Needles

We’re sitting in her parents’ car, which is parked in their driveway, which leads up to their perfect dollhouse in East Suburbia, New Jersey. I can’t understand how she sprung from this—the Crate and Barrel catalog with wood floors so clean they make my city sock feet feel guilty. But she did and the contrast, to my feverish mind, makes her even more interesting. We’re well provisioned for our weekend in the woods, but she remembers one more thing and runs in to get it, leaving the driver’s side door wide open.

The car matches the house: new, glossy, and far nicer than anything I’d expected to be driving around middle-of-nowhere Massachusetts. I pair my phone with the Bluetooth speaker system and play the song that I’ve decided is about her: a bubbly 80’s-style synth-heavy cotton-candy pop song called “Because I Love You.” I crank the volume until the neighbors can hear my heart gushing out into the street and train my eyes on the back door, waiting.

***

Last week, my first-ever acupuncturist described the process like this: most of us walk around all day with our muscles in a painful state of partial contraction. When an acupuncture needle is inserted at the point where certain muscles overlap, they instantly seize up around it, making the contraction complete. Twenty to 30 minutes later when the needle is removed, the muscle is finally able to fully release, and the pain disappears.

I do not, as the saying goes, do needles, so they started slow: one in each ear, wrist, shoulder, and foot. With each insertion I felt a pinch, and then a pressure that gradually dissipated. But the muscles in my left shoulder put up a fight, bunching into a hard lump of subcutaneous taffy that stuck the needle for an instant before it pushed through. “Oh,” I said, looking at the acupuncturist, but they seemed pleased. “No no,” they told me, “that’s what we want.”

***

“Frankly, we don’t have the right to critique each others’ actions anymore,” she texted me almost a month after we broke up. As though our separation meant that what she did no longer had any impact on me, as though my actions no longer affected her. As though the fork in the road negated the conjoined miles that came before it. As though we’d cleaved each other off as cleanly as a rotating saw through a carcass. But bits of her remained: the way I sometimes slipped up and pronounced the word “little” as “leedle,” and worse, when I tacked a “boy” on at the end. When I read the word “me” substituted for “my,” her favorite dialectic joke. She never returned my favorite black T-shirt, which I remembered every time I wore its twin (two for $5 on Broadway and West 4th). And when I took the B38, I couldn’t pass her stop without my chest tightening. Then, of course, there was the music: whole albums that brought her back with distressing clarity, 50-odd songs she’d given me that I dumped onto their own playlist and banished to the bottom of my Spotify feed. Things I couldn’t touch for fear they’d burn. Half-tensed muscles refusing to unwind.

***

Wreckage becomes easier to examine with time, and this was no exception. (“There are no new ideas,” writes Audre Lorde. “There are only news ways of making them felt.”) So when Montaigne’s “Because I Love You” inexplicably lodged itself in my head the other week, I held it there to study my own reaction, to see if it was still hot. The chorus scrolling through my head had no effect, so I decided to play the song. It came through my laptop speaker as jaunty as ever, but something was different: the words. I’d never paid them much attention, choosing instead to focus on the besotted chorus. But even that, I soon discovered, was a horror show:

My parents feel that
this is a waste of time
I tell them go away
‘cause everything is just fine
My friends all feel that
I’m different around you
I tell them all that they are wrong
because I love you

As the song wound on, it got worse:

My parents feel that
this is a waste of time
I tell them we’re okay
I won’t admit that I am blind
My friends all feel that
I’m carrying us two
I tell them all that they are wrong
because I love you

It felt like a familiar pet had turned feral and snapped at my fingers. Those summer months tilted on their axis, re-framed.

***

I plunged the needle in: I went to a party where I knew for a fact she’d be, the same party where all those months ago we’d somehow morphed from fleeting Tinder fly-by’s into firm possibility. I saw her there standing in a corner, but it wasn’t her exactly—she looked different, tilted on her axis, re-framed. I walked past her and spent a few hours on the dance floor, my friends forming a human shield around me. But they needn’t have bothered. By the time I left, the pain was ebbing away.

Advertisements
Needles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s