The first rule about fight club is, you don’t talk about fight club. And that’s a lot like where I work right now. So, rather than ramble about that, I’ll tell you something softly candid, and sentimental for Springtime. But, there was a person who worked there until this afternoon, who I’ll never forget wore a trench pea-coat, with a single pin that read, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” - It’s funny the things we know we’ll remember about someone.
I’ve always liked Gatsby… the story of man, and a girl, and a green light that he could touch with his fingertips if he stretched out his arms to try, and it didn’t seem silly, or impossible about the possibility that he could touch his dreams, or recreate the past; it’s just so simple - one need only dare, boldly, easily, with a lightness that anyone standing outside that dream could never envision. But then, all who stand and stare, and think foolish of those who dream boldly, seem that shortsighted, and impossibly blind to their view of the promised land, to all those ready to size up a matter of such importance based on practicality… such meager measure for possibility. So, I’ve been really looking forward to the new movie coming out soon with a fresh take on one of my favorite books. At first I thought I would be disappointed. (I do not believe there will ever be another actor nearer to the character Mr. Fitzgerald had in his head when he wrote the thing than Robert Redford. And, the movie made back in the 70s, I believe held more of a sadness and subtlety to it that I think will always hold more true to the permanence, and torment of the tale, as it was written. But…). But, I see that this is going to be a very different Gatsby; more jangled, clanging nerves, louder music, more razzle dazzle. The harder part for me to get around to admitting, is that when I heard the thirty seconds of the song by Lana Del Rey, “Young and Beautiful” on the radio, I teared up. I know it’s silly, but I am reached deepest, and truest to my core, through my ears. And, so, when I heard that sweet beautiful ache in the tone of her voice when she sings the words, “will you still love me when i’m no longer young and beautiful,” the colorations shivered through and through me, and I thought, “Oh, god, they’re really gonna give this thing a shot! - Hollywood’s gonna try to really hit this one out of the park… like they care!”
I started wondering where they will use the song, and I remembered Romeo and Juliet, back in the 90s, with the song Baz used by Des’ree - those full, slow warm piano chords and even-paced vibrato crooning vocals, and the raised crescendo and sweeping strings trickling upward at the end - and how they used that song to illustrate Romeo getting the breath knocked out of him as he sees Juliet for the first time, through the fish tank. I didn’t respect that directorial version of the movie the first time I saw it, but it sunk in later.
Of course, I was brought back to a moment, plenty of years back, now, when I was waiting on a girl I was dating at the time. I was waiting at the bottom of the bent staircase of that house, that was like all of the staircases in our neighborhood, just about, and all of our parents always used that wall space at the turn to go up the second half of the staircase to the top floor to put family pictures of all of us. It was routine suburban decor. They were always pictures of the girls just before they turned into the darling aching beautiful heartbreakers that slept in rooms just a few doors down from the tops of those staircases, where they went to sleep at night with a yawning lightness, while I stared at the ceiling and dreamed of ways to make them mine.
I could hear a hairdryer… and above it, she was playing that song. That song, you know, from the movie that epitomizes the starcross’d lovers! That song… and where was I - at the bottom of a balcony!! My heart was already half-way bounding up the stairs when she called down to me, over the hairdryer, the iconic love song, and my heart beating in a way that moved my shirt.
I say all of that about my heart hitting the back of my shirt, and my heart racing up the stairs. But, actually, I was standing there grinning, grinning with my hand on the banister. I was grinning because I knew all of this was happening, felt it all hitting me…like some maddened cartoon wolf who can smell every ingredient caught in the air from a pie cooling on a kitchen window sil. There I was sheepishly grinning like a wolf, as she called down, once soft, then louder to be sure I heard.
“matt…MATTT! It’s Ok. You can come up, it’s ok”
When I got to the end of the hall to her room, she was sat down on the floor, just beside the doorway, in the middle of what had to be a dozen hairbrushes, staring into a long skinny mirror. She gave an upward smile at me when i came into view, as if she didn’t know that I knew she looked like a little darling. I sat a few feet away, and watched as she put the finishing touches on herself, done up as a picture. Then, a few minutes later, she stood up and took a red coat of a hanger that hung on the doorknob, and put it on. And later that night we stood on the sidewalk of a small town bar, and when we kissed she would suddenly jolt herself up to her tiptoes to give this extra volt of tenderness. It threw me off balance the first couple of times - that’s the truth, now.
It was like that for a while. And then it wasn’t. The sparks flew, but never caught. Now, it is Springtime again. We never really fall in love more, or fall out of love, or love less, with the freshness of hope that is in the change of air with the coming of every soothing autumn and when you catch your first breath of wisteria, and it sets loose a flurry of lavender petals in the breeze. And there it all is, like hope, like new love, like the green light, and when you see it as if your fingers are touching the edges of that light, and your dreams might be about to hit you, carried in on the next breeze, breathed in with your next breath. And these moments, like love, come again, sailing in on glory, easily drifting in, just as it please, and in no damn hurry.
I am convinced you can never unlove. You can attach a lot of ugly things to it, pin the past to a wall and throw darts at it, and call it hate, and say “I hate now what I once did love so.” But hate is also love, set in an opposite direction. Once I had an acting professor tell me that in college he was cast as Romeo, and, wouldn’t you just know it, a woman he hated intensely was cast as Juliet. He went to the director, and told him, “Of course I want this part… It’s Romeo. But, I absolutely hate who you’ve cast as Juliet, so I’m afraid I’ll have to turn down the role.” The director looked at him and said, “Do you hate this woman? - or just strongly dislike?” My professor leveled his glance at the director and said, “hate.” And the director said, “Phew! Alright, we’re still a go for our cast the way that it is.” And I imagine my professor climbing that balcony, night after night, and playing “hate” as sugary sweet and scathing as ever it could be done, with levels of malice possibly detectable through a clinched-teeth smile, and I have all certainty that it worked like gangbusters, and the audience could never tell he would rather stab who he was about to kiss, and winded!
So we love, and love again, and all those loves are true… and forever. Somebody told me today, “Stay golden, Ponyboy. Or, is it gold. Stay Gold” - that cool greaser quote from Johnny in The Outsiders. And I said, “Yes, it’s gold. Stay gold… because nothing gold can stay,” and I linked him the poem:
Nothing Gold Can Stay, by Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.
It’s true, the gold in nature must fade (catch it on the flipside) but I’ve seen that bright color set in for good on the hearts of those who are steadfast to near impossibilities; those who have “a romantic readiness” that is rare, but truly, truly Gatsby gold. :P