“My mind is novel-shaped.” — Zadie Smith.
I was talking to one of my closest friends about the Inappropriate Man she’s been seeing for a couple of months now. She’s highly attractive — with the kind of long, lean body which provokes that essential Los Angeles question, “Are they real?” and indeed they are –and well-educated and in her early thirties, and after finishing a difficult professional year decided to ‘treat’ herself to a relationship with this dude, who, aside from being Inappropriate and something of a poseur, also happens to be tall and nicely built and good in bed. I made cracks about a guy like this being similar to a cocaine addiction — it just feels really, really good in the moment, and I can stop anytime I want to — and couldn’t resist emailing her the lyrics to Eric Clapton’s ‘Cocaine’, which she knew enough to take in good humor. “It’s not that I’m being judgmental,” I said later, more seriously. I’ve pulled too much crap in my own life — including my romantic life — to be judgmental, and in any case I’ve always been ruled by an insatiable curiosity* which has led me into places and situations which demand being open to the moment, or else what’s the freaking point? “It’s just, I know who you are and what you want, because you’ve told me many times in the past. I just really want to see you with someone who’s…you know. Got your back.”
This is what you don’t know when you’re younger, seeking adventure and lust and the opportunity (in my case) to write long dramatic pseudo-literary letters like someone in a nineteenth century novel. (I think I wanted to write the letters even more than I wanted the man.) You haven’t yet learned or experienced enough to say, I want to fall in love with someone who has good judgment.(Ultimately I did do this, although it was purely by accident, and I’ve thanked dog for it many times.) And your sense of the world as a candyland of possibility and opportunity is still being tempered by a darker reality of coldness, indifference, banality, brutality, random tragedy. The world is a great place, but it’s also part-abyss, and no one can afford to forget that, because nothing, not even obscene wealth, can protect you completely — or sometimes even at all.
“In one of those amazing examples of, like, totally random synchronicity,” my friend told me, just after saying she’s “almost at the end of him”, “just a few days after talking with you, and I was really thinking about what you said, he showed up after doing some kind of home-improvement reality thing for TV. So he was still dressed in this bright orange jumpsuit that he’d worn on set. And on the back of the jumpsuit it said, in these big letters, I’VE GOT YOUR BACK. And I just kept looking at him, thinking, Please. No you don’t.”
“He doesn’t have anybody’s back,” I agreed.
“Except his own.”
* I always blamed it as part and parcel of being a writer, having a writer’s personality.