à La Recherche de L'amour Perdu
MAY 2011, TWO MONTHS LATER
“‘You are what you love, not what loves you.’ Do you think that’s true?” Catherine 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. Also, since the success of their West Coast tour, they no longer had to do covers.
“No,” Amber said little-spooned into Walter on her mother’s chocolate brown living room couch. “Love exists between people, not between yourself. 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?” Catherine said. “And that’s your favorite novel.”
“He didn’t insert himself literally in the story. 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,” Catherine said, then paused as if trying to restrain herself, but couldn’t. “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, you can’t deny 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,” Catherine continued, “you still have to admire the cleverness of the film.”
“He resorted to using 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...” Amber nodded to her mother’s bronze Buddha sitting on the Cocobolo coffee table in front of her, “...not Charlie Kaufman.”
“Perhaps,” Catherine said, “but that’s the beautiful thing about art: interpretation, not meaning. Everyone has the right to be right because they are right. So, can we just leave it at that?”
“Yes, but as a writer,” Amber continued the argument, “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...” Catherine again tried to restrain herself, but again couldn’t. “But creativity sometimes can’t compete with the master, and isn’t life the master of all creativity? Is it not drawn from the setbacks 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!” Amber nearly shouted. “But in art there are no underlying rules or correct paths.”
Catherine sighed and chomped her lower lip, but a muffled “So why are you trying to define them then?” still crawled out of her mouth.
Belly laughter blew against Amber’s back. She jabbed her arm back at it. “Ow,” Walter said.
“Why do you always take her side?” Amber said to him.
“I’m not. She just righteously checkmated you. You’re not going to beat your mother in an argument. Logic is her day job.”
Amber glowered back at him. “Oh right,” she said sitting up, “what was I thinking? Logic trumps anyone else from expressing an opinion.”
“I didn’t mean it like that,” he said sitting up and putting an arm around her. She pushed it off.
“Yes you did,” she said. “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,” Catherine 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.” Catherine then tried to stop herself again, but again couldn’t. “That’s why... That’s why I wish you’d finish your novel so the world can finally know it.”
Amber exhaled and rolled her eyes. “Here we go again,” she said. “Can we go one day without you lecturing me about my unfinished novel Mother?”
“Then can I go one day without you complaining about it? Talking about a novel isn’t writing it. Writing it is, and that’s the only way you’ll ever finish it—I’m sorry, I need to stop.” Catherine stood from her armchair and began walking out of the room.
“No, I’m sorry Mom,” Amber said walking to her, then hugged her. “I’m sorry, you’re right.”
“No, I’m not,” Catherine said shaking her head. “This isn’t an easy time for you and I need to be more sensitive of that. It’s just difficult when you haven’t lived her since high school, and sometimes you can be so stubborn for no good reason.”
Walter cleared his throat. “Kind of like her mother?” he said lightheartedly.
Catherine smiled at him. “Yes,” she said, “exactly like her mother.” They all laughed, then sat back down.
“So Walter,” Catherine said again in her armchair. “Have you made your choice on a label?”
“I have,” he 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 would like their support. I’m hoping the showcase will make things clear once they actually meet the reps in-person.”
“What’s the hang-up?” Catherine asked.
“Hang-ups. But I don’t want to talk about it. I’ve been ‘talking’ about it all week. Another beer anyone?” he asked standing up.
“I’ll have another if you are,” Catherine said. “But let me get them,” she said standing. “You guys stay comfy on the couch. You want another glass of wine Amber?”
“No thanks,” she said. “Remember, I have to work at a decent hour tomorrow now that movie night is on Saturday.”
“Oh, that’s right,” Catherine said. “How much longer are you at the airport again?”
“Indefinitely for the moment. 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.”
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 kissing 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,” Catherine 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 though, just one more beer. And maybe a little more weed too.”
“Yes, I’ll have a little more of that myself,” Amber said picking 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 her bedroom.
“I didn’t want to say it in front of Amber…” Walter said to Catherine as they sipped on their beers while listening to Chopin—the joys of which she had just introduced him to the week before, “...but the hangover 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 grin stretched across Catherine’s face. “Hey, you blew my mind a few times too,” she said. “And I’m just as hard to impress, if not harder. I haven’t debated someone like that since probably college myself. But let’s keep track of the drinking and time tonight. 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.”
“Yeah, she gave me an angry earful of silence also,” Walter said. “I finally just apologized, but she acted like it wasn’t a big deal, even though I could tell it was. Sometimes I just wish she’d say what was on her mind instead of—” He bit his lip. “Let’s not talk about it.”
“Yes. Limiting our time tonight to just one beer is going to be difficult enough,” Catherine said shaking her already halfway empty can.
“Yes, especially since last week toward the end left me with so many questions, questions I never thought I’d be having about religion . . . What was that Hindu concept again? Broman?”
“Brahman,” Catherine corrected.
“That’s it. Refresh my memory on it again? When I said toward the end, I mean the end of my memory.”
She laughed. “Brahman is the source of all things in the universe including reality and existence. According to belief, everything comes from Brahman and everything returns to Brahman. Brahman is uncreated, external, infinite, and all-embracing.”
“Wow, it really is just the first and second laws of thermodynamics,” Walter said. “But instead of energy, it’s Braham. The world’s oldest religion had a grasp on them thousands of years before ‘science’ did.”
“Hindus also invented the number zero,” Catherine said, “so you could also argue they had a handle on the third law before anyone else too. But it’s not surprising in my opinion. Religion and science are just offspring of philosophy, and at one time, they all coexisted in ‘relative’ peace until salvation came into the game. But even then, cooperation between Christians and Muslims, especially when it came to science, was common in the beginning. Much of the principles and techniques we still use in science and medicine today are a result of that cooperation. Science owes a great debt to religion, or in a wider context, 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—although ‘God’ definitely has all the hallmarks of a man. But truthfully, I don’t know. I just find a deep sanctity in the rich diversity of the world’s creators as much as I do in the scientific observations of it, because no one captures humans quite like their gods. But like with Brahman, I also think some clues to answers science seeks can be found in religion if science is openminded enough to look. For instance, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if dark energy turned out to be past lives from reincarnation.”
Walter scoffed. “How so?” he asked.
“Because quantum mechanics proves it’s possible to have an infinite number of paths exist within one,” Catherine answered, then finished her beer. “Unfortunately, however, I’ve reached my time limit for tonight, so we’ll have to pick up on this next week.”
“But it feels like we only got started,” he griped, then reluctantly drank the rest of his beer.
“Don’t worry,” she said picking up their empty cans and taking them into the kitchen. “We have plenty more nights ahead,” she said out of sight, then returned to the couch. “But tonight,” she said softly. “We must make up for last week.” Catherine’s eyes moved upstairs to Amber’s bedroom.
“You’re right,” Walter said, his eyes following. “Otherwise we may never get to do this again.”
“Exactly,” Catherine said, then bent forward and kissed Walter on the crown of his head as if he were her son. “Goodnight Walter.”
“Goodnight Catherine,” he said.
After turning out the lights, they went upstairs together, then separated at the top to go to their separate rooms at separate ends of the hallway. Before opening their respective doors, their eyes turned to each other.
“Goodnight Catherine,” Walter said again. “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 Walter, and love you too.”
They both then opened their doors and 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 did the deed and before she went back to sleep she said, “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Walter said, and for the first time it felt in no parts foma. Maybe he really was beginning to love her.
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, Walter thought, for making snoring and farts adorable and baby-like. Walter loved Amber’s snoring and farting.