In my twenty-eighth year, I found myself in the midst of many ruins literal and metaphorical. I don’t know if it’s necessarily true what they say and life only throws your way what you can handle at any given moment, but it seemed to me that life was quite convinced I could endure the sick and twisted sense of humor of Destiny as it saw fit to provide me with no shortage of ruins while both going through a breakup and subsequently processing it. And, of course, it wasn’t even my choice to visit all these hallowed places rife with the history of two or more white men who had been enraged with one another.
I hadn’t much been interested in what Europe had to offer, was still firmly ensconced in my “New York years”–a period that, for anyone, means being convinced that the city is the center of the earth and that to leave it would be an act of relinquishing all relevancy. I was a fool then. Sure, I’m still a fool now, but in an entirely different way. I’ve learned to be more cautious in my foolishness, more fastidious. For one reaches a certain point when they only have so many more opportunities to revel in foolishness before it becomes what’s called “untenable in the long run.” For me to keep pretending that the city I had come of age in was an adequate place to age in (without money) would be a monumental exercise in denial. And I generally tended to hate exercise of any kind so why would I make an exception in this case? Yet it seemed denial had crept in with my agreement to escort Colin on his journey. A journey that he had clearly only half-heartedly “offered” me to accompany him on from some remaining semblance of his sense of obligation to “what we had.” And what we had, I should have surmised, was what was known as “a good run.” Maybe one I should have recognized couldn’t last. Much like the once-great architecture of the past that had since turned to rubble, ruins.
Oh the fucking ruins. How they were everywhere. In Italy, Greece, Turkey. All of the best places from an objectively aesthetic standpoint seemed to, in the midst of their beauty, thrust in one’s face the strange alternate crude “allure” of a ruin or ten. I wanted to ignore these ruins at first, despite Colin gleefully running toward them to snap photos for his ill-curated Instagram, which featured, instead of photos with me, primarily ones with his mother. His raw-faced mother who looked like she had rubbed her face against one of the stones of the ruins as some sort of quintessentially ineffectual anti-aging regimen (the kind that people buy into because if it’s that difficult to execute then surely it has to work). His mother who had probably wanted to bash my head into a stone of that variety on more than a few occasions as she never felt I was “right” for her precious baby. Her only crowning achievement in life having been to let her vagina crown. So of course she wasn’t going to take a shine to me, a “modern” woman (or just one with some common sense) who had no desire to birth anything other than art.
Of course, Colin didn’t think I was taking my art seriously enough. That my attention span didn’t possess the endurance to “succeed.” But then, his definition of success and mine were quite diametrically opposed. Where he saw the need for his work to be shown in galleries (therefore widely Instagrammed–the twenty-first century equivalent of having “made it”), all I wanted was to just do the work as it came to me. As I felt inspired to do it. To not be judged for my contempt for “the scene.” Trying to be a part of it in the vague hope that some hollow acquaintance might provide a crumb of a connection that might, in turn, provide a crumb of an “opportunity” (like displaying an ill-hung painting in some remote corner of a gallery that actually doubled as a coffee shop during the day). Fuck. That. It always came to no end other than shame over having compromised one’s hard-won misanthropy. And god knows I had “won” it hard despite my best efforts to keep an open mind about bothering with other people.
Colin was probably the last person I allowed to really “penetrate” me in that way before I barely emerged from the ruins of the relationship with, at the very least, the good sense to know that to engage with others in any way beyond a surface level is to invite eternal regret and agony into one’s own already ruined temple of an existence. And, speaking of temples, it was at The Temple of Hera II, sometimes called The Second Temple of Hera, that Colin saw fit to finally cut the last thinly hanging thread between us. Did me the “service” of severing it with the same occupational glee as an executioner operating a guillotine.
As we stood in the ruins of Paestum, I was struck by the miraculous intactness of the primary structure in contrast to the random patches of stones that had once represented a semi-vibrant and functional town. Just as our own relationship had been. Emphasis on the “semi.” At the time of its occurrence, naturally, I though it was fully vibrant and functional. But no, it was just like those defunct patches that had at one point made up a cohesive and concrete entity. Now only remnants of something that once composed a complete portrait. A formerly connected composition that was presently too disjointed to recognize or remember how it had come together in the first place.
And in the moment that he said, “June, I think it’s time we both acknowledge this isn’t working anymore. You know? Like Dylan said, ‘You go your way and I go mine,'” I felt my own inner emotional structure crumble.
The asshole conveniently left out the more overarching theme of the song, which was Dylan’s sense of abandonment by the one he loved. Of having to constantly guess what her true feelings were as opposed to resting assured in her constancy. But then, it was in Colin’s inherent nature to extract a false piece of meaning from a larger work or motif (his own “work” having no meaning itself). It was how he justified his various slights toward those that no longer served him. Or his “art,” which had increasingly devolved into obnoxious blobs on a canvas that he wanted so badly to believe usurped Pollock’s contribution to postmodernism.
Some part of me wanted to use all of the brute force that was gathering within the depths of my belly as a result of my enraged resentment toward him for chucking me when we were supposedly on a “romantic” “bonding” trip with one another. Another part (the jaded, therefore more practical one) couldn’t help but accept it as but a requisite aspect of the destruction that was part and parcel of any human attachment. Or even any inhuman attachment. Permanence was a grand illusion those who so often get hurt the most try their best to cling to. But I decided, then and there, that I was done being hurt. For Colin most certainly wasn’t the first to disappoint me. I simply had to make sure he was the last.
And yes, it’s hard to visit ruins when it reminds you of every relationship you’ve ever had. I suppose, in that sense, I can thank Colin. For that summer, I saw every ruin I would ever need to. And it was enough comfort to know that not even art endures. Try as the narcissist might to believe that it will.