Friday, October 15, 2010

Aimless Reading: The K's, Part 13 (Natsuo Kirino)

Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Kirino, Natsuo

Sent to me by the publisher. I think they also sent me her novel, Grotesques, which I started but didn't finish. I didn't get around to this one, but I think Lori may have read it. I may have given the other one away or sold it to the book store. La la.

Still thinking about my father. In the last year of his life he really saved mine. After'd I'd returned from Ecuador I'd gotten involved with someone in New York -- I've spoken about her before. After the relationship ended, I crashed. Hard. I wandered around New York for months like a a ghost. My friends constantly asked if I was alright, even when I thought I was feeling relatively good.

I remember hearing the lines from that Paul Simon song--

"Losing love is like a window in your heart.
Everybody sees you're blown apart.
Everybody sees the wind blow... "

--and thinking that everyone on the street could see my insides all the time. It was horrible. I went to one therapy session and the therapist asked within five minutes if I intended to hurt myself.

One night I called my friend, C., an ex-roommate who'd moved up to W. 108th St. I told her I needed to talk to someone and she invited me over. We sat up late talking until she had to get her sleep to get to work the next morning.

I let myself out after she'd gone and walked all the way from 108th and Amsterdam to E. 4th and Ave. B. Later, she told me that in the middle of the night I'd called her on the phone and told her I wanted to die. She tried to stop me, but I hung up. I said that was impossible because I was asleep on the couch and there was no way I could have called her. To this day she swears it was no dream.

I arrived home that morning at about 11 AM. I climbed the five flights of stairs to the empty apartment. When I sat down, I just started weeping. I knew I could no longer function. I called my father in DC and told him how badly things were going. He said, Wait there, I'll come pick you up. He arrived around dinner time and I packed my things, left a note for my roommate and got in the car.

During the five hour drive to Northern Virginia, we talked a lot, mostly about relationships and women and so forth. He told me for the first time that he'd been engaged in his mid-twenties and that his fiancee had ditched him because of his drinking. Apparently he'd been very hurt by this. I remember he kept saying things like, I don't know what women are like these days with all of this feminism shit, but... I remember laughing a little.

For me, that ride was much more significant than the time I ran away from home. Not so much a coming-of-age as a coming-to-see my father as a human being. A flawed human being, to be sure, but not the bad man I'd turned him into during my teenage rebellion. He was no longer a symbol or an archetype after that. Just a guy who'd been formed by a particular set of circumstances to which he'd responded in the various way that he knew how. A complex person, like everyone else.

Another father figure, Mr. M., was also useful in his own laconic way while I was home. I went to the M's annual holiday party that year and sat quietly in the corner sipping a coke and chain-smoking. Mr. M approached and asked what was wrong. I told him the whole sad story and he said, Mike, you have to get over it. You have to. You have no choice.

It didn't really help in the moment, but his words echoed back to me often during the next year, especially when my father died the following November.

I returned to NY in January and started temping again. I got a job at Hyperion Publishing. I stayed there for about six months. It was an awful job, but the stability of a paycheck and a place to go eight hours a day helped me a lot.

God, what an excruciating year.

I have been reading Nada Gordon's blog posts about her very public breakup with Gary Sullivan of late and have been reminded about just how hard that year was. New York can feel like a big mean empty place when you feel that way.

from Out

She got to the parking lot earlier than usual. The thick, damp July darkness engulfed her as she stepped out of the car. Perhaps it was the heat and humidity, but the night seemed especially lack and heavy. Feeling a bit short of breath, Masako Katori looked up at the starless night sky. Her skin, which had been cool and dry in the air-conditioned car, began to feel sticky. Mixed in with the exhaust fumes from the Shin-Oume Expressway, she could smell the faint odor of deep-fried food, the odor of the boxed lunch factory where she was going to work.

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