This is from Chris Adrian’s new novel, "The Great Night", a sort-of sequel to Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream", only set in present day San Francisco, with Oberon & Titania’s fairy court appearing one night in Buena Vista Park, and all havoc wreaks as a result of Puck, trapping several “young lovers” in the park along with the fairy folk. (As well as a group of homeless, here substituting for the actors.) (It all works, trust me.)
It’s a fascinating read.
For one, the premise (Shakespeare’s characters and play recreated/revisited in a modern day setting) is one I love and (most always) can get behind. For two, the way the story is told, featuring each character’s flashbacks to their painful lives (even Titania’s) are both excruciatingly frank and sad. The backstories interweave along with the present, and within each other (think Lost), but also progress the story.
Anyways, I love this passage, because it’s so fittingly true to my experiences with relationships and people.
(Yes, the speaker here is gay, and discussing a homosexual relationship, but I think it applies to anyone.)
Because who hasn’t done that? I can’t be the only one who, in the absence of an actual person, falls in love with the idea of that person. This could be someone you may go out with, but due to schedules, never really see that much; someone who lives far away, or a long distance relationship; or someone you simply like from afar, a crush that develops over distances and space, one built on tumblr posts and texts and FB comments and tweets and emails or late night phone calls and even later at night, post-drinking exchanges that invariably both parties regret the next day, or just forget ever happened.
Years and years ago, a close friend pointed out that this is always what I do. That by the time the first date is over, in my head I’m already months down the relationship timeline, and I’ve already sabotaged myself and the relationship in my head, or fallen for something that wasn’t real. I’ve committed myself to a relationship that doesn’t exist, in an imaginary, romantically perfect world I created in my head.
This is a problem I’ve more or less got over, over the past half decade, as I’m now a bitter, jaded cynic when it comes to love and relationships. (This isn’t a bad thing, actually.)
But every so often, this “daydreaming” reoccurs.
Sometimes (always) with, obviously, disastrous results.
It doesn’t help that sometimes the person on the other end, the half of the relationship that isn’t present, does things to lead one on and into thinking something is there that isn’t. (Cue Beauty & The Beasts “Something There”.)
And every time it happens, it’s just as bad as the time before, and you’d think I’d learn my lesson. And mostly I do (by this I mean I just stop caring for anyone at all), but then, invariably, I let my guard down and let others convince me of feelings that may or may not exist, and soon I’m back in my imaginary world where I have feelings and have fallen for someone I believe feels the same.
Only to be confronted by the cold, hard realty of the situation later and to be so vastly disappointed and overwhelmed that all I can do is retreat and escape back into my well-fortified and protected fort of bitter, jaded cynicism.
Now, this is entirely my fault. I don’t blame others for their inability to conform to the intense and overly-romanticized version of them that I’ve created in my head. How could I? You don’t blame a dream for not being real after you wake up.
But, and if I was the only person I knew that did this, that’d be another thing, but I’m not, so clearly others put stock in imaginary things.
I know people who have traveled vast distances and spent great amounts of money visiting someone they fell for in the false-world they created within the reality of the situation. People who then are confronted by disparagingly sad realities when they realize the boy/girl they’ve been fascinated by either has a girlfriend/boyfriend that they’ve failed to mention in those late-night texts and even later at night calls; or they are really just not interested; or they simply love having someone want them.
(Girls, it seems, always want attention from any guy, no matter whether they need it or not, and no matter the source. I have female friends who become better and closer female friends with me anytime they’re single. But the moment they find a “real boy”, that is, someone worth dating who isn’t a “puppet”, and by “puppet” I mean a stand-in for a boyfriend/romantic relationship, someone they can get attention from and give attention to, someone they can subsidize their feelings with and for; as soon as they find this “real boy”, then the “puppet’s” strings are cut. It’s back to me never hearing from them… until they break up and need someone to once again pick them back up and give them an emotional crutch. They need their strings.)
And that is the gist of it, really. And I’m not putting all the blame on girls; I know guys who keep girls around for the same reason, unable to commit or pull the trigger, but needing and wanting that attention. Is it waiting for something else better to come along, or is it a desire to not be lonely in the short run?
Either way, it causes everyone to imagine and put faith in realities that aren’t real. And as this passage from “The Great Night” points out, it’s only afterward that we realize how much faith and stock we put into the falsity of the relationship, entirely missing the reality of it, and thus falling for something and someone that never actually existed.
But by then it’s too late. The damage is done. We’ve already flown to Vegas or New York or Oklahoma or driven cross country or two states over or just up the 101 to a seaside beach town. We’ve already invested, emotionally, into something that turns out to not exist, and suddenly all of that real emotion poured into something entire fake bursts and crumbles and we’re left feeling entirely foolish and angry, angry at being a fool and angry at letting ourselves once again fall for something that was never real to begin with.
And in the process, we might have damaged or lost a real and valuable friendship. Or maybe not, maybe we caught ourselves from falling for the same shtick that others (including ourselves previously) have fallen for.
At the end of the day, relationships are only as real as the people in them. And when you deal with people who don’t know who they are, and who they want to be, and hide behind some façade they’ve created, people who are afraid to be themselves for the very same reason that you are afraid to be yourself, then nothing is real and nothing ever works out.
Los Angeles has plenty of people who refuse and are unable to cope with their own reality. “Never date an actor or actress” is thrown about everywhere (and with good reason), but the same holds true for almost anyone. So many people in Hollywood pretend to be someone other then themselves for so long they lose who they really are. Some have to “always be on” for their job, or are always pleasing someone else, or are always subservient to a boss, or have just forgotten who they really are, that no matter what, you’ll never get to know the real person that exists within. They have to be the friend who always parties, who never says no; the girl who’s always a good time or the guy who always gives rides; the couple that always says they’ll come out for just one beer but never appear; the friend who always has an excuse for why he can’t hang out.
And it’s not just LA. Sure, we’re a special kind of fucked up here in the City of Angels, but it’s not the only place where this happens. More and more people develop online identities and personalities to be somebody else or someone better. People reinvent themselves when they move, or drop their friends and lifestyles in the hope of being someone else, even if they’re sacrificing everything that they liked and defined them for the sake of something new or different or “potentially” better.
I’m as guilty as anyone in every count listed above, and plenty of us are. We’re social chameleons, or social networking chameleons.
But somehow, in the process of trying to be someone else or someone better, in trying to be a better version of ourselves for the sake of a girl or a boy, we lost entirely who we are and the reason we wanted to change to begin with.
We’ve created another reality. One filled with cracks just waiting to fall apart.
So I guess this post is about learning to navigate the various realities, real and imagined, that exist around us, that we create and that others present to us, in the hopes of finding something and someone real, and having something real with them.
More often than not, this doesn’t happen. As long as there’s communication there will be miscommunication.
And it’s not to say that girls or boys are using deception or lying; let me say right now that’s not what I’m saying. (Though several do.) What I’m saying is that we all will misinterpret everything said by anyone we are interested in, because invariably we want something to be there when it’s not. It’s that false hope we believe in and that waylaid faith we have only in others.
But if any of us hope to be real and live in the real world, to escape back to reality, then we have to face the cold, hard facts that exist in the real world. That means getting hurt and that means getting your heartbroken, and that means taking risks and putting it out there. And that means we have to stop fabricating relationships out of hope and lust and missed connections.
We have to wake up. And stay awake.
There are things and people worth dreaming for, but it’s better for everyone if they’re actually there when you wake up. Otherwise, what’s the point?