“Four happy days bring in Another moon. But O, methinks, how slow This old moon [wanes!] She lingers my desires Like to a step-dame or a dowager Long withering out a young man’s revenue.”
— William Shakespeare, A Midsummer’s Night Dream
“I’m tellin’ you for one last time It’s not just you The problem’s mine to hide I waited as long as I could If you need it, sure I would That’s fine”
— Dinosaur, Jr., "Start Choppin’”
The cracks in the road look like the vase I once smashed in the throes of tinnitus. I still have tinnitus – this aching, echoing, pulsation where I hear nothing and everything all at once (that’s what I get for turning the stereo up to eleven to drown out my nerves one too many times). The vase is long gone, though. I spent two months working on it in my ceramics class. I remember seeing the world through antique sixties-era druggie sunglasses in my oversized apron, a tangible aura of angst radiating from my scrawny limbs. Not a lot has changed. I reach for a cigarette deep in the pockets of my ratty trench coat and then remember that I don’t smoke – I’ve never smoked.
Ovid’s probably out of his mind right now, twitching on my scratchy, plaid couch and staring at static on the TV. I remember when I told him that I liked him – this teenage confession, with butterflies escaping my mouth. I remember when he played me the song he’d written about me: two chords and a voice so loud the lyrics were a blur. His archaic punk shirt folded and left his scrawny body a mystery underneath his front of arrogance and self-assurance. His glasses kept falling down and I wanted to push them up to his myopic eyes, to make him see what I’m only beginning to see now.
I walk past Seventieth Street, which is one of my all-time favourites. There’s a record store, and a pawn shop. I sit there beside buskers and cry for a few hours a week. It’s cheaper than therapy. I imagine concepts for experimental films and freak myself out, staring out into the rain. It’s always raining in this city. Not that I’m complaining; it’s just that it’s hard to see things in the light when the sun forgets you exist.
I squint at my wreck of an apartment building. I didn’t have a lot of options for locales really; my budget was meager. Plus, I (actually Ovid) needed a landlord who wasn’t always on our back about smells. That sounds a lot more suggestive than it is. Ovid likes pot. A lot. He also likes to play his contrived, volume-reliant sleaze when he gets messed up on pot or something stronger. We used to listen to stuff together, until I pushed too hard on trying to get him to appreciate John Lennon.
I sit in my room most nights and listen to three-dollar cassettes and pretend I’m Steve Albini or someone who can cash in on their nihilism. I often sit on my saggy bed staring out at the sliver of the moon and wonder when I became encased in this world of “almosts.” When I started making compromises about whom and what I felt comfortable with. What I felt safe around. My room’s got these really great wooden floors and there’s one floorboard I can lift up and hide stuff under: my old reading glasses, some change, and a manuscript that will never be published.
* * *
The morning tugs at my chest and allows the worries that have stirred around my sternum to rise, stagnant and rotten and personified by heartburn. I stare at my floor, covered with ripped up clothes and sub-par shoes that have all lasted way longer than conceivable.
One of my Doc Martens is covered in white paint. A reminder of when Ovid and I first moved in together. We were smitten with each other’s sarcasm, twin cynics, forever indebted to the writings of those fed up with life when we hadn’t lived much of a life at all. Now the boots strike me as a smirking symbol – my life suddenly fitting the codes and conventions of a sappy novella.
I often spend my mornings like this. Staring at the spackled ceiling and reeling from stale psychedelic music still playing in the living room from Ovid’s pawn shop stereo. Then I realize that I have to go outside, to brave the looks of the people who just instinctively know that I’m pretending; people who classify me as just another failed punker wandering around aimlessly – probably on drugs. A month ago, I was. But now my heart sags like a menopausal breast because a decision has been lingering around my migraine mind, refusing to spill out like word vomit.
* * *
Paul Westerberg is the King of Heartache, so I drop the needle on an old Replacements gem and breathe in. Today’s the day that I tell him. It’s easier thought than said, of course, as I see him slink into the room, his shoulders sloping downwards like my confidence.
“Ovid!” I call out with all the grace and elegance of a drunkard.
“Ye-ah” he answers, breaking up monosyllabic noises into complicated stains.
“Going? Where?” His eyes are shrunken, dark pools that reflect his jaded morning ill.
“Seattle or someplace different than this.”
“I thought that you said you were okay with things. You know? How I make a living and all.”
That kills me. How I make a living. He makes the opposite of a living. Funneling all of his money into his drug enterprise, awful rap records, shirts he spends way too much money on. I love his vigour, his youthful jump and enthusiasm. The way he never says no, but that’s also what I can’t stand about him. How he orders his values. How he pretends that he’s okay when he’s definitely not okay and neither am I. How he shrugs an ethereal shrug at a truly fucked up situation that could not only get one arrested but could also drive any plans for the future into the ground, creating the cracks in the asphalt like the ones on Seventieth Street.
* * *
The rest of the night is anti-climactic. I say goodbye and I could swear that Ovid shrugs. He digs around in the pantry for some shitty breakfast cereal and murmurs, “I’ll miss you.”
The really sad thing is that I’ll really miss him. I’ll miss the Ovid that I created – the one I wrote about in my manuscript, the one that was only revealed slowly and never wholly.
He had a smile that flooded me with glee and optimism and, once, purposeful direction that was going to land us somewhere on the giant map of musical success.
I’m never publishing that manuscript because I hope that someday Ovid will find it – with all of its errors and doodles, with all of its regrets and hopes – and read it and cry like I’ve cried with buskers who sing dime-a-dozen Oasis songs to help quell the pain. I’m also never going to publish it because it’s a story that belongs to us – one riddled with the nuisance of drugs and misfortune and other things that should be illegal.
I leave the reading glasses too, for two reasons: firstly, because they look very Lennon and I hope someday he’ll come to his senses about the Beatles’ talent and influence, and secondly because I’m not really looking forward to seeing a world where he is only in the foreground, a memory.
I’m not excited about reading books about love and the flourishing of new relationships. The sting of one that could have been – had Ovid been the permanent version of his werewolf charmer self will linger like the full moon I see through the bus window. Funny, it’s serene out with the swelling craterous presence in the sky, familiar like Ovid’s big brown eyes, but somehow foreign and promising. I’ve got a lot of phases left, that’s for sure.