It was my birthday last week, on the 10th. I turned a record age, by which I mean 45, which is the middle seat in the phonograph triad — 33, 45, 78. As STIFF Records once noted, if you were born in ’33, you’ll be 45 in ’78. When I was a kid I had a little song I used to sing when I put on records: thirty-three, forty-five, se-ven-ty-eight, in a sweet private lilt. And now, recto-verso, here I am.
It is, frankly, a dreadful morning, mired there at the end of the thing that never actually started, and in the middle of it she sends the sort of chirpy empty email — Happy birthday! Hope your day is wonderful! — that you’d send to a co-worker you shared a floor with but wouldn’t recognize in blue jeans on the street. To someone hardly worth noticing. Which, now I look back on the whole year-long arc of it, is who I guess I was.
In retrospect I’m glad she does it, thoughtless as it is. It’s the sort of thing that drains blood out of your heart. My head throbs two times, three, so completely that it makes a sound in my ears. Tears spill out in a sudden run, so fast and so unprepared that they leave no tracks on my cheeks — drops in a straight line from my eyes to my lap. I guess it’s sort of an earthquake thing. Everything soft inside breaks all at once, and it is over in seconds. And that is that.
So I start over. Again. Maybe that’s what a birthday is for.
She does me the mercy of violence fairly early, so when I go stomping out of the house looking for a bridge to jump off of there is still plenty of day left. I have a rooftop photo shoot to do, and when that’s done I walk through the Lower East Side and SoHo taking pictures — steering clear of bridges, just in case. A lot of good photography gets done, which should probably tell me something.
Come evening I meet up with Autumn for a movie. Autumn has been in her own share of battlefields lately, as in “Love is A,” and she’s been lending me her camo and body armor (you have to picture us both crouching sidelong against the dug-out wall of a WWI-era mud trench, eyes sharp under steel helmets wound with vine, smeared faces lit by the twin red points of matched cigarettes; it rains, of course. There is a trace of acid smell in the air, beyond the fulvous smell of wet earth and clay.
Linus: You blocked yours on chat yet?
Autumn: Mmm-hmmm. You?
Linus: Yep. Did it today.
Linus: Kind of sucks.
Autumn: Better this way.
Linus: We talked all the time. I mean … I mean, it was, look, I–
Autumn: Stop it.
Linus: Right. Right. You’re right. Pass the ammo.
And overhead, a shell detonates, scattering shrapnel).
We catch Hard Candy at the Angelika — a switch from our usual monster movies, and one I really enjoy — and then head out for Just One Drink, because we’re both at work the next day. Somewhere around the third glass of Just One Drink I have a little how-much-I-liked-her moment, and Autumn, who has been holding it in all night, explodes.
“Linus,” she says. “Linus. I HATE THIS GIRL. Everything you have told me about her, everything, says that she is an insane manipulative bitch who can only relate to people she controls, and she has fucked with you for the last year because she liked it and because you were willing to take it, and because that’s what she does. You are lucky that this didn’t work out, because she would have destroyed you completely, because she is an insane fucking manipulative bitch.”
After which there is some silence.