Additional Introsperspective

August 7, 2009

I still haven’t told my parents much about María. We’ve been living together for nearly four months and have been romantically involved for over a year. The most I can relay to them is that she’s Mexican and reads the same books I do. Anything further than that would be too complicated for their narrow interpretations. It might always be an unexplainable subject for them and a fathomless one for me. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t at least be able to try to put it in words.

That’s what I realized I had gotten so wrong about transcribing my notes from Mexico. In doing a carbon copy of what I’d written down in my notebook, I completely failed in transmitting the discoveries of the trip. This is my second attempt.

I’m skipping over the Mexico City (DF) bit, because the time spent there was just too short and hurried and the resulting demonstration would be that María’s friend’s integrated us absolutely, at the cost of their own time, not the least of which including driving us around, letting us sleep in their beds, and staying awake with us until they had to work in the morning.

*

A bus from Mexico City to Xalapa takes five hours. Of the several trips I’ve taken on these Mexican “long range” transit lines, I have yet to be on one that didn’t play movies along the way. Our trip treated us to The In-Laws and High School Musical 2.

Needless to say, it was a long ride.

That evening we were picked up by María’s family from our hotel. When I got in the car, the first thing her father bellowed was Welcome to Xalapa!. Her mother explained that that he had been practicing his English the entire day. He was laughing the entire ride, which María said was a sign of his nervousness. Good: at least all of us were on unequal footing. Dinner went on without much incident. I noticed he shredded his bread rolls to only consume the fluffy innards. After two bottles of red wine (no, three–we switched brands at one point, a crucial detail), the questions started coming and I tried my best to answer them: What had I studied? What did I think of Egoyan? What did my parents do? What did I do? None of these, of course, I can respond to very well in English, or sober.

Loosened, we headed out to another bar, just the parents and us, where we grabbed our fourth wine bottle (of the same brand as the third). The place had maybe ten tables total and about eight people, none of whom were under the age of fifty (except us kids). At some point here I ran into the bathroom and tried as hard as I could to remember the last three hours, and started scribbling some notes against the wall. An old man burst in and, startled that I wasn’t using a urinal, waited patiently while I made motions to leave before he could get over his stage fright and empty his bladder. I didn’t quite capture the exact sequence of events of that night, but I do remember some moments:

First, María’s dad was immensely interested in my tattoo. He wanted to know what it meant, where it came from, and my interpretation of non serviam. He sympathized with the urge for independence and self-sufficiency, though when I asked him to tell me more about his upbringing (since I am only always interested in outcasts) he was vague and general.

Next, I do remember him interrogating me about his daughter, asking whether I truly loved her, wondering what on earth it is we do together in San Francisco. And though at the time I was terrified, absolutely baffled by his misinterpretation of my responses (telling him amo su hija as confidently as I could didn’t satisfy him for some reason), it is obvious that I’m just the wanker who’s taken his only daughter to another part of the world. The least I could do was satisfy his paternal instincts. I get that–now, too late, though I hope I’ll have a chance to prove it some more.

And it must be said: though these recollections are centric on the father, he was, in general, very laconic. The other days in Xalapa had him say fifty words, maximum. It was almost better when he was drunk and relentless.

Though still, our last moment together that night in the bar, we were hunched over, the women having slowed down their drinking, and the suggestion (by me) for whiskey was made, and the suggestion (by him, to the waiter) for Black Label was made, and at the clinking of glasses goddamn if it wasn’t the most sincere salud from the two of us.

*

There’s a funny feeling of inadequacy when you realize your your lover had a life before you. One day you realize that a life existed before yours and hers together, and the ego begins to shed and the love grows stronger. Claims to exclusiveness, as Joyce said*, are silly, because every person is just an integer in a large sequence of summations for another person, and the best we can try for is to be the last number.

In an effort to be warm, I asked during one dinner when I would see the photos of María as a child. And photos they had: albums for every possible occasion, as regular families do (irregular families usually stop after the third or fifth year–at least, mine did). I don’t normally like baby pictures or movies–they depress me immensely–but I felt some urge to see her as a child, since I knew that when María visited my family, they would be practically falling over themselves to get out the albums (they adore embarrassing me).

There was one photo that shot out amidst the tiny cross-sections of birthdays and graduations. It’s her, around age seven, during her first communion. She’s wearing a lovely blue dress with layered ruffles that flow. She’s walking down the church aisle holding a candle. She appears a bit taller than the other children. Her head is turned towards whoever is taking the picture, and she is flashing an adorable, toothy smile.

If I hadn’t known it was María I would’ve fallen in love then and there.

Later, circumstances being what they were, I ended up alone in her bedroom. I closed my eyes and could still see the picture, could feel the mixture of nervousness and confusion and display of joy from that simple smile. I became greedy, hungry, for who that young girl was. I flung open the double-doors of her closet and riffled through the objects. She collected Snoopy dolls at one point and had several in various states of decay. Movies and CDs with titles I don’t remember were stacked floor to ceiling. And her books partly resembled my collection, but most of them were of her own inclinations, Gothic and Spanish novels stirred together with critiques and academic essays, defining her in a much more direct way than any of our past conversations. She had waxen cats in her room, candles that were never lit; her brother slept across the hall, and shared a bathroom with her; outside the window she could see the roof of the next house, where years before a Boxer lived and played (the same acts for a dog).

To want to be a part of “that world”–to be a part of that time when she began defining herself–it’s an impossible, silly, selfish thing. But it’s what I felt. And it is enjoyable to spend the rest of my life getting more acquainted with her past, and if I cannot gleam any more of it, then I will be satisfied with sharing the present and the future.

Then I wonder: if it is impossible to know our own selves, is it possible to apprehend the histories of another?

All of this doesn’t serve my point exactly. I would say to the solipsists that the only real proof of a boundless universe is to fall in true love. It’s a matter of embracing of consciousness. When lovers are separated, they are tormented thinking about each other. Before lovers meet, they exist in torment waiting for each other.

How can this not prove the existence of other lives? How can this not validate ourselves?


* “To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.”