The point isn't the tennis. The point is the story. The Harold Pinter Theatre one. I finally got back to it after months of neglecting it, and tried to revise it in accordance with the feedback that I have received. But I can no longer see where it is repetitive. I can no longer see how it can be tightened or improved. So I thought, I will just submit it, see what happens; and since the only reputable London-based literary magazines that I know are Granta, the London Magazine and Litro, I decided Litro is probably the best fit for the piece (Granta, by the way, is the Holy Grail rght now; and yes, as its name suggests, it was founded by Cambridge students in the late 1800s, I believe). I was feeling a bit apprehensive after my half-hearted editing that took place as if through a film over my whole brain, so I told myself to put up some art posters and my fairy lights first, then get back to it.
These frivolous decorative tasks somehow drained me so much that I felt too tired. I showered. And now I am in bed, writing this, thinking, I am afraid of banality; I don't want to be a banal writer; I don't want to write banal things that nobody cares about. The thing about this piece is that I don't think it's banal, and so I am the more afraid of submitting it somewhere; the more afraid of rejection--even as my pride in it diminishes with every repeated reading of it.
I have not gone back to the story that I started writing in Nice. I want to, and having just read it over for the first time since I came back, I think it has the potential to be a decent short story written in a traditional linear style--straightforward, nothing experimental. But how do I write from the perspective of a middle-aged Frenchman? The character is French only because the incident that I am basing the story on happened in Nice, and the person who took a picture of me when I was changing into my bikini on the beach was French. I suspect it will not have a strong sense of place at all; that the character could be from anywhere. So one would question why bother making him French? Maybe I wouldn't.
The larger point, though, is that I revert to a banality of style that seems to be my default when I'm trying to write a proper narrative. When I notice it, it literally makes me question the very foundation of my existence--and so it goes back to what I said earlier. I am afraid of banality. I do not want to write fiction that can be digested in five minutes. I want to write sentences that provoke, shock and awe, inspire. If I cannot do that, I would rather not write at all because there is no greater failure than failing at that which almost thoroughly defines you; and I define 'failing' as failing to meet my own high standards, set by the writers that I read who write the kind of sentences that I want to write. Sentences that subvert themselves within themselves; sentences deceptively simple and concealing a larger, heavier meaning; sentences quietly elegant and beautiful.
The story is not the point. The story is an instrument with which I explore the boundaries of language and the extent to which it can be used to portray and present--forgive the banality but it is apt--the human condition. The novels that I remember, the ones that take my breath away, usually barely have a plot; usually, they have a strong sense of character, of time and place, of their characters moving through time and place and negotiating their own place in life. The characters drive the story; and characters are people who experience things in life like we might.
The point is a strong emotional core, and the success of the writer in fleshing this out. So how do I do this? Trial and error. Dig deep. Do not fall back on the path of least resistance; if a sentence comes to mind immediately, ditch it. Think of another sentence. Do not write down the first words that come to mind; go with the third, fourth, fifth. Push the boundaries of metaphor and imagery; don't always rely on the same ones that are most intuitively obvious to me. That, I think, can be taken as a sign of the prosaic--the painfully prosaic.
Dig deep. Dig deeper. Keep digging. I am better than I think I am.
On another note, reading the things that I wrote about Never Again put me in a strangely melancholic mood. Strangely, seeing him--or being quite convinced that I saw him--in Cambridge a few weeks ago was something that was quickly forgotten as soon as the figure that looked like him was out of sight.
He isn't the point. He is merely the latest--or rather, penultimate--in my desperate and quite tragic attempt to shirk my responsibility of self-fulfillment onto someone else. I realise now that John was right all along...no, that's not quite right. I knew that he was right--that I was trying to use a relationship to fill a void--but now I know. I know it intellectually, I know it emotionally. And so Never Again was just that; and hindsight has a way of exposing to you all the things that were glaringly wrong, which you refused to fully acknowledge.
I don't know what the point is. I just feel lost, and sad, sometimes, and there is something else that I have not written about, someone else who arrived hot on the heels of NA, whom I didn't want to be yet another iteration of my failed attempts at dating but who eventually became, in Raffael's words, 'another shitty date'. At this point, I have to wonder if it's just me; if the problem was never with the men starting from Bruno; that there is something wrong with me.
Well, of course there is something wrong with me. I was picking the wrong people. I held on when I shouldn't have. I couldn't say no to myself, and so I couldn't prevent myself from satisfying an instant gratification just because I wanted it in the moment. Spoiled brat, right? Not entirely untrue. And so it was important that I put an end to the latest one even if there existed a part of me that didn't want to--the same part that led me down the wrong path in the past, that had no idea that it was gambling with my self-love and self-esteem when it chose the way that it did.
This time, I saw warning signs and I did not ignore how I felt. Even though the way that he was making me feel was magnified, perhaps unfairly, by the weight of our storied and, quite frankly, fucking horrible history, it was entirely plausible that I could have done the same thing that I did three times previously: held on when I shouldn't have; believed against the weight of the evidence that someone who tells me 'it's complicated' all the time is someone who deserves me, who is good for me; thought that it was okay, even normal, to make excuses for behaviour that was making me upset.
In fact, it doesn't really matter why a man behaves in a certain way with me that makes me upset. His reasons are irrelevant. He could be perfectly justified in acting a certain way; for instance, Gareth, being bi-polar, was perfectly justified and excused in his shitty hot-and-cold behaviour. But it doesn't mean that I should live with it if it is all that he could offer. It doesn't mean that I should accept it because, by the very virtue of the fact that such behaviour upsets me, he isn't meeting my needs--and so, in this way, we are fundamentally incompatible.
I knew this about NA from the start. It was on me, then, that I allowed myself to fall for his eloquent words and drag it out for as long as it did.
But if I had to go through all that shit with Matt, with Gareth, with NA, just to prevent myself from making the same mistake again, a mistake that I made 12 years ago when I gave a second chance (if it was even that) to someone who did not have the capacity to love me, and who remains to this day the only person to have truly broken my heart; if I would have tumbled down the same destructive and toxic path without dating those men, then I'm absolutely glad that I went through those experiences...because, and I do not exaggerate at all, I don't think there's anyone in the world more capable of hurting me than an ex-boyfriend; this ex-boyfriend.
So even though I thought about him sporadically in Nice (in fact, I wanted to write about it but when I got down to do it, I forgot what it was that I wanted to say; still don't remember), and am thinking about him now, and somehow wishing things could be different, the truth is, they will never be different. We were never compatible. We will never be compatible. A relationship with him is not the sort that I want, not at this age. I want something simple with someone complex, something comfortable with someone who challenges me; not something complicated with someone who doesn't (and probably won't ever) like me enough to want to overcome all the practical reasons it wouldn't work.
Anyway. This is getting me down, and I don't need this. What I do need: a proper routine, to send my Chapter 5 to my supervisors before going to Brussels with Etienne this weekend, and to read, read, read. READ! Goddammit, READ!