Thursday, June 27, 2013

Moments Before Midnight, I think I found Grandma


Your Grandpa was an insufferable romantic, tempered only by his belief for large swaths of his life that he would probably end up alone.  That this blog, these messages to people that I didn't yet know might be destined to be intended for no one at all.  A message in a bottle, as it were, thrown into the ocean only to be ceaselessly adrift, amidst the vast expanse of the internet.  My realism tempered my romanticism, it was the only thing that could keep me bearable rather than insufferable.

I would sit quietly, as I have my whole life, and stare surreptitiously at lovers and other strangers.  On buses, and benches, in my best friend's home with his wife, at my parents.  I have made a study of love, or at least its outward spectacle, its forms and idiosyncrasies, how two personalities interact with each other.  I never discriminated.  I spent as much time looking at love destined to end as I have spent observing love destined to last.  I tried to look for the patterns, the ebb and the flow.  I wanted to understand what ideas about love were real and what were illusory and keep my eyes open for it if it came.  It has always seemed to me to be a pressing study.

When I'd break now and then out of my reverie and observations, my mind would wander to where Grandma might be at that very moment.  Was she alone, or with another man?  Was she happy?  Would it be better if we were together right now, this very moment?  Or are her experiences, now this very moment wherever she might be, what brings her to me, and me to her?

I'd imagine where we'd be when we first met.  How she'd look, how'd I'd be dressed.  What the weather was like outside.  What we'd talk about.  Would I say something funny, something memorable?  How we would get over ourselves enough to let each other in, trust one another.  And whether we'd even realize what was in front of us before we let it slip away.

So you can imagine my surprise now that it seems all of those moments have already happened.  Not today or yesterday or the day before.  Half a lifetime ago, with someone that I couldn't have imagined would come back to me.

This is bizarre.  My mind is cautious and weary.  Within three weeks of meeting her again, I was walking to see her at her work.  Posted to a construction site wall, mere seconds away from her, I saw for the first time the poster for 'Before Midnight'.  I was flabbergasted.  How I had not known the movie was made, let alone to be released in 2 days, was beyond me.  How I could have discovered it as I was going to see her made me feel very...uneasy.  Like this was a message from higher powers that didn't generally involve themselves in my lowly adventures, my comings and goings.  As if this new adventure, this narrative, with this woman, a love long lost like Jesse and Celine's finally given life again as in 'Before Sunset', was deigned from on high.

And was now, firmly, mine to lose.

Insufferable was the word I used earlier.  If I find myself insufferable, I wonder how Grandma puts up with me.

I'll admit, it took me a while to even believe that Grandma was real.  To believe that she wasn't just a hallucination - concrete proof of a broken mind. She looked the same, spoke the same, with the same smile, and the same heart that I remembered when she was just a girl, and I, just a boy, 16 years ago.  I found it impossible to believe how recognizable she was, how understandable she was, how relate-able she was. And how easy it was for me to be near her, with her.  I've told her now as I tell you that I don't trust easy things.  I don't trust obvious things.  I don't trust effortless things.  But loving her is easy. Loving her is obvious and effortless.  It is more logical to believe that she was just a figment of a overly romantic, lonely imagination, longing for someone to cherish and be cherished by in kind.  But she is real: her warts are real, her fears and anxieties are real.  And so is her warmth and the way she makes me feel.  So I suppose I "have to accept this as real on some unconscious level."

This, then, is our Before Sunset.  And now, with this third movie, I just got a brief glimpse of what is to come.

Of course it will be years I suppose before our problems in any way mirror those of Jesse and Celine.  9 years, perhaps.  :-)  Before Midnight is a humbling look at the part of love that gives me the most anxiety: the battles.  The trench warfare.  War of attrition.  The conflicts that aren't solved - not with love, not with words, not with gestures and not with time.  They are the conflicts that two people have to learn to live with, the conflicts that become as much a part of their family as their children, the structural flaws at the foundation of a relationship, like the periodic flareup of a dormant but persistent infection, the fault lines where two people of two perspectives retain two priorities, competing priorities, irreconcilable priorities, regardless of how much they would both like to make them one.  They are the wedges driven between us, and without a conscious effort on the parts of both to hold onto each other, the wedge turns into a gap, the gap to a chasm, the chasm to a canyon, until the two of you are so far apart, so far away from one another that you can't see them - can't recognize them anymore.

It troubles me because, in many ways, I am a pragmatist.  I figure if your arguments don't lead anywhere, don't argue.  Either talk about something else, or talk to someone else.  If you don't like sleeping in the same bed as someone, don't sleep in the same bed as them, sleep somewhere else.  And if you can't remember why you loved someone, don't try.  Go find love somewhere else.  Life is short.

But obviously this pragmatism is the death of any long-term, meaningful relationship.  Going forward together requires a healthy dose of dis-pragmatism, a healthy dose of neuroses, unreasonableness, raging against the dying of the light, fighting against the inevitable, retreading old battles, rubbing old wounds, the honesty of fighting dirty.  Going forward together requires that we fight pointless, unresolvable battles in which neither of us win together and still somehow come through it together.

And being a pragmatist, I have relatively little patience for pointless, unresolvable battles.  They are not things that I will easily participate in, regardless of their inevitability.

So I wonder, already, too early I know, whether I will be able to keep Grandma, even before I fully have her.

But I have a lot of faith in this woman.  Some part of me has always loved her.  Some part of me will always love her.  Everything else - every moment more - is just the cherry on top.

- Grandpa

Richard Linklater, 'Before Midnight' Director, On Studio Origins & The Most Intense Scene Of 2013:


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