May 24, 2017
She gave me these items to read hoping that they would help me gather ideas for a class presentation on the use of creative constraints in the writing process. (Down Rodeo~Rage Against the Machine) Mostly craft essays, they offered suggestions like cutting 30-50% from an existing piece, using a different, shorter format. (I Hear the Bells~Mike Doughty) I settled on an idea I stole from David Henry Hwang, writing a flash piece and then editing three random words from the dictionary into the piece. But I digress. The process left me feeling unsettled. I went rummaging around between the fibers of my muscle until the following mess emerged. (Think Twice~Erykah Badu)
(To Love Somebody~Nina Simone) Take now for instance. I’m not plugged into the internet. I’m unable to put any of these words to you without first filtering through a security layer or two. (PoW WoW~B.O.B) I have a digital device that operates according to a set protocol. My hands are a digital device operating to subvert a set protocol. They also read my analog mail and they record every single one of my phone calls. My night life ends at (Meeting in the Aisle~Radiohead) 21:30 every single night. The bars are obvious. The walls are obvious. My condition is apparent, and this is not a whine on my behalf. These things simply are…constraints. But that is only part of how they get you.
They get you by the (Wheels~Foo Fighters) filters you implement on your own. Like how my instincts for self-preservation are a muscle group that is always under tension. Or that my closest of friends are always held at an arms length. What about the lost children and the dregs who turnover at staff security positions? Their constant inexperience making a moving target of how we’re supposed to act from moment to moment. Still, these feel incidental compared with the one that upset me. The one that stuck in my craw actually had something to do with the woman who challenged me to constrain myself. (Tennessee Whiskey~Chris Stapleton) While having nothing to do with her, personally and little to do with any one thing that happened between us, our exchanges were the meeting grounds nonetheless.
A difference between where I’m kept and other facilities is how many female staff and volunteers we interact with on a regular basis. (Lithium~Nirvana) There are plenty of guys who attempt and some who succeed at connecting with these women on a different level. I don’t want to leave you feeling as though I’ve spent the past few years without spending time around women, without female companionship. That just isn’t so. (Gun Street Girl~Tom Waits) But that is not the same thing as ‘normal’, to say nothing of ‘healthy’, to say nothing of ‘love’.
Did you know that the state considers our population as “vulnerable adults”? There are sound protective reasons for this, but a consequence of this designation is that I am legally incapable of consenting to sex with a staff person. While explaining this to a young blonde woman in uniform, I questioned whether love could ever really be part of our relationship. I don’t know that I could put someone I truly loved at risk for the humiliation of termination, criminal prosecution as a sex offender, and a life with that kind of jacket on her shoulders.
When I first met the woman delivering my writing assignments I immediately saw there was something more to her. Without composing an ode, she was attractive in her own right, and all the more beautiful for her intellect and her wit. We tended to spar in class, which only made her more alluring to someone who experiences healthy conflict as an expression of love. I remarked early to a friend of mind that I would have to be sure that I don’t fall in love with her. (Escape~B.O.B) And I haven’t. Though that proved to be a conscious decision that required reinforcement. To willfully inhibit my instincts and emotions.
I am not attracted to beautiful women who are empty inside. I am aroused by the intrinsic value of substance. And I know I can be a handful. I need a love that can keep up. That I felt the stirring in the pit of me left me shaken. (Why~The Roots) Pretending I wasn’t flying a kite from inside the eye of a hurricane.
There are many pains a person can learn to grin and bear provided they persist without further aggravation. I know that I am mostly isolated because not many people think about things the way that I do. I know that I am mostly fascinated by life in silence because usually no one around me is interested in listening. (Seven Nation Army~The White Stripes) I live in the absence of pursuing exceptional women for the dearth of opportunity. But this was something different.
I pulled most of my punches around her. I allowed just enough of me to slip through the grate to leave an impression of who I am. I would deliberately restrict my breath, wearing a corset of prudence. I poured the greater measure of my interest in her into an empty cask, threw it into the darkest coldest corner of me, and braced myself while listening to the wood creak and groan as the contents froze and expanded, reckoning to burst. Constrained.
I am safer and stronger for the constraints. The man I produced in her presence was likely a better version of myself. A revision of sorts. How much of me was gone while pretending to flirt innocuously? Did I cross the 30-50% threshold to become a piece that reached its essential parts? A fatalist might argue that were a love to be, it would have suggested itself in a place where it could thrive, not a place where it might destroy the lovers for their sake of loving. But I do not lament the missing chance, even though it hurts. For she was, and is lovely in all of the ways that I would pray for. I am fine with the pain of lost things. I know that it must be aggravated to remind me that it is still there. This woman had a knack for handing me novel suggestions that struck in me a chord, playing the nerves back to the source.
My life is an exercise in compression. I have always wrestled my desires, with limited success. I mourn the passing of my reckless heart, and its eager spirit in the face of ache and loss. I wonder whether my reticence will linger beyond my walls…my boundaries. I keep choosing restraint, to the point that I wonder if this is just who I am now. A life defined by creative constraint. Promising myself that if things were just a little different I would maybe even try and learn to love. Or at the very least, allow for more of me to filter through the edit when the aggravation beckons.