Monday, August 4, 2014

Schadenfreude

Ivan Vasiliev and Natalia Osipova, "Solo for Two"
Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading them to experience the same emotions as those around them. Emotional contagion is well established in laboratory experiments, in which people transfer positive and negative moods and emotions to others.~"Experimental Evidence of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks," Adam Kramer, et al.
Our beliefs about what we are and what we can be precisely determine what we can be.~Tony Robbins
Let your smile be your umbrella.~Bing Crosby
Ever since I decided to write something cheerful, I've been fighting the urge to binge drink Sapporo beer, protest Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their own land—then protest the other protesters because this genocide has been going on for 50 years already, so what the fuck, motherfuckers?—also to use the compound word 'motherfucker' in every possible sentence, and to sulk. 

          I've been picking fights under the guise of standing up for myself, making up stories to explain why I'm uneasy, why others should censor themselves so I don't have to. Curt, my first love, writes to me from Southeast Asia, 8,000 miles away, and I'm displeased. Poor, sensitive Charlotte. Curt describes getting a massage in a curtained cubicle in a shopping mall, beside a Starbucks. He's tired from all that shopping so Curt pays 400 pesos, about six bucks, for a one-hour massage. The girl asks him to remove all his clothing and she watches as he does this. She asks him to lie on his stomach. He tells me how good her hands feel on him, how sensual. She asks him to turn over and, of course, he's hard. She's 20, he writes, with big lips and a willing smile. I've cleaned up his version a little. Yes, okay, a lot.

          I am not cheerful; I'm a sullen, angry motherfucker.



I start telling him the fantasy I had the night before—to put us on more equal footing, I think, as if perhaps I hope to ease the shame of remaining untouched. Even to me, my words sound prudish and absurd. I hit the Reply key anyway and go to bed.

          I dream I'm dressing for a wedding I've been to before—the wedding of a friend that took place a few years ago. For the real wedding, I wore clothes that felt unnatural and stiff. I'm always embarrassed when I have to dress up. Here I wear a beautiful, sweeping gown that looks weightless and fragile, like it's made of gold leaf, with a snug, black velvet bodice. But it's strapless and if I can't find something to cover my big bare shoulders and swelling arm fat, I will miss the wedding. Getting dressed beside me is my date to the wedding, and I'm surprised to see it's Curt, who is totally unaware of me. But there are two Curts—they're knotting each other's ties—and I can't decide which Curt is mine. If I don't sort that out, I'll definitely miss the wedding.  



The next day Curt asks polite questions about my stupid fantasy and I'm even less cheerful.

          In an effort to cheer the fuck up, I try to explain myself to Curt although, as I said, I suspect I'm just making things up to justify my black mood. But what if my lies are actually the truth I've been avoiding? 

          It's true. I do want Curt to be reverent and kneel at the altar of First Love, the same way I do. He can pay for three blow jobs a day for all I care, just don't tell me about it. Be different with me. I want to be passionately in love and, because I'm not and don't expect to be again, the next best thing is memory. It turns out it's like visiting a grave, though. Here lies First Love. Still, I want Curt to admit our graveyard isn't the best setting for a blow job with a stranger.

          Curt replies. After delivering a scathing monologue on the judgmental and hypocritical attitudes of the west, Curt apologizes for his insensitivity to my feelings. Weirdly, I know he's being sincere. It's even possible he has understood me quite well. Although he probably just thinks I need to get laid. A dense fog is lifting and in the new emotional landscape that's starting to take shape I see nothing familiar.

          I read a new poem by Dani Kopoulos in the Summer issue of Sufi Journal, and write down the lines

all the complexities
of our oneness and separation 
are made simple
and beautiful
by impermanence.

let that haunt you
and you'll know what to do.

          I watch a new TV program called "Married." In it, a middle-aged couple goes on vacation hoping to rekindle their romance. They've just met the couple from the next room; she has a belly-button piercing and perky tits, and her boyfriend looks like a body builder. Once inside their room, as the married couple start to touch each other, they hear the couple next door fucking like animals. Meanwhile, our married couple is struggling; every position they try is uncomfortable; at one point her head stops bobbing under the sheets and she whines, "If I go on any longer I'm gonna get lockjaw." He mounts her proudly but slips out after a couple of thrusts and can't make himself rise again. Then she falls asleep while he lies awake in the dark and listens to their neighbors pounding and moaning. 

          That makes me cheerful.

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