Lots of conversations fundamentally fizzle. I enjoy surface talk with people. Mid-depth talk, too. Amen to chatting about overrated Netflix shows, underrated records, and the varying degrees of weather-related irritations or enthusiasms. But I always hope talk will pivot to something deeper and stranger.
Good talk: “We can’t think of a good name for our seasonal eggnog-marzipan café drink.”
Better: “I saw a burlesque artist do a hula-hoop performance to a version of Willy Wonka’s ‘Pure Imagination’ and it went from kinda sexy to cosmically epiphanic.”
Everyone I know is fathomlessly deep and secretly weird and I love it. I love it so fanatically, I want to hear all about it, from marzipan to hula-hips to way, way beyond.
Talk generally gets interesting in intimate settings—perhaps with a few alcoholic drinks—somewhere around Hour Four, when defenses grow porous, there’s nothing left to skitter-talk about, and the conversation comes down to either (a) boredom/despair, or (b) the good stuff.
Hour Four—when we speak of the embarrassing, maudlin, crazy, vulnerable, important stuff we’re all secretly obsessing over and rarely admit to obsessing over. Peccadilloes. Anxieties. Irrational beliefs about the afterlife. Fears and needs. The drug. The fetish. Delusions of grandeur. Facts of failure.
That time we did such-and-such or had a thing with so-and-so.
The emotional pressure headache we wake up to. The hope that barely overcomes that pain, and gets us just far enough to brush our teeth and start another unexplainable day.
The stuff we wouldn’t usually share except with very special loved-ones (or therapists, or secret diaries, or blogs). The stuff our enemies could hurt us with. The friendship-wrecking stuff, unless the friendship proves, after even that, to be unwreckable.
Hour Four–after the pizza, after the coconut macaroons–when we curl into the couch, take our socks off, or have the extra drink, smoke, or gut-breath that means we’re settling in and getting down to it instead of retreating to our beds, alone and safely miserable again.
We talk about the thing. The thing we couldn’t say at Hour Three, however much it tried to Freudian-slip its way into the conversation. The thing we care about so much, so extremely, and so secretly that it threatens to ruin the masterful “there is no hidden thing” persona we believe is the main reason people like us in the first place.
It’s the reason we’re maybe depressed, whether we admit it or not, and the only real reason we talk to other people at all.
Art: Lovers (1928) by Felix Nussbaum
My wife didn’t move the frozen roll off the porch, but she did it rediscover it, while looking out the kitchen window, on the opposite side of the house.
The roll is now in the Japanese maple. This favors the original squirrel theory and (probably) exonerates Black Cat.
I tossed some old rolls outside, next to our house, for the squirrels to eat.
Two nights later, our dog Bones discovered that one of the rolls had been carried over the fence and into the yard. Frozen roll, Bones thought, looking at me with high excitement.
“Leave it,” I said.
He came inside bereft, wondering why I’d tossed his discovery back outside the fence. I gave him a treat and he gave me a look: That roll, though.
Next day, the roll appeared on our front porch, as if to taunt Bones through the window. A second roll sat on the porch railing. Presumably squirrels had carried them there, but why had they abandoned them?
It seemed like a cat move. There’s the neighborhood black cat, you see. We call him Black Cat. He passes the house every day and Bones goes berserk, barking at the cat and savaging a rubber carrot with his jaws.
Black Cat could not care less. And yet another neighborhood cat once left a dead sparrow on our stoop as (I believe) a peace offering: “There is tension between the dog and I. Here is a sparrow.”
Did Black Cat leave the rolls as offerings to Bones?
Next morning, the primary roll was gone again. It’s possible my wife moved it off the porch. I keep forgetting to ask her.
Every work of art is one half of a secret handshake, a challenge that seeks the password, a heliograph flashed from a tower window, an act of hopeless optimism in the service of bottomless longing…
Art, like fandom, asserts the possibility of fellowship in a world built entirely from the materials of solitude.
— Michael Chabon, from Manhood for Amateurs