His Galateaby Liam Kruger / Illustration by Sasan / 05.06.2013
Pretty soon I’m going to have make art out of this – maybe a song, or a story, but probably a poem; something ridiculous and formal, like a sestina or a pantoum.
(In part this is because sestinas and pantoums never get published anywhere, so that even once I’ve turned this stuff into Art, I can hang on to it; if I make it a story and let it out into the world, it’s going to end up being about something else, and I’ll have lost this entirely.)
By ‘this,’ of course, I mean the awful shrieking sound that seems to escape my chest whenever I think about the girl, which, apparently, is always. It’s awful, it’s stupid, and it’s cruel – cruel to her, whom I have collapsed into a series of photographs and symptoms, and to myself, whom I have transformed into a crazy person.
It’s ugly; on the one or two occasions (so many more, but let me lie to you) that I’ve gotten drunk and spoken to friends about this, I’ve seen their faces stiffen, like I’ve just thrown up in front of them. Except they don’t even pull that face when I do throw up in front of them; that, at least, they can handle, that they can fold into a standard drink-drank-drunk narrative and seal away and joke about later. I haven’t sealed this away yet. I will, don’t worry.
It’s ugly and it hurts, but the girl and I don’t talk anymore, so this thing is the last thing of hers I have; and I know that soon, very soon, for the sake of being a sane functional person if no other, I’m going have to take that turd of a hurt and polish it into some kind of art that bears only a passing resemblance to the original, and put it out in the world so that it isn’t inside of me anymore. I will fold up the jagged corners of how I felt around this girl, and will, at best, find some clever new way to describe the means by which I hurt myself; some people will laugh, or smile, and maybe even remember it, even if they remember it wrong, and it will be out of me. And after a few months I will come across the lines “she won the arms-race of indifference,” and I will smile, either at the cleverness, or the arrogance, and I will not feel even an echo of what I meant when I first put those words down.
And then it will be truly over between us; she will have gone from being a real person, to an object of desire, to the subject of some short fiction, to a misremembered hurt. I will be better for it. She…I do not know what she will be. But right at this moment I care for her indifference more than I do the attention of even those I love best, and the pain she has no reason to believe the thought of her causes me seems important; and I know that if I don’t let it go soon it will fester into something gross and hard, or grosser and harder, but I don’t want to let it go just yet. Because when this lump of clay is done being made into a statue, they’ll put it behind some ropes and it won’t be able to hurt anymore, and I won’t be able to touch it, and I’m terrified of that.
But of course, I’m terrified of what happens if I don’t let the clay go soon, either. Because I cannot keep shrieking like this, or making my friends wince, or drinking the world black; I know too, that this girl will never know how much clay she gave me, and that she doesn’t have to know.
But oh my friends, it hurts, and I didn’t know it could hurt like this. Did I know this before? Did I make myself forget? Is this why the blanket of irony, the distance?
Maybe this is the insane arrogance of the narcissist undergoing feelings, or just the insane arrogance of a liberal arts major who studied classics – but I think of the story of Pygmalion, who put together a statue of a woman, fell in love with her, and prayed until she was given life. Did Pygmalion know what he was in for when his Galatea was turned to flesh, and went from misremembered hurt, to some short fiction, to object of desire and finally to a person of her own? With nails and teeth and indifference?
Of course he knew. What else could have driven him out of the world and to the work and the clay in the first place?
I’ll be out of the world and in the studio soon; this clay thing will be refashioned into a better lie, and I’ll be able to drink and look at the night sky and kiss someone pretty without howling. Soon. But tonight let me stay where the clay pits are, and roll around and feel it on my skin, for just a little longer.
It won’t be a pantoum. Because it can’t be; then I’ll be hanging on to things, trying to make a sculpture with half the clay – and I don’t know a goddamned thing about sculpture, so here the metaphor falls apart, but so will whatever I try and make if I half-ass it. There’s no room, or need, to be selfish about the hurt; there’ll always be more, somewhere.
So think of this as my shitty, disproportionate scale model of that Galatea that will have to be; the action-figure sized thing that Pygmalion put together when he was still a crazy-eyed son of a bitch shrieking about the whores in Athens; the thing he left on the side of the road before he went into the big work.
There was hurt there; and maybe they let that one come alive, too. Or maybe it was lost. That happens. It still beats the hell out of going insane in the clay pits.
So I’ll be in the studio. Swing by if you’ve clay of your own; there’s plenty of room.
* Illustration © Sasan