à La Recherche de L'amour Perdu
“‘You are what you love, not what loves you.’ Do you think that’s true?” Karen asked as credits rolled on their second Saturday movie night. Movie night used to be on Monday when Walter didn’t have a show, but Perfect Crime’s residency at The House of Blues had recently been promoted from first Monday every month to every Monday every week.
“No,” Amber said little-spooned into Walter on her mother’s chocolate brown living room couch. Like the house, the couch was modest in size, but not too self-effacing, stylish, but not lacking character or comfort. “Love exists between people, not between yourself,” Amber continued. “It’s just clever wordplay pretending to be substantive—a lot like this movie. Mom, I know you’re just starting to explore film and have taken a liking to Kaufman, but I think you’ll eventually realize his films are for hipsters who pretend to be intellectuals because they can understand irony and Adaptation is the epitome of it. Strip away all the ‘irony’, and this movie has nothing. Just wasted time. Inserting yourself in your own story is such a creative cop-out.”
“But isn’t that pretty much what Proust does in In Search of Lost Time? And that’s your favorite novel.”
“He didn’t insert himself literally, and In Search of Lost Time is actually a story—one of the all-time greatest, not Proust’s story of the story. Unless you’re Vonnegut—who Kaufman is nothing but a poor man’s version of, writers shouldn’t be characters in their own story, and a story shouldn’t be a story of a story.”
“I beg to differ. Also if Proust is one of the all-time greatest storytellers, I don’t believe he should need over a million words to tell a story. But since I’ve honestly never been able to make it through even Swann’s Way, I’ll give you the benefit of a doubt, however, no matter how beautiful the music, Proust is also one of the all-time greatest windbags.” Walter felt Amber’s body tense and heard her throat swallow. “But regardless of story,” Karen continued, “you still have to admire the cleverness of the film.”
“He resorted to every cliché he believed against,” Amber said. “How is that clever?”
“Because beliefs can turn against the principles they profess to hold sacred when taken too literally. That’s the message I took away from the film, not so much irony.”
“I think that’s your Buddhist leanings authoring that message Mother,” Amber nodded to the bronze Buddha sitting on the Cocobolo coffee table, “not Charlie Kaufman.”
“Perhaps, but that’s the beautiful thing about art: interpretation, not meaning. Everyone has the right to be right because they are right.”
“Yes, but as a writer, I can tell you Kaufman just took the lazy, solipsistic approach every amateur writer eventually takes, and irony doesn’t excuse it. Creativity is supposed to be inspired by life, not copied from it.”
“Yes, but sometimes even creativity can’t compete with the master, and is life not the master of all creativity? Is it not drawn from the setbacks, missteps, and successes of life? Creativity always feels copied to me, even prophetic at times. However, that usually just means I’m on the right path.”
“Because in science that’s how creativity works: by Mother Nature’s rules. But in art there are no underlying rules or correct paths.”
“So why are you trying to define them then?”
Belly laughter blew against Amber’s back. She jabbed her arm back at it. “Why do you always take her side?” she said.
“I’m not,” Walter said. “She just righteously checkmated you. You’re not going to beat her in an argument. Logic is her day job.”
“Right, what was I thinking? Logic trumps anyone else from expressing an opinion.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yes you did. But both of you have never tried writing a novel, have you? What help is logic when there’s nothing to checkmate?”
“Amber, I’m sorry,” Karen said. “I didn’t mean to belittle you. I was just also trying to express an opinion. And you’re absolutely right. I don’t have the same type of creativity you have. Creating a story long enough to fill a novel seems impossibly complex to me, let alone making it something people would want to read. But you’re truly gifted at it. You know it. I know it. All your teachers and professors knew it. That’s why I wish you’d finish your novel so the world can finally know it. And even if the story was inspired about a love that ultimately failed, like you said, in art you don’t have to copy.”
“What?” Walter said to Amber. “I thought your novel was inspired by the year you spent in a sorority?”
“Thanks Mom . . . Yes, but that’s also when I met Greg and also when his father passed away unexpectedly. That was the core of the story. But reality has tainted that story too much now and I can’t remove or change and surely don’t want to revisit that reality right now. I just need to start over fresh, but I haven’t had the time to figure out where when all I do is work, and all my vacation time was just used for the tour. But it’s fine. This year is for the band anyway. Next year will be for the book.”
“Speaking of the band,” Karen said to Walter. “Have you made your choice on a label?”
“I have,” Walter said, “but I can’t tell anyone yet. Also getting my bandmates onboard has proved more difficult than I assumed. Really, it’s just one person, but without his approval, it’s hard to get the others’. Ultimately, it’s still my choice, but I’d like to have their support. I’m hoping the showcase will make things clear once they actually meet the reps in-person.”
“What’s the hang-up?”
“Hang-ups. But I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve been ‘talking’ about it all week . . . Another beer anyone?”
“I’ll have another if you are,” Karen said. “But let me get them. You guys stay comfy on the couch. You want another glass of wine Amber?”
“No thanks. Remember, I have to work at a decent hour tomorrow now that movie night is on Saturday.”
“How much longer are you at the airport again?”
“I should’ve been done a month ago, but with so many new hires at the local branches, they’re keeping people in the ETP longer than ever before because they don’t have anywhere else to put them, so indefinitely for the moment.” Amber stood and stretched her arms. “But I’m exhausted anyway,” she said. “I’m also in the middle of a good book I’d like to get back to before I get too sleepy. I need to cleanse my memory of that movie.”
“Okay,” Walter said standing to kiss her. “I’ll be joining you soon.”
“Okay, if I’m asleep, love you and goodnight. And really just one more drink Mother. I don’t need him stumbling in at 3:00 a.m. and snoring all night like last week.”
“No worries,” Karen said. “I learned my lesson. That hangover last week was the worst I’ve had in some years.”
“Me too,” Walter said. “I think we just got carried away because it was the first movie night we didn’t have to work the next day. I promise, just one beer. And maybe a little weed too.”
“Yes, I’ll have a little more of that myself,” Amber said, then picked up the pipe on the coffee table, the bowl still loaded with mostly green herbs. She lit it and inhaled, then unloaded the hit into Walter’s mouth, something that was becoming an affectionate ritual between them since he found it sexy. Greg forbade her from even smoking.
“Love you,” Walter said after.
“Love you,” she echoed and kissed him again. Amber then kissed her mother, then went upstairs to bed.
“I didn’t want to say it in front of Amber…” Walter said to Karen as they sipped on their beers while listening to Chopin—the joys of which Karen had just introduced him to, “…but even though the hangover sucked, last week was so worth it. I haven’t had a volley like that since college, or maybe even ever. And it takes a lot to blow my mind.”
A lasting grin stretched across Karen’s face. “Hey, you blew my mind a few times too,” she said. “And I’m just as hard to impress, if not harder. And yes, even though that hangover in the morning was hell, the night before really was heaven. I haven’t been able to debate someone like that since probably college myself. But we need to keep track of the drinking and time tonight. Not only so we remember where we leave off, but it doesn’t look good when mom gets the boyfriend shitfaced drunk after being left alone with him for the first time. I was so embarrassed. Amber hardly spoke to me when she came home from work the next day. She didn’t say anything about it, but I could tell it bothered her a lot.”
“Yeah, she gave me an earful of angry silence also. Finally I just apologized, but she acted like it wasn’t a big deal, although I could tell it was. Sometimes I just wish she’d say what was on her mind instead of—” Walter bit his lip. “Actually, let’s just move on. It’s already going to be hard enough limiting our time together to just one beer. Last week, especially toward the end—or the end of my memory, left me with so many questions and thoughts, thoughts I never thought I’d be having about religion . . . What was that Hindu concept again? Broman?”
“Yes. Refresh my memory again.”
Karen smirked. “According to belief,” she said, “Brahman is the source of all things in the universe including reality and existence. Everything comes from Brahman and everything returns to Brahman. Brahman is uncreated, external, infinite, and all-embracing.”
Walter shook his head smiling. “It really is just the first and second laws of thermodynamics,” he said, “but instead of energy, it’s Braham. The world’s oldest religion grasped these laws thousands of years before science did.”
“Hindus also invented the number zero,” Karen said, “so you could argue they also had a handle on the third before anyone else. But it’s not surprising. Religion and science are offspring of philosophy, and at one time they all coexisted in ‘relative’ peace until salvation became the purpose of religion. But even then—at least before those purposes became governing bodies, cooperation between Christians and Muslims was common, and was responsible for not only preserving the science we have from antiquity, but also establishing many of the principles and techniques we still use in science and medicine today. Science owes a great debt to God.”
“But is that reason enough to believe in him?” Walter asked.
“Or her. Or it. I can’t imagine God having a defined sex just because the culture I grew up in told me so, even though ‘God’ definitely has the hallmarks of a man . . . I don’t know, but I like not knowing. It makes life more interesting, and that’s inspiration enough for me to be a decent human being, not promises and punishments in an afterlife. I find a deep sanctity and humility in the scientific observations of this world, but I also find it in the rich diversity of its creators, because no one captures humans quite like their gods. But also, like with Brahman, I think clues to some answers science seeks to solve can be found in religion if science is openminded enough to look. Like I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if dark energy turned out to be past lives from reincarnation.”
“Because quantum mechanics proves it’s possible to have an infinite number of paths exist within one.” Karen emptied her beer, then shook the can. “But I’ve reached my time limit,” she said. “So we’ll have to pick up on this bedtime story next week.”
After throwing away their cans and turning out the lights, Karen and Walter went upstairs together, then separated at the top to separate rooms at separate ends of the single upstairs hallway. Before opening their respective doors, their eyes turned to each other.
“Goodnight Karen,” Walter said for the second time. “And don’t know if it’s too soon to say it, but love you.”
She smiled at him. “You should never feel ashamed of love,” she said. “Goodnight, and love you too.”
They both then separated.
Amber stirred when Walter’s body rumpled the mattress. She awoke in a rather horny mood as one sometimes does in the middle of the night, so they joyfully did the deed and before she went back to sleep she said, “I love you.”
“I love you too,” he said, and for the first time it felt one-hundred percent natural and in no parts foma.
They kissed, then she cradled her lovely tushy onto his hips and was quickly snoring, but it was adorable, cooing baby type of snoring. She then farted on him, but that too was an adorable, baby type of fart. So this was love; for making snoring and farts adorable and baby-like. Walter loved Amber’s snoring and farting.