by Gabrielle Marceau
I walked home from Amy’s where we had almost watched half a film about the Beats. She inevitably fell asleep in the first 20 minutes, leaving me to decide if it was worth finishing. The film is based on a book you’re supposed to read in college - back then every boy I wanted to fuck had - but I didn’t, and I’ll probably never finish this film.
In it, a boy travels somewhere. You know this because he sits in many different passenger’s seats; the sun in every windshield so hot it is practically mythic, his eyes glued to the landscape become expansive, taking in all the nothing. After awhile he seems to be somewhere new, although the faces are the same, the apartments and the music are the same, the fucking is always (no matter what girl) the same.
The hapless guy from Country Strong plays a boy you want to fuck. Yeah, you too. Appealingly bisexual and sublimely talentless, Dean Moriarty fucks everyone and they make the same noises. Everyone except our protagonist, Sal Paradise, who smokes alone and drunk on the couch like a pussy.
I should know better than to sit on a couch sober and manic, watching a movie both boring and too pretty.
Amy had upset me so much that I bought her a succulent plant and dinner. She sat on the couch and held an ice pack. I struggled, adjusting the fan until she could feel it (‘tell me when you feel it’).
Maisie said everyone in southern California has a succulent garden. One day Amy would move to L.A. and make costumes for Kristen Stewart movies.
I wonder what it feels like to travel. I wonder because I can’t afford to. I once spent an endless six months wandering around France with my parents and brother and since then traveling may have lost it’s appeal. It seemed to me like walking through a desert or on an ocean (would you ever find the edge?). You could maybe live like that forever, but even if you stand ankle deep in a hundred oceans, you’ve still only gone ankle deep. Yesterday I took a new route to an old bar and I felt expansive, perfect.
I guess that was why I stopped taking the medication - I wanted to find an edge. In the past few weeks I had felt closer to happiness than ever, like a curtain was about to be lifted and the show of my normal, healthy life would begin. Instead I left the theatre. A therapist once said I can’t handle excitement so I sabotage myself, a psychiatrist told me excitement was a danger to be avoided and prescribed me Lamotrigine to even out the edges.
I was always smarter - I mean I was always better at seeing connections. But I could never imagine those edges. It’s why my writing is purely synthesis, and why I’m bad at math.
I may be smarter, but I am no luckier. No one in this film is smart but at least a few are lucky, Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and his ebullience that opens all doors and legs, Camille (Kirsten Dunst) with her good breeding and better heart, Marylou (Kristen Stewart) with her joints and marriage license. Allen Ginsberg is lovelorn and beautiful, but Jack Kerouak (sorry, I mean Sal Paradise) is just a brilliant pussy who’d rather watch.
Sometime last winter I started taking even stupider risks, with boys and with my body. This seemed to be the current of violence in me and so many of my female friends. We close our eyes and let things happen to us, passed through with the chill like that when the driver accelerates. Maybe we’re fatalists, maybe we want to extinguish only ourselves, or maybe we want to get infected with everything, even babies, so we can fuck with impunity, finally.
It also just feels good.
Queer boys maybe understand this too. Allen Ginsberg in this film doesn’t yet know the particular danger of his lust, but I do. So does Amy. Fucking is an edge, a border between life and death.
I've been to the border but only Amy crossed it. Maybe I am lucky.
I wouldn’t say I’m a Dean but I am often the most liked person in the room. Probably because I am the most liking, and maybe because I am usually the least beautiful. Amy wins that badge whenever a man’s face turns from me to her; usually near the end of the night, when decisions have to be made. I swear that isn’t why I am upset with her tonight.
I am not a Sal, I don’t watch. At the bitter heart of me is an nebula of desire to be Seen. But I do write, rambling into my phone in the bar bathroom. I write to every girl I love and a few really special dicks.
I’m not a Marylou: slutty and dumb, good at rolling joints, good at sitting languorous and long-limbed, good at being had, good at being 16. Last night I watched Jenny - thin, beautiful, and a designer - roll up potent weed in her living room. I sat quietly because I know nothing about typography, even less about pot. I’m especially not a Kirsten Dunst - “Helen of Troy with a brain” is how some asshole pretending to be Allen Ginsberg describes her - she just seemed like a nice girl who wanted to make others feel good.
The women in the film aren’t people really, but suns: luminous, nourishing and incapable of desire. Or maybe capable of a desire too consuming to be understood by the male characters or the male director or the male producers. The men desire fiercely; for same sex love, for adventure, for paragraphs. But the women here (and in so many other films) seem impossible: static, beautiful, cool. I guess the camera is too busy desiring them.
These women are utterly unlike the women I know. Women who cry and get drunk and fuck, mouths open. I am a woman sure, but I am not a film woman. I am ugly, uncool, brilliant and most of all desirous.
I was mad at Amy because she was good at being girlish, fragile; small things I couldn’t even fake. She called the tattooed boy in Montreal. He is appealingly successful and sublimely talentless. He writes bad poetry, he’s vaguely Australian, every girl I know wants to fuck him.
Except me. I want to burn his car. I want to burn his books. I want everyone to see my sparking anger. Being smarter isn’t always enough.
A friend works at a gallery that is putting on a show of Ginsberg’s photography. “There are a lot of dicks” she said. I rolled my eyes: of course. Ginsberg’s dick-centricness repelled me before I could read too closely. How dare he claim risk and beauty and ecstasy only for men who love dick. My knee-jerk freshman feminism begged, “where are the cunts?”. Hadn’t I been beaten up in the street, Hadn’t I been enslaved by a good dick on a bad man, hadn’t I had enough one night stands that they went from fun to empty to fun again?
I grew up that year once I left Montreal for good. But I still haven’t quite learned that I don’t always need to be included. I still hesitate to leave a bar early, in case I miss some collective ecstasy.
Now, at 24, I think of one night stands as opportunities for freedom. Sex like that is in the moment, like forever traveling to the edge of yourself. It’s afterwards that wounds appear, rashes and bruises flaring up days later like some stupid god’s wrath. But we go out again, and we take self-defense classes to prepare us for the worst.
I’ve never read On the Road because I am already in love with too many things.
For a second the protagonist of the film walked next to a field lit up with a burning sun, so hot it turned the mountains to black, so red like he might have just walked far enough to see the scorching of the world. I thought maybe this boy had reached the edge: of himself, of land, of the reel maybe. He was almost silhouetted, nearest to blackness he had ever been. A silhouette is all edge, 2D. There’s another side, your mind knows this, but you could never see it.
I remember the first morning I saw without sleeping: 18, stoned with 6 others in a makeshift tent on the grass in April. I thought it was impossible to go that far into the day that it just came back again, cold at first, then warm. I felt then that specific ecstasy of new things. I finally slept once my roommates started smoking cigarettes and working on essays.
Now I stay up to write essays.
No one back then had diseases yet. Now I’ve been diagnosed and Amy sits with an ice pack. I love her, but my love is a razor edge. Female friendships are like a Rubik’s cube where each side is a coloured blade, and the pivot is a flame.
I just looked up the last line of the book On the Road:
… and nobody, nobody knows what’s going to happen to
anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old …
I guess Jack’s never heard of living fast and dying young.
The last line spoken in the film: Love you as ever. Now that’s a little better.