On Not Taking Home A Stranger.
This blog was originally posted to The Dresden Dolls Diary.
be honest, she kept saying.
fucking, with who? when? all the time?
life seems to be a beautiful game about using and abusing honesty.
it hurts, heals, it changes, it doesn’t even fucking exist.
it exists as much as truth exists. it’s relative and Not Real.
i was lonely tonight. i’ve been lonely for a while. i have my friends, my confidants, my intimates.
my secrets, my pains and worries, they don’t go unshared.
but i do miss holding someone in bed, being close with someone, whispering things, doing lover-like things. i get my occasional fix, but it’s small and rare and mostly insignificant.
it’s been this way for years. i get glimpses, but i’ve more or less forgotten what it’s like to have it on a regular basis.
there were two guys who came to the last three of four shows at the onion cellar. obvious fans. i liked them. they were sweet, we greeted and meeted and did the things that you do. the way to interact when you are rock-singer and fan. i found out they’d traveled all the way from the other side of the country for the show. they’d taken trains and busses and were staying in a hostel in boston, just to see our show.
this sort of thing still moves me, though it doesn’t floor me as much as it used to. you get used to hearing things like this. “we came form australia just to see the play.”
“we came from kansas city just to see the play.”
“we came from germany just to see the play.”
i hear it and try to let it all sink in, imagining the plane ride, the organizing, the amount of effort it took for this one person to be standing here in front of me. my imagination can never fully appreciate it, i know.
so when they came tonight, i recognized them. the quieter one, the dark-haired one with the hat, gave me a folded letter. i’ve gotten used to this too. i have. i could have guessed, by the weight of it, that it was going to say something more than “wonderful show, your fan, x”. you just know. by the way something gets handed to you. by the way someone says nothing and presses something into your hand, shying away. you just learn.
the crowd had cleared out of the theater. i had stayed late tonight to finish an interview with NPR. i liked the reporter. he’d come to my house yesterday. to interview. we drank merlot and ended up really talking. that’ll happen sometimes. it’s rare. press = people , real. then you can talk and talk and talk. sometimes i miss talking to people.
so the theater was basically empty, the crew was still cleaning up, fireproofing the paper confessions, sweeping the floors. the dressing room was empty. it has a piano in it.
i don’t play the piano anymore.
i’ve been noticing, through the show, that if you play some sad, slow chords underneath almost any dialogue, that you can make it seem sad and more meaningful, or add a depth of incredible profundity that wouldn’t have otherwise been there. that’s what music does. the soundtrack of our lives.
about a month ago, i was hit by the impulse to break out an old recording of my grandfather’s 90-minute cassette-tape recording he made, right before he died, about his adventures at sea with the british merchant marine. just pressed play and pounded slow, minor piano chords while he talked. oh, it worked. his voice sounded all of a sudden weighty like it never had. so i knew.
i took the letter upstairs. went to the men’s bathroom, like evry other night, and slathered my face with cold-cream and wiped off the excess with a towel. went back to the dressing room and put the letter on my arms at the piano and played e minor and c major with some random notes up top while i read. and of course
….of course it worked.
i mean, this would have been a sad and beautiful letter anyway, and anyone would have been able to guess by the length and the small hand-writing and the scratches-out that this was going to be a good one.
i wonder where they are, where;d they go? i wondered.
after the NPR reporter left my apartment yesterday i was too drunk with wine and conversation to do any work, so i took myself out to dinner, alone. i was feeling oddly depressed.
i ate and wrote and pondered my useless existence (this is fun!) and went home, watching the sidewal blur under my feet, all of a sudden light because i remembered lee had left a DVD copy of “adaptation” with nicholas cage on my desk and i’d been wanting to see it, and fuck the work and the catching up i had to do i could do anything i wanted i’m a free woman and it’s a free country and i don’t need to answer anybody i’m freeeeeeeeeeeee so i watched it. i paid later as i fought sleep realizing that i had neglected answering emails that had to be answered today and i had fucked myself.
it was a beautiful film. it reminded me of too much. how we try so hard to make meaning. you can make meaning out of anything, really, if you try. the idea is always better than the reality.
i kept trying to remember the writer of this letter, his hat, his hair, his sheepish grin as he handed me the paper. i’ve done this before. how many times? a lot. after so many shows. people hand you things. you know.
i played the chords and i read. i played a little soundtrack to this letter, a sad one, a perfect one.
when i got to the part, about halfway through, about his response to the pieces of paper, to be filled out by the audience, that the cast hands out in the play : “when was the last time you cried, and why”. he didn’t respond. he saved it (did he? or did he answer on the paper during the play?) for this letter. did he? i don’t know. i read his story. him sitting there alone in the back room of the place he works, cursing himself. dragging that safety pin across…..but now, how much am i taking advantage of him? it’s his story, his story. not mine. it is mine. he gave it to me. my heart cramped up.
my own little onion cellar, up in the dressing room and all alone. fucking, of course. My Own Private Onion Cellar starring amanda palmer and river phoenix. Ha – never on the stage, where i wanted it.
i imagined myself on closing night, fucking up the show, ignoring “coin-operated boy” and whipping out this letter, playing my sad chords and reading aloud. was this what i wanted. of course it was.
is this what anybody wants to watch, to hear?
i read, thinking already…will he leave a phone number at the end of the letter? sometimes they do. sometimes they do…..and if he did, i say to myself, i swear to fucking god, i’ll call him. i will. i’ll call him right now and pick him up from whatever bus or subway station or youth hostel he’s at and i swear to god i’ll drive him home, back to my apartment, pu thim on my comfortable couch and give him wine and tea and soup and a night he’ll never forget, i’ll hold him and hold him and stroke his back and hair and kiss his arms clean and unscratched and take all of his pain and hurt away and feed him breakfast and give him love he’s never known.
this is where my brain hurts.
very funny, amanda.
can one really do that? isn’t it impossible? i mean, wouldn’t it be so impure? like: through his mind would be coursing Oh My God, I’m In Bed With Amanda Palmer From The Dresden Dolls, the girl to whom i wrote this long passionate fan letter, and she called me. (bad narcissist amanda! bad bad bad!). and now i’m in her bed. My Life Is Surreal. can kisses like that count? for real? feel real? or would i just be taking advantage of something…a modern day jimmy page ransacking a perfectly innocent person because of my own emptiness and need for a cuddle?
and could he even give up? could he forget who i am and just surrender to I’m A Boy You’re A Girl and Here We Are….put your arms around me, hold me, forget everything, let’s be Young and Free and Fucked and Spontaneous…..i don’t know. i mean, really, there is no answer to this. people meet in the strangest ways.
i assume so.
he didn’t leave a number.
there was just an email.
i found myself wondering….oh oh oh maybe he’s one of those modern types, who has a blackberry, who has a treo, ga gah gah if i just email immediately he’ll get this message on his phone and then we’ll, and then i’ll…
i stopped right there.
the idea is always better than the reality, isn’t it.
it’s probably better, i rationalized.
i don’t Do Things like that.
funny, i never really have.
not in a long time. i’ve always gotten too caught, i think, in the terrifying poetry of it all. who wants an unbalanced relationship to Start Out With? they all end up that way, for fucks sake, but at least you have that few months of bliss where you feel like One. who wants to be in bed an feel like some kind of otherworldy god?
i remember once i was walking down mass ave between harvard and central square. i must have been 21 or 22. i walked by this incredible-looking guy. eyelashes, lips to die for. we caught eyes as we passed each other. we kep walking, as you do. and we both tuned around at the same time, as you sometimes do, to catch that second glance. and i remember thinking to myself FUCK IT FUCK IT and i walked right up to him and kissed him square on the mouth, tongue and all, thinking this was probably the most romantic and gorgeous thing i’d ever done in my life. and he kissed me back, and i kissed him back.
but then, HAha.
then what do you do?
then we were FUCKED.
the kiss was over and we sort of stood there, gaping at each other. if i’d been smart, i would have walked away, never said another word, blown his a kiss his way and winked.
done something perfectly cinematic, but no.
instead i spoke. we chattered for a second.
want to get a drink?
we went across the street to The Cellar, a perfectly quaint bar with wooden tables.
could’ve been romantic, no?
wasn’t romantic. he was from brazil. a student. he loved soccer. i was into music? oh yes cool. that is cool. very cool. so you. what do you really want to do in life? do?
oh nothing. i am in school but i have no interests. i like soccer. drinking is also good.
this was hell. i had destroyed the most romantic moment of my life by inviting it into a bar.
now it was talking to me about the world cup and i wanted to vomit.
we never exchanged numbers.
as i left the theater i stuffed the letter in my back pants pocket. i walked by cafe pamplona and the waiter was pulling in the table from the patio.
“i heard your show was great tonight”.
eh? from who?
“that couple, they were here after the show. they were talking about you”.
the two boys? my heart jumped.
“which way did they go. they just left? just now?”
“they drove home, i think. the couple, you know….”
heart sank. oh, i know. this was the older couple i’d met in the cafe before the show. they were beautiful, this couple, in their sixties and making non-profit theater for woman and children with HIV and talking talking talking about pierrot and make-up.
i walked to my car and kept seeing shadows across the streets.
i’d seen them leave, these two boys, one of them my romantic letter-writer with the dark hair and the hat, they’d waved good-bye through the window. they were going back to the other side of the country. they’d said.
every time i saw a pair of people walking, i wondered: is it them? what would i do? accost them? tell his friend to wait in the living room with a glass of wine while i romanced his friend to DEATH in the next room?
i started thinking about writing this blog, looking at the bricks blurring under my feet. i thought about the film. i’m caught in my own screenplay, i laughed, i can never leave. i’m constantly writing myself into it.
i just played a soundtrack to a sad and beautiful and perfect letter, and the music is stuck in my head, and the last thing i am thinking about is taking home to the piano and writing a song. no. i want to blog. i knew it would come to this. i am no longer a song-writer, i smirk to myself, i’m a blog-writer. i’m made the switch to the dark side. and so i was thinking as i fished the car-key out and started the engine and drove home, calling pope on the way to see if he had a cigarette so that i could have something smoking in my hand so i could kick-start myself to combat the blank screen. better to write SOMETHIng, i said. better to blog than to sleep. better to blog than to go to the bar. who needs songs? you’ve written plenty of songs. when you need more, more will come? do you need more songs? right now? fuck no. what would you even do with them.
this is how i know i’m fucked. i used to only smoke at home while writing songs, now it’s acceptable to smoke while blogging.
god, it’s pathetic. i feel like nicholas cage except i’m not losing my hair. i’m losing my self. my hair is going gray. i dye it dark red.
i came home and poured myself a sam adams lager and started to write.
here we are. hi. hi. hi.
time for bed.
maybe this is better than a song?
instead of applause, i get comments.
sometimes they feel the same.
]sometimes i like the comments more than the applause.
i can read the comments, they’re human. they make sense.
the applause. sometimes it just sounds like noise.