Coversations with Joey / My Hidden Lives // Prose

161. about my oldest character


I wrote about him for a long time. Exclusively almost to the point of saying I was in a monogamous relationship with a character of my own creation. I wrote a lot and I wrote for a long time. I wrote about him.

No one could embody everything I used to believe Joey could become. After all, I’d written about him for years. There were details in between the lines as well as within, there were subtle nuances: directions and advice, prayers and desires, hopes, memories, illusions and confusion, there were real things and imaginary ones, moments when I scribbled true nonsense in the air with smiles and breathing, alive; others when I crumbled and tried to smother myself between the pages of a notebook, sitting in an office chair for hours to invent a good dream for us.

Sometimes nothing came to mind. When I look back, those were probably the best days. After producing a poem or a story I particularly liked, one that was kind to both of us, I was inevitably gripped by sadness.

Perhaps a vivid imagination is more of a curse, I thought, with all those roundabout ways to happiness lying listed before me, not a single one of which – I knew – would come true. Who can say, if it is better, in turn, to live in perpetual okay-ness than struggle with rationalizing why certain situations can so easily turn to joy in literature, and yet fester and decay in reality.

I asked him about it the last time we saw each other, face to face.

„Joey, why do we always skip the simple solutions and try to trace fresh paths in the jungles of our over-crowded, over-complicated lives, when there are roads we’ve already built and could easily drive on?“

True to the person I designed him to be, Joey replied –

„Because simple is often that only when you consider it superficially. Because simple could never do for people like me and you. Because we never even wanted simple.“

We’d grown apart as much by then for me to be able to make up my own mind about whether or not his apparent wisdom was anything more than trivial, philosophical bullshit.

I did. I wanted simple. I wanted straightforward and uncomplicated and tangible. Don’t try to divide the guilt now, it’s pointless. Say what you really mean.“

To this day, I’ve never uttered a lie as convincingly as then. I had no interest in what he really meant, I only wanted him to join in my pity-party for what could have been a love story for the ages, but failed to live up to its potential.

„Alright. I can be blunt if I have to. Because you were young. Because you were crazy at times, the kind of crazy my own crazy couldn’t deal with. Because I was young, and I was crazy most of the time, the kind of crazy your crazy didn’t need the addition of. We needed anchors, Missus, not hurricanes. Whether you want to admit it or not, that’s what we were, what we still are. Two swirling, beautiful, yet terrible, natural disasters. We would’ve torn each other not to pieces, but atoms. Neutrons and protons and electrons. Quarks even.“

„Isn’t that what happened anyway, though?“

Joey never replied, I didn’t expect him to. I wrote more. Exclusively. Selfishly. Maniacally.

I squeezed him into every day I lived through, after he was gone. What he’d say, how he’d react to this or that, how he’d laugh at good news, how he’d console me after failures. My journal stopped being my journal, it became a dialogue.

Until, on a seemingly ordinary evening, my character dared to ask the question I could not form in the first person singular.

„Don’t you have any other friends,“ Joey teased. „Why are you still rehashing these conversations? You can’t change the outcome anymore.“

„It’s like when you get a tattoo,“ I said. „All these words, they’re like excess ink and blood seeping through. I need to remove them from my mind, wipe them off its sleek surface, to see the final product of what we’ve done to each other. By the time I’ve finished, you’ll have become a beautiful artwork. Clean, well-defined edges, no puss nor fear of infection. I’m waiting for your silhouette to become as sharp as it can be.“

I wrote about Joey for a long time, exclusively. Waiting for the verbal lens in my inner left-brain camera to zoom in and finally produce an in-focus image of who he was when I looked at him behind tall, dew-kissed blades of grass and saw, for the first time, a person I wanted to save. Save in life, save for posterity; I wanted the too-often-indifferent world to know without a doubt that he’d existed. That he’d been loved. I wrote about him a lot.

I wrote about me.



You think, therefore you are.

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