as like, it made me feel in control of the situation and aware of myself.
TAYLOR: Of course.
ME: And I walk to the West Village listening to the Frances Ha soundtrack and smoking and trying to cool myself down. I’m like, in movie mode. I meet my friend Hilton for lunch at this dimly lit place with red leather booths, and tell him I already feel somehow lesser than Man, and he interrupts me and grabs my arm and looks me dead in the eyes and goes, “You have the power.” He lets go, and slowly settles back into his seat, but is still going, “You have the power. You have the power.”
TAVI: I write it down in my Notes app and make it my wallpaper. After lunch I start to walk back east but my phone’s died and I have to ask someone for directions but she’s a fashion student who knows who I am and that makes me feel like, am I allowed to be smoking? Am I allowed to go on a date with Man? She, of course, is just nice, and tells me where to go, and sends me on my way, and the whole city is still really new to me so that adds to my lack of footing, but the coffee shop he’d suggested has a big flag outside. I don’t see him anywhere so I sit on a bench and stare straight ahead at nothing. He comes up and we hug awkwardly and agree to go down the street to a less crowded place and he is still not great at eye contact and my iced tea sits there for like ten minutes because I’m so nervous that the part of my body that gets thirsty or hungry has ceased to exist, and also because I’m so sure that everything I could do is the wrong thing, and because I’ve been told that as a general rule in hanging out with a guy I could literally do nothing and give him nothing and so I’d lose nothing. So I just don’t move. We end up being good at talking about pop culture and industry stuff and things outside of ourselves, so after a little bit we get up to take a walk, but the whole thing feels so deeply platonic, and I run out of things to say, and it feels like I’m just Man’s Friend’s weird small cousin who he was hanging out with as a favor, and I start getting used to the idea that this was something I’d built up a bunch in my mind that wouldn’t go anywhere and we’d run into each other later and it would just be like a weird fun fact that we’d once gone on an awkward date. We’re aimlessly heading north but then it starts raining—
TAYLOR: Did you kiss in the rain?
TAYLOR: So not Nicholas Sparks rain.
TAYLOR: Like, Paddington Bear rain.
TAYLOR: Got it.
ME: So he asked if I wanted to go back to his apartment, and I said yes. But then of course we just sat there and continued to have nothing to say—
TAYLOR: Where were you sitting and where was he sitting?
ME: I was on the couch. He was across from me in an armchair.
TAYLOR: Got it.
WAITER: Excuse me, can I get you anything to drink?
ME: Yeah, I’ll have the French Rose juice and an Americano?
WAITER: And you?
TAYLOR: I’ll have…an Americano, and…the French Rose juice? [Turns to me.] I always just order what other people drink. I don’t understand drinks.
ME: Me neither. Especially alcohol.
TAYLOR: Everything I do is imitation.
ME: Me too. So we were in his apartment and he left it up to me to decide what we’d do next and I wasn’t ready to give up so I said I was hungry. And we went back to the French restaurant where we’d gotten coffee but now it was nighttime so it was all romantic, which felt absurd considering how things had gone thus far, and I didn’t know what drink to order and they were already eyeing me and figuring out whether or not to card me, so he got rosé and after fumbling over the menu for like a million seconds I just said I’d take the same. So then they bring it and pour a little in my glass, and I don’t understand alcohol at this point so I assume a glass of wine is this pathetic little puddle in a goblet. I take it and say thank you, and they’re like, “No, do you like it?” So I do the all-important taste test and am like, “OH, yes, superb! Many thanks!!!”
The rest of the dinner is also stilted and awkward, and I’m fully expecting him to just be like, “Well, nice to meet you! Good luck with school!” basically up until the moment that he asks if I want to go back to his apartment. Again. So we do. I’m on the couch. And he pulls out this book, The Theory of the Young-Girl, which we’d talked about earlier in relation to late-capitalism and something else impersonal. He’s up doing something, and I can’t bother to look over and see what it is because that would mean showing interest, but I go out on the romantic limb of being a girl reading aloud from a book. But not that romantic, ’cause late-capitalism.
“The Young-Girl resembles her photo.” “The Young-Girl does not love; she loves herself loving.” “Between the Young-Girl and the world there is a window. Nothing touches the Young-Girl, the Young-Girl touches nothing.” And out of the corner of my eye, he’s suddenly just next to me as if the whole thing had gone GREAT and it was OBVIOUS that this was what was going to happen the whole time. And his face is getting closer, and I turn to him, and we start kissing. It’s such a relief but my brain is also like, Now I have to figure out what to do with THIS feeling. But he asks if I want to go lie down, and I do, and I’m very conscious of like, the way that I get up and walk and if I seem too eager or too uncomfortable or what. We’re next to each other in bed and he gets out his laptop and starts showing me playlists he’s made which allows me to marvel silently at a shared regard for art direction. He settles on one that is literally my own ’60s New York white boy acoustic one: “The Boxer,” “She Smiled Sweetly,” “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” And we start kissing again, and he says, “I think you’re very cute.” And because I am concerned with seeming at all passionate or invested, I go for the strictly clinical: “The feeling is mutual!” Then I resent myself for a few minutes until he says, “I think you’re very cute, and very sexy,” which relieves some of my concern around seeming too young in the wrong, un-sexy way, and lets me into a club—the Sexy People club—that can momentarily mute your constantly present fear of being too small, too obsessive, too Max Fischer, for any of this to be happening. To you. Right now. Six months after graduation.
Things sort of progress, but not really, like we both keep stopping and apologizing. He thinks maybe he had too much to drink and I think I had too little. I look at the clock and hours have passed. We actually cuddle up and fall asleep. I wake up before him and resist the urge to stare at his face. Everything in the room is white, and he has like, no stuff. He just looks like a really tall boy whose feet are dangling off the bed. Like he should be wearing a stocking cap in a Roald Dahl illustration. Or like his mom’s about to wake him up for school. But he wakes up on his own, and we randomly—I guess not that randomly—have sex. Um, successfully.