Hey Who’s On Trial?

Before they were making their final arrangements to leave New York, he was listening to Interpol, the first and second albums. Explaining that it was his method for coming full-circle with the town–for he fell in love with it the same year that Antics came out–he added that he wanted to end his rapport as he had started it: on this sonic note. She had liked Interpol well enough, but felt they sounded more like She Wants Revenge than Joy Division. Still, of all those New York bands that came up in the early 00s, Interpol remained among the most timeless. But then again, maybe not, as Bronson was listening to them to feel nostalgic. She couldn’t understand why he wanted to leave a place he still clearly romanticized, still captivated him enough to honor it in this way.

He wasn’t over it, was the impression she got–and neither was she. Yet nonetheless, here she was packing along with him. He jumped, she jumped was her foolish little girl’s logic. And she did somehow rationalize to herself that this was the logical thing to do. They would come back when his residency was over in two years, she was sure of it. There would be nowhere else in the world he would possibly want to go, she assured herself–especially after being away from it long enough to appreciate it anew. This was her internal monologue as she neatly arranged his socks and underwear on the bed. You would never have known it was the twenty-first century judging from such a scene, and with Bronson emerging from the bathroom after having taken a shit to add to the parody of domestic “romance,” to boot.

“I think we need to switch back to the other coffee we were using.”

Disgusted, May asked, “What does it matter? We’re leaving in five days. You can endure a bit of diarrhea–it’s likely to be worse in the Bahamas.” The Bahamas, she thought. It should have made her thrilled. Sun, palm trees, drinking out of coconuts. But she knew it wasn’t going to be that way. It was like how people thought Italy was all yachts in Capri and endless pasta. It was a false perception and she knew that for the most part she would be cooped up inside, relegated to helping Bronson study or cooking meals for him while he worked and ignored her. Why had she agreed to sign on for this? To leave the only place on this earth where she didn’t feel like a total freak? Was it love? Or merely a crippling fear of being alone? That this was her last best chance at “locking it down” with someone, anyone.

“Hey who’s on trial?” Paul asked from the speakers as though to get May out of her head. Bronson, too, seemed content to take her away from her mind by wrapping his arms around her waist from behind and licking her right ear.

“Do you want to…” he half-whispered so that his hot breath, foul-smelling from a chili he had just consumed (to add fuel to the fire of the bathroom scene) made her shiver.

She turned around and kissed him shyly, but it was a brush off kiss. She did not “want to.” Instead, she made an excuse about needing to go to the store, and that she would get him the old coffee they had been using while she was there. The truth was, she just wanted to be alone. With her city. The place most embodying of heaven and hell. The best of times and the worst of times. Could she really leave it behind for Bronson? And for a place so prosaic, so homogenous in landscape? She had to, she reconciled. This was what love was: unwavering compromise. And maybe he would have to compromise in ceding to moving back to New York when it was all over. At the same time, something about the way he was listening to Interpol–as though to permanently make peace with never coming back (at least not to live)–made her feel extremely ill at ease. There was something portentous in the way he hummed along to “PDA.” He knew something that she didn’t. Maybe he didn’t even know it himself yet.

Standing paralyzed in the incontinence aisle of the Whole Foods on Third Avenue, she couldn’t remember what she had come here for. Panicked by the increasingly real revelation that she would never be able to come back to this shitty Whole Foods again with its equally shitty baby-saddled clientele, she practically ran out. She had to put the kibosh on this entire operation. Who was to say that she and Bronson couldn’t still thrive in their relationship while remaining apart for a bit? She could always go visit him from time to time. It would be fine. They would survive. If the love was real. The thing is, in that moment she couldn’t say for sure whether love as an abstract concept overall was real, or merely a collective effort worthy of Academy Awards for Best Actors and Actresses throughout the land, with the majority of the population convincing itself that love was real and true. That we weren’t all miserable and going to die and as a result absolutely needed to create a smokescreen meaning.

As she burst through the door of their increasingly tornado bomb-looking apartment, practically sprinting up all four flights of stairs to get there in order to let her confession of not wanting to go burst forth from her, she saw Bronson’s slightly pudgy silhouette illuminated by the natural light flooding in from the bedroom. Paul was bemoaning, “I had seven faces thought I knew which one to wear/I’m sick of spending these lonely nights training myself not to care.” It struck her almost immediately that he was just going through the motions of this “to-do” as well. This production of keeping them together for the sake of what’s known as the sunk cost fallacy. You put enough time into something–or someone–and you damn sure want a fucking payoff–or at least a payout (what Mariah Carey would call an “inconvenience fee”). We were all on trial for this crime, as it were. The crime of sticking to another human being merely because it’s the prized quality of loyalty we’ve been taught to incorporate into our personality ever since grade school. Though, apparently, no student could see through the charade that this was the government desire to keep their constituents complacent subtly masquerading as teachers imparting wisdom about how to be a good person. Well, she couldn’t be this “decent human.” Not any longer. Not if it meant surrendering her own wants and potentially broken dreams for the sake of being an alleged “good person.” And as Paul wailed, “New York Cares (got to be some more change in my life),” she made just this announcement to a befuddled Bronson, more troubled by the fact that he had already made the arrangements for both of them to live in the Bahamas than any perceptible hurt over the termination of their monogamous sexual contract. She suddenly remembered what she needed to buy at Whole Foods.

****

Bronson’s fate away from New York was sealed the moment he had left. And May wondered if he would ever bother making the effort to listen to Interpol again (for it was a genuine effort to hear them, it’s not as though they were pervasively playing on anyone’s speakers other than those of fans’–even when a new record was coming out). She listened to “If You Really Love Nothing” from Marauder on her way to work the following Monday, thinking it was the perfect first track to commence the first day of the rest of her resigned to nihilism New York life.

 

 

 

 

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