Monday, December 05, 2016

These bonds are shackle free

A couple of weeks ago I was in Cologne to celebrate my love for the band that has helped pull me back from the brink every time in my life when I've needed saving. It was touch and go there for a bit, because the weekend before I was supposed to leave I had come down with something awful (much drama was made about maybe not being able to go) so that when I finally decided on Tuesday that I was well enough to at least get on the train, it was mainly to spend time in my hotel room where I drank lots of tea, and in the Starbucks across the river Rhine, where bejoes was (also more tea). As a result, the only part of Cologne I got to know intimately in those couple of days was the part that connected these two places: Lovelock Bridge.

I took a ton of pictures every time I crossed it, huddled in my hoodie, and in my still slightly feverish head all I could think about was all those people who had thought it suitable to symbolize their love by locking their hearts to a fence, and how utterly terrible it was that they had all been conned into doing so of their own volition. All I could think was that someone should come along to free them.

I may have gotten cynical about love, because I've never been in a relationship that didn't end in the exact same way, no matter how it started: in feeling trapped, stuck, completely unable to evolve, and with the growing realization that all you are doing is bringing out the absolute worst in each other. Maybe I just suck at love. The thing is: I just don't want to do it anymore.

Say it with chains. Ha.
People have told me that it's too soon, that I will change my mind, and if they're slightly older than me, they might even tell me that I just don't want to put in the work. But I have put in the work, and found that if you're putting in so much work, there better be some amazing fucking reward involved, better at least than finding after years of ironing out the kinks that you are no longer lovers but a pretty good management team, even if you don't have kids or anything particular to manage. Finding that you are now even losing the amazing friendship that started it all, until you become "partners", which, congratulations: you are now German business associates.

The glitter almost makes it better.
They might tell me that I am afraid to take risks, but I'm not. I even took the risk of taking my broken heart and moving into a community of people I have never met before, filled with hope of togetherness and building something unique and beautiful out of nothing, but I have learned the same lesson here over again as I did in my previous relationship: that you can't build something unless all the people involved are committed to do so.

I will also never stop taking the risk of crossing borders to go hang out with people I have only met through words on a screen. It might sound like a silly undertaking at best, but in all my years of doing so, this has given me the very best experiences of my life, and some of my most cherished friendships. I'm not about to move in with them or anything, but the bonds we share are of a different kind. They are based on a shared willingness to let go of social contexts and come together in the glow of a screen to talk about our innermost fears and desires and silly adorations without any of the inhibitions that come with dealing with people in the flesh. To stay up late talking about the nature of happiness with some Canadian person you've never met. It is a wonderful gift of our time that you can know and love and support another person without ever really knowing what they look like, or even their gender. For all the fuss we make about people who use social media to advertise their perfect and completely fake selves, there are just as many people out there who, like me, find it's so much easier to be real when you're stripped of all the social anxiety that is holding you back in the meat world. It's the modern day equivalent of late night conversations with strangers in bars, only without the drunkenness and fear of getting hit on. And in the same way that reading a book is like a long, deep and personal conversation with an author, the internet can grant you a tiny glimpse inside a person's head that you might have missed if you'd known up front that they smelled kind of funny or maybe had too many knees, or whatever else that puts you off.

You can look at that and say it's superficial, but in a way it is exactly the opposite of that. Or maybe I'm just saying that because I kind of suck at anything else.

This was also the trip where I fell deeply and instantly in love with The Mirror Trap, who are a bunch of wild men with clever lyrics (that address just the kind of thing I'm clumsily trying to get across here) and a singer who prowls the stage in red lipstick like the love child of Kurt Wilde and Brian Slade. I even got to talk to them afterward for a bit, and may have told them to "stay awesome", which makes me sound like a particularly uncool American teenager, but if I allowed myself to dwell on all the embarrassing things that keep falling out of my mouth I'd never say anything again.

It's so easy for me to lose myself in my love for a band or a book or some other cultural phenomenon it's actually pretty funny, and it's also very clear how being involved in any fandom fulfills a deeply human need for tribalism and communion and ecstasy that everyone anywhere gets from something that used to be organized religion but are now sports events and raves and Comic-Con as opposed to dancing around a fire to the lead of a Shaman healer. But the basic mechanics are still the same, and so are the people. We're still all just lost in space.

I've also written before about how coming together over sharing these passions builds a bridge to other people that can almost cross the impossible distance between two minds. But it's a bridge without locks, so in many ways safer. It's definitely safer to be in love with a concept than a human being.

So maybe I am scared, and broken, and terrified of anything but this.

But for the next couple of weeks, as I head out again to join the madness and sing and dance and sweat and hug people I've never met before, I can't imagine anything I'd rather want.

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