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Two Kinds of Love by Emmett Lindner | Word Riot
Creative Nonfiction

July 20, 2016      

Two Kinds of Love by Emmett Lindner

We stood at the edge of Marc’s farm close to midnight, next to the wall of corn, watching it grow and adjusting our senses to the light from the stars. The only other light available was a low lamp that bled from the small paned window in his creamery off in the distance. The air was cool; firm mud caked our shoes and held the soles close to the ground. Made us think twice before moving—the effort to shimmy our boots free felt monumental with nothing in the distance, where each step forward felt like standing still. We didn’t think there was much out there for us, anyway; nothing more interesting than the beer and smokes and slow conversation we found solace in as two fifteen year olds in a suburb we had already outgrown.
      At about midnight the silence of our world was interrupted when Marc’s cell phone rang. His dad, Roger, was calling—already a bad sign given the time of night. The man had lost himself to booze a few miles down the road in New Haven, but his hold on those who knew him when remained sober. Marc held onto a strong bond with the man, and for the past month or so was under the impression that he had been clean and on a path to regain his former self. As they spoke, Marc paced angrily and argued, his normally offensive motions stiff, then hung up. “My dad’s drinking again,” he said, a violence in his eyes.
      Marc was perpetually offended, and looked for a wrong in every casual word. He’d start physical fights over nothing; the kind of guy that asks someone he barely knows what they meant by a friendly hello, without caring what the answer is. I’d had to fend him off myself several times after he drank a certain amount. He’d push me into a wall, forearm to my chest and ask what the fuck I’d said, if I had said anything at all. If I, and the people around, refused to show fear and act the part in this play, the mood would turn back in the right direction—he was usually harmless among friends. These instances are part of a larger history of a bewildering toughness and his subscription to the persona. They say nothing, however, of the more tender moments when he’d cry after the beers hit him a certain way, and all of the thoughts he tried to menace into the dark suddenly found themselves alive and well.
      The softer side submitted to a greater anger that night on the farm. The phone call between Marc and Roger had been over for only a few moments, and Marc’s breath was already long winded and heavy, his shoulders tense while he paced back and forth. “He’s drinking again—I could tell from his voice,” he said. I tried to console in awkward ways, tried to sympathize or relate as best I could, but he wouldn’t hear me—he was too far into his own emotion, too close to drowning. At the edge of the corn stood an aluminum street sign that warned trespassers of getting the wrong idea about this remote, unfenced plot of land. It was planted firmly into the ground, and had little enough character for Marc to put all of his anger into. He walked up to it and exploded—he let out a long scream while he flew his closed fists in a fury at the square metal slab. When he stopped it was sudden, and he stared at his hands and walked back over to me. “Fucking look at this, dude,” he said. A strange half grin curved his face, his eyes cathartic. “Look how fucked my hands are. You see that?” They were, indeed, fucked: deep gashes slivered through his knuckles, bore layers of flesh that shouldn’t see the light of day. His hands shook uncontrollably while his face remained a crazed calm. Then, the bright headlights of a Seventies Pontiac cut through the dark, slowly bobbing with the rhythm of the uneven mud—Roger. Whatever conversation was had on the phone, Marc wasn’t the only one beside himself. The car parked and its engine switched off, the phantom traces of light from the headlamps drew a different shade over our night.
      Roger stepped out of the Pontiac and slowly walked toward us. He was a tall, thin man, who still wore his hair as close to the skull as the day he enlisted in ‘Nam. As he approached, he and Marc broke into an irritated back and forth, until attention shifted to the aluminum sign and then to Marc’s hands. “Ah—shit, Marc,” Roger said. He went back to the Pontiac and found some gauze in a medical kit, and when he returned he wrapped it around Marc’s wrists and over the knuckles. Calm collected in the instance they shared together, and for a moment they were boys again. What they shared I could only witness from the outside, until the two walked over to where I sadly smoked and watched with an unobtrusive solidarity. A fatherly vision ran through Roger, and he motioned toward his car. “Come with me,” he said. “I’ll buy you guys some cigarettes.” The man was wasted, but the kind of practiced alcoholic that can be better trusted behind a wheel than most newly licensed teens. For whatever reason I felt it safe and necessary to oblige. He walked the rest of the length to his Pontiac with a guilt and longing to be reconsidered, to give his son a different life than his own. He became an honest emotion, an essence of himself. I was drawn to it; I believed in it. He was, briefly, love and pain personified.
      I sat in the back seat of the aging Pontiac that didn’t have any seatbelts. The entire ride to the corner store Marc and Roger sat slumped toward each other—Roger spoke sad musings into his son’s ears and Marc listened quietly, wanting to hold onto the ad-hoc connection. Roger bought us each a pack of Marb Reds and we drove back to the farm.
      The paved road gave way to muck, and the No Trespassing sign reflected the headlights of Roger’s car. Ahead in the distance by the edge of the corn a pick up truck idled—in it was Tim, Marc’s brother, and his friend Nick Liotta. Roger shifted the Pontiac into park and opened his car door. “Hang on here,” Roger said, while he stretched out of the seat and made his way toward the truck, his motions twisted into a deliberate ferocity while his voice cut through the air: “Liotta. Hey, Liotta—you owe me money.” Liotta argued that he didn’t have any cash, but thick smoke and the smell of pot seeped from the truck’s windows. After a brief negotiation Roger accepted three joints as payment, which he made Liotta roll. He pocketed two and gave one to us, and then drove back off into whatever night he was living.
      Marc and I sat in the creamery with the dim and steady light that found its home in the back edges of the farm. We were between boxes and discarded shelves and abandoned furniture, smoking the J that Roger had parted with. Marc talked about how great it was his dad had bought us cigarettes and given us pot, finding apologues between the words Roger imparted in the brief moments we were together.

***

      Michelle stood at the opposite end of the bed, her silk nighty curved elegantly around her petite figure. She was silhouetted by the window frame, the curtains pulled together and bleeding Pacific sunlight onto her blonde hair. She was crying from too much rum and the hopeless weight of the situation. We were in this hotel room a mile from LAX because of, what was essentially, a dare. I had broken up with her my freshman year of college, and we had gotten back together the next summer when we were both home. In this time, she began an affair with one of my best friends, and after I discovered the infidelity I harbored a fiery grudge, and made a public vow to never contact her again. This lasted for about nine months, until the next summer when I came home for one week before moving to Los Angeles. I ran into her at a party, where we eventually found ourselves embraced in a bathroom, remembering the reasons our bodies felt right bound together. Soon I headed West, and one night as I sat in a quiet backyard, drunk on High Life, she called. She was also clouded by more than a few drinks, and a mutual fury of words and anger ended with her asking how she could regain my trust. As a reflex I told her she’d have to fly out to California from Connecticut, knowing she likely wouldn’t but hoping for a chance to be with her again. Two days later I received an email with her itinerary.
      We found ourselves in this room soaked in balls of hash and sweat and sex. Compounded emotion hung in the air like the smog outside—home was never meant to travel this far. We were both stubborn and stoned whenever together, and now on the other side of the country everything we would never say to the other was left to filter around us, still unspoken. To this day these impossible whispers remain fragments of the best and worst parts of ourselves.
      We stood across the bed from each other and argued—I can’t remember about what— while tears streamed down her soft cheeks, and then she said: “I can’t believe you told people we did anal.”
      “People knew you had anal way before we were dating, Michelle.” She burst into angry sobs and pushed past me toward the bathroom, where she shut the door behind herself. I opened the door and she came running back out—I grabbed her and held her close, staring into her eyes while she looked deep into mine with hurt and confusion, and in this state her crying stopped. I leaned in to kiss her because it felt romantic and cinematic and I had no clue what to do next. Instead of meeting me with a passionate embrace she flung herself away. I turned my back to her and walked toward the bathroom where I sat inside the empty tub, eyes intent on the egg-white linoleum that numbed my frustration because there was nothing in the poorly lacquered wall at all. I wished I could meditate on the clean surface for a while—lose my senses in the lines between the tile. A few minutes passed and I looked over to see her leaned against the door frame, her figure now calm. She stared at me in silence; her tears had begun to dry. “I shouldn’t have tried to kiss you,” I said, full of shame.
***

      I don’t write this story about the Los Angeles hotel room to detract from Marc’s. I write the memory because it helps me understand why I felt such empathy that night on the farm.
      I feel guilt now because I related so much to the pain and anger that Marc felt, though I know nothing first hand of an alcoholic father. But I know anger—I know frustrations that hide and collect in some corner of the mind, that come at me with the force of their collected pain or doubt and disdain for themselves, blind to reason and knowing only the force they twist into my muscles and tightened chest. I seem to have sought out pain, and still do—at one point or another I decided it was love. Pain, or its supposition, feels at times like the only emotion I can connect with romantically, and in high school I began to associate life with a sudden and dramatic turn of events that left me blindsided but feeling alive. I don’t believe in romantic love unless it physically hurts to be away from someone—where I remain uncertain that the pain from separation is reciprocated. The doubt delights and terrifies me—I’m not in love if I’m not afraid of its impending demise.
      Although it’s lessened in recent years, I’m prone to sudden and deep infatuations, mostly with women I know I can’t stay with for longer than a night or two; women who have to be on their way back to Tel Aviv or San Francisco or Seattle, who evoke a bliss inside of me from a connection that is probably stronger because we both know it can’t last. Michelle began as an infatuation, and brought about the pain I discuss. In this doomed relationship I felt the hot anger in my veins when she was off in some forest cabin with a few friends, her ex boyfriend among them who I knew she was still sleeping with years before she told me it was so. I reveled in this misery, because it was fast and focused and begged conflict. We would fight about the texts I sent that were left to thin air or her quick rise to anger at the mention of an affair, and suddenly I was worth a fight. I was worth passion, for better or for worse. Maybe I was worth love, too, and she was the one to love me because the pain and longing became mutual.
      There are all kinds of love, and all sorts of ways that I try to feel alive. There are familial bonds, and there are infatuations that disguise themselves as something more. They both tug at the same hurt. Marc and I are both burdened by a want to be loved in impossible ways, and we are both defiant against the truth: that love should exist outside of anger and uncertainty. Michelle and I broke up my freshman year of college, but have since fallen into each other’s arms every time our paths cross. We try to fight this chemical connection we can’t seem to shake, and it only hurts us more as we surrender to the heartache. I haven’t kept in touch with Marc enough to know where he and his father now stand.
      I still lash out against the inanimate when light flashes suddenly on those darkened corners of my mind. Maybe these reflections will help. Maybe I can love myself by understanding why I never could before, and thereby hold less stock in flighty passions. Maybe someday Marc and I can sit in his creamery after it’s been remodeled and made warm, and we’ll sip stout beer and talk about anything because we’re content in ways that matter.

About the author:

Emmett was raised in New England, and has been happily corrupted by the L.A. weather after only three years in the city. He graduated from CU Boulder with a degree in creative writing, and has since worked in television development and private aircraft chartering. He now resides in East Hollywood.

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