some fall in love. i shatter.

More Than I Know (#18)

In Stories Volume 1 on July 2, 2012 at 11:18 am


New York is a great city to enter but a better one to exit.  Coming in, you’re wide-eyed, fresh, ready for experiences, and hungry to taste what the world has to offer.  But when you leave, your focus is narrowed, you’ve lived the experiences, you’ve learned from them, and your palate is refined.  By the time you leave New York, you know what you want and you should be on your way to find it.

Postcard Coney Island.  The boardwalk packed, the carnival lights of the Wonder Wheel and the Parachute Jump triumphant over the night sky, the expansive blackness of the Atlantic Ocean encroaching.  4×6, clean straight lines, wholesomeness on display, neighborhood reality outside the edges.  Idealization running rampant – that’s the idea.  This postcard is meant to be bookend of sorts – one coast to the other.

On the other side, I write, “There’s a certain amount of surprise missing from modern society, isn’t there?”  I don’t sign it – just address it, drop it into a mailbox at the next intersection, and leave New York in pursuit of what I want.



Living so near to it and having so many friends come from there, I thought I knew New Jersey.  Newark International fading from my rearview mirror, though, the landscape becomes as foreign as anything else I’d never truly encountered.  The names ring so familiar but beneath the surface, they mean nothing.  East Orange, Parsippany, Rockaway, Roxbury Township.  Fielding is from Jersey, his parents still live somewhere named Mahwah but we’ve never visited them together.  He’s never invited me for the holidays or reunions or birthdays, and he’s never told his parents about me.  I can’t be certain but I don’t think he ever told them he was gay.  28 years old, almost 29, and he couldn’t even admit to me that he couldn’t admit it to them.  It saddens me and somehow makes me love him more.

New Jersey.  Fielding always said it like it was old and provincial, as if no gay sons had come from Jersey and it was his burden to bear.  I offered him a shoulder and he refused it, even from within the safety of Brooklyn.  We could share time and love and practically everything else, but he would never take my support when it came to that one thing.  So I never knew Mahwah and still don’t as it lays outside the course of my directions.  Some things are destined to remain mysteries but I hope that this gambit begins to unravel the Gordian knot of Fielding’s distance and detachment.



The Delaware River makes for an uninspired crossing-over point from Jersey to Pennsylvania but it’s fast, it’s simple, and there’s no traffic.  My route through the Keystone State keeps me on the northern side of things, still fairly close to New York as if it can only let me go by degrees, a gradual loosening of the grip instead of a fist flung open with empty fingers splayed out.

I’ve been to Philadelphia once, Pittsburgh once, and that is the extent of my time in Pennsylvania.  It’s midday as I pass through most of the state and from the highway, everything seems bucolic and quaint.  Fielding told me stories about school trips to Philly – he liked it there, liked the atmosphere, but by the time he was old enough to move out, the lure of New York was much stronger.  It was a much cooler place to be.  Fielding often promised to take me to Philadelphia but it never happened.  The one time I went for work, he offered to accompany me but backed out at the last minute.  His own deadlines at the architecture firm stood in the way and his clients didn’t understand the whims of a man in love or at least close to in love.  I didn’t hold it against him, his building plan had been behind schedule.  I believed he would have taken me if possible.

There were so many things that Fielding and I discussed doing: Philly, camping in the Adirondacks, a weekend in the Bahamas.  Thing is, we discussed these things while sitting around the apartment or bars, or walking down Third Avenue, and we never made it outside the confines of our own prison.  Our failure to mobilize together was surely a contributing factor in Fielding’s decisions.  To go to San Francisco, to abandon the architectural work that wasn’t progressing quickly enough, to make one last effort at the painting he claimed to love.



I’m having my first doubts as the sun sets and I pass into Ohio.  It’s something to do with passing over into the great span of states that I know nothing about.  It’s emblematic.  I begin asking myself what I really know about Fielding, about us, about our mutual and distinct desires for the future, desires of each other, motivations, fears.  Commitment is obviously one of his fears; though we’ve been together for nearly a year he doesn’t call me his boyfriend or partner, says nothing to his parents, often keeps me at arms length emotionally and blames it on a lifelong tendency towards being distant.  It isn’t true – well, he is distant, that much is true, but it’s always seemed a little more directed towards me.

San Francisco was a complete surprise.  An invitation from two friends with a newly opened gallery, an offer to host him and his work.  Fielding had recently started painting again.  His new paintings were all good but none of them were great.  I still encouraged him.  Fielding planned it all on his own and then told me just one week before leaving.  Quit his job, sublet his apartment, told me we’d explore “the long-distance thing” but I knew he just wanted to explore a different side of his life.  A life without me.

So why am threading my way between Cleveland and Toledo?  Why do I think that surprising him is a good idea?  I ask myself these questions as the sky turns deeper blue and then black, as I think I see Lake Erie to the north but it’s just an illusion.  Why?  Is it because I love Fielding?  That’s hard to say as Fielding is such a difficult man to love, which doesn’t mean that he’s incapable of love or undeserving of love, just that it requires more of an effort.  Maybe it’s love.  Maybe it’s that I don’t want these months to have just been wheel-spinning.  I want my time and commitment and effort to come to something.  Maybe I want to give him the surprise that he’s been missing.  Do I love him?  I don’t know.  I’m getting older and that seems to worry me more than I ever anticipated.  Is Fielding my youth?

If I keep thinking like this I’m going to drive into a ditch.



Interstate 80 through Indiana runs right along the northern border with Michigan.  At times, the highway veers dangerously close to the other state.  It’s as if the road can’t make up its mind and wants things to be both ways.  I understand this, I relate to this, and it tears me to shreds to realize that I may be closer to a strip of highway than I am to Fielding.

One week before he left, Fielding revealed his plan to me and said we could attempt a long-distance relationship.  Then the day before he left, Fielding said it wasn’t worth the effort.  That the separation would be too vast.  That we were both plotting different courses in different directions.  Part of it seemed a genuine change of heart and part of it seemed his intention the entire time.  We both looked hurt.



Illinois comes with a whisper.  It may as well be a dream, or a fantasy, or a nightmare.  Everything seems to be blending together.

I’m stopped in a motel for the night.  I arrived in Lansing as the weight of my eyelids was winning the war.  I was exhausted from driving and really needed to be out of the car.  The solitude had crept under my skin, making me question everything and wearing away my conviction to continue heading west.  Now that I’m in a comfortable bed with plenty of light around me, now that I’ve had some interaction with others and not just my own voice, I’m feeling better about things.  I realize the daringness of this plan.  I understand that realistically this could go either way but I know that it’ll go my way and Fielding’s way, that our ways will be one.  I have to know that, otherwise what am I doing?



It actually feels good to get back into the car and continue westward.  The sleep was refreshing, I feel good about my decisions, I feel good about myself and about Fielding; as good as one can when chasing down his lover who has fled with barely a word of communication.

I’m trying to be realistic.  Hopeful, but realistic.  We had seemed so well suited.  He the architect and painter, creative and striving; me the lawyer, mature and stable.  I suppose you could reframe those descriptions as ‘fun’ and ‘boring’ but we were more complimentary than anything else.  Energizing and calming.

I’ve been thinking that Fielding’s decision must have been his succumbing to fear, to his own tactics of emotional distancing.  Why else cut and run so suddenly after almost a year?  It doesn’t make sense, there’s no logic.  We can work through this, I just need to talk to him.



As hopeful as I am, the desolate expanse of Nebraska is difficult to pass through with only my thoughts as companions.  I can’t help but feel a measure of insignificance and it’s sort of awful when I’m trying to build myself up.

I tried calling Fielding again but it’s still going straight to voicemail.  It’s been like that since the week before.  I can’t tell if he’s turned the phone off or if he just isn’t taking my calls.  I don’t know if he’s okay or if something happened to him.  He gave me the address for where he’s staying so I don’t think he’s willfully avoiding me or trying to hide.  Fielding gave it to me when he first announced his impending departure so he must have had a genuine change of heart.  I knew it.  I can do this.  Thank goodness I’ll be able to find him.



What seems funny to me is how abstract and meandering my thoughts become the further I travel west.  It’s as if the hang-ups and the baggage and all the connections I have on the east coast actually weigh down my thoughts and hinder them from roaming.  There’s a freedom to this American West that I thought was nothing more than a fanciful notion in the mythology of America.  Did Fielding know about this?  If he did, then this may have been the real motivation for leaving and maybe he kept it to himself because he thought I wouldn’t understand.  Maybe he didn’t need to spend more time explaining and instead needed to be doing, immersing himself in the mental freedom.

That freewheeling freedom is exactly what the two of us need together.  To break free of his hang-ups, for me to loosen up, to not frighten him with my commitment.  Out here, I don’t even think about Fielding being my only long-term relationship since I was… God, since I was Fielding’s age.



Utah leaves me feeling defensive and besieged.  I drive quickly without exceeding the speed limit too flagrantly.



Nevada forces you to think about gambling, there’s no way around it.  I’m taking stock and telling myself how much of a gamble this whole adventure is.  To drive cross-country with the intent of bringing Fielding home, to throw down the gauntlet of our relationship, to open myself to the thought of leaving New York behind for good, to prove that even as I approach 43 I can have the ambition and daringness of 30.

I was thinking that every gamble has a winner and a loser but that isn’t true, is it?  If I can set things back on course with Fielding then we both win, don’t we?  And if I can’t, well, I’m the loser but I don’t know where he’ll think he stands.



I experience a measure of calmness after passing Reno and crossing the border into California.  It’s like I shook a gambling habit and entered rehabilitation – who says states don’t have stereotypes for good reasons.  Something to the air, whether it’s the scent of inevitability or the grid of design flowing into my nostrils, seeping into my veins, and coursing through my body.  I can see Fielding meeting me at his front door, surprised by my arrival, elated, taking me in his arms, finding happiness again and sharing it.  I can also see him rebuffing me, shocked, outraged at my unprovoked forwardness, shutting the door, sending me back alone.  I see two realities occurring at the same time.  I see both possibilities.

California – the land of dreams and harsh realities.  I suppose it’s not so different from New York, is it?  These east-west edges of the country with open water to inspire us; do our dreams lie on the ocean tides?  We made it work in New York for 12 months so why couldn’t we do it here?  The more I think of it, the more I think that Fielding was onto something.  He always has been something of a genius in the abstract even if he could be dense in the realm of relationships.



I drive back in one shot, fueled by caffeine, rage, a need to set my life on track, a need to be back in New York, a need to get off the road as quickly as possible before I kill someone, accidentally or intentionally.

After days and thousands of miles, he couldn’t even meet me, couldn’t even offer me the face-to-face courage of his stance.  His friend answered the door.  Claimed I had the wrong address.  I could see his fucking paintings in the hallway!  I drove across the goddamn country!  He could have at least talked to me and told me that it was over.  I mean, really over.  God, was I operating under some massive delusion the entire time?  I feel so stupid.  So old and so stupid.

Oh, Fielding, you think you’re so wise with your youth and your wide eyes.  You think your ambition and a fresh start is all you need.  Well, I’ve left you messages and tried to warn you that it isn’t that easy, that you’re ill-suited to handle the emotional ups and downs on your own, that you’re nothing more than another newcomer and once that sheen’s worn off, you’ll just be nothing out there.  It isn’t a land of dreams, no place is.  It’s a land of delusions where everyone keeps pretending that the dream can come true, even for the shattered and the tired and the broken down.  The delusion is a drug that everyone nods off on.  At least back home we know when the dream is broken, and once we know, we learn how to get on and get by.  That’s why I can’t wait to be back.  To formally give up this dream and get on.



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