On Love and Afterlove. Story 8.

Depression has sneaky ways about her (yes, depression as a noun has female gender in Latvian and in Russian). She tries to adopt you as if you were an orphaned child and she was a caring mother:
– Oh, my sweetheart, you are so worthless, I am the only one in the whole Universe who is able to love you.
– Why do you have to get up? There is nothing in the outside world worth getting up for, everything is an obstacle and struggle. Be nice to yourself, hide in the bed and ignore the troubles.
– Doesn’t it feel good to imagine hanging yourself? Oh, it is so soothing. Keep thinking about it, honey.
The thing with me is that I let Depression to adopt me but I never sign the adoption contract. There is this tiny voice inside me that ultimately undermines the efforts of Depression:
– You can always hang yourself tomorrow. Before you do that make sure that indeed there is nothing to live for.
Or:
– Instead of killing yourself why don’t you try to kill the situation you are in?
That last question made me realize that I have to leave Lasse.
But how do you go about leaving someone who is so awful nice to you? With a nasty husband who drinks your money off and calls you “cow” it is easy to shout back: “you incorrigible cad, may your nose hair grow from your ass”, pack your bags and go to the airport. I’ve done that before. But there was no reason for me to shout out anything now and I was not sure what a nice man would do if I announced that I am leaving. What if he starts to cry? What if he cuts my allowance? I needed him to buy me a ticket back to Latvia. I had no money on my own.
I used the same tactics with Lasse I use with Depression – avoidance, half truth and postponement.
Looking at a small puddle of spilled sweetened tea on our breakfast table I said:
– I miss my family. I would like to visit them for a couple of weeks.
My heart was beating wildly. Will he know what my true intentions are? 
Lasse raised his head and looked directly at me:
– You are not leaving me, are you?
I put my finger into the puddle and made an arched line. I hoped my face didn’t become red betraying me.
– No, no. Just a brief visit. I’ll be back.
There was a pause.
I realized he is not going to scream, that was a relief. But I still couldn’t face his eyes. Under the first arched line I drew another one, arched down.
Lasse leaned towards me.
– Are you in a hurry? Can we spend Christmas together?
 I put a dot between the lines and started to draw eyelashes on the top ached line.
– I don’t know.
– I was thinking of going to Montreal and then maybe to New York for Christmas.
New York! I raised my eyes and looked at Lasse. This was the first time in a long time we both were united in an excitement of a sound. New York.
– Yes, I think I can do that.
 

(images that I associated with New York before I came to NY – every scene  from every Woody Allen’s film, especially “Manhattan”)

To get away from the 6 hour naps and clutches of Self Defeat I started to visit Lasse at his work place. Derek Lamb and Kaj Pindal were in charge of the project and Lasse was their star animator. Derek Lamb impressed me as a very happy man, very friendly, with a big smile. Lasse pointed out to me a woman quietly sitting in her own cubicle drawing away:
– This is Derek’s wife. Janet Perlman. 
Apparently, she was living in Boston and came to Toronto for a conjugal visit. She had a tight deadline for her “Cinderella Penguin” book, so she would arrive to the animation studio at 9 AM sharp and work on the illustrations till 9 PM. That work ethic definitely put my inability to resist the naps to shame.
Janet was not smiling, she was deeply immersed in her work. When Derek would gently put his hand on her shoulder she would jump up, wash her brushes and hand in hand they would walk off to their private lunch. It seemed so real and sweet at the same time. I was envious. Compared with what I had (emotional mess, unexpressed mutual resentment and oppressed tendency to mockery) their relationship seemed to be mature and stable. They have made films together! They went to Oscar ceremonies together! They must have great respect and admiration for each other, something I had hard time to give and receive.
– How did they figure out the puzzle of their relationship? How did they manage to keep the happiness in it?- I wondered. 
But they hadn’t. To my shock, they separated not long after this, for reasons unknown and unfathomable to me. Which is yet another proof that that no one can claim they have figured out the relationship thing. It is always work in progress, an ongoing attempt to moderate the inner pendulum swinging between the want to belong and the desire to be alone.

 Kaj Pindal, Derek Lamb and Janet Perlman

Just before Christmas break I was invited to the dinner with the project’s team. Across the table from me were sitting two handsome Toronto animators who were shamelessly checking me out. When Lasse got up to go to the bathroom one of them leaned forward and asked:
– Why Lasse?
I instantly knew what he meant but couldn’t believe it.
– Excuse me?
– Why did you choose Lasse?
– Why not?
– He is so awkward, so strange. You could do better than that.
I got angry. How can anyone make a judgment of my choices based on the way I and Lasse look? I snapped:
– By making a better choice you mean yourself, don’t you?
He leaned back.
– It’s not what I meant.
But I had a lecture to give.
– Don’t judge a man by his hat. Even if you tried, you wouldn’t measure up to Lasse, whatever it is what you have to measure.
There will always be people who will try to insert themselves into a couple like a wedge.
For me a married man is as good as dead. Untouchable. For some other people a married man is an exciting game. Game, like a wild animal.
Few days later we were in Montreal, staying with Lasse’s animator friend Patrick (names changed to protect the privacy) who was married to Élodie, a very beautiful French Canadian who looked just like young Fanny Ardant.


At a dinner Élodie flirted with Lasse with abandon to a degree where it became uncomfortable for me. To avert my eyes from the  flirt (- What a hussy! what am supposed to do? start singing?) I glanced down only to notice that under the table she was trying to reach Lasses leg with her bare foot! 
A rush of violent jealousy and anger went into my head. My face burned and my limbs shook. 
This woman was so beautiful she could have had any man she wanted, and she wanted MY husband! He is mine, mine! Don’t touch him!
Jealousy is an ugly beast, if you let it out, you’ll have a hard time to get it back into the sack. I have just one rule with jealousy – not to show it in front of other people. Witnesses only increase the shame and disgrace.
The moment we entered the privacy of our own room I hissed:
– What do you have with her?
– I have nothing.
– Didn’t I see she was flirting with you? 
– Yes, but didn’t you see I didn’t respond.
It was true, but jealousy has difficulty to listen to a reason.
– I saw she was playing a footsie with you.
– She was not.
– She was trying to reach your leg under the table.
– So what? She didn’t reach it. Note that it was not me trying to reach her leg.
He was right. Lasse indeed didn’t do anything. I had to calm down. 
– Sorry.
– It’s OK. 
He paused. I was about to turn to put my nightgown on, when he said:
– She always does that when I visit.
– What?! It had happened BEFORE?!
Jealousy. Does it ever end?
 
The Montreal-New York train brought us to New York around 7 PM. Penn Station. Rush hour. Gray, uncomfortable sky, drizzling rain. Rush hour traffic spattered with yellow cabs on the street. Endless stream of hurried, concerned people on the sidewalk. Huge, gray, oppressive buildings. I have never seen anything like this.
I made 10 steps on the overcrowded 8th avenue and stopped. The people kept bumping into me but it didn’t matter. My heart was beating with excitement. I was in love again. The new love object – the impossible, unreachable New York. I was too poor, too ugly, too incompetent for expensive, demanding New York City. It was like falling in love with Brad Pitt. Impossible to get him to love you back. 

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About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
This entry was posted in Depression. Personal Stories, Hazards of being an artist, Uncategorized, Women, Men and Animation and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to On Love and Afterlove. Story 8.

  1. otilius says:

    Great post with lots to think about…and I love the rainy NYC window photo at the end.
    All the best!
    Fred

  2. Robin (susanfornow) says:

    You described the dance with depression very well, as lately I am no stranger to it. While our paths crossed at Cinekink some years ago, I also ventured to the big city when I was 18 years old. I lived in Manhattan for seven years and fell in love with the city then. I don’t know if I could handle the pace now, but that’s another story. Keep writing, you have a way with words! Although we are 3,000 miles away, for a moment while reading your post I was back in the city!

    • When my love affair with New York started out I thought the City was out of my reach. But I took the huge risk and moved here anyway (with $300 in my pocket, no other support except for myself) and it turned out the City did love me back! I have noticed over the years that New York does like some people more than the others. I have to write about that, too!

  3. Just a wonderful essay. You have a great story here, it should be your second feature film.

  4. Thank you, Michael. It is interesting you should say this because in the last couple of weeks I started to think, too, that somewhere in this “Love and Afterlove” story is buried a feature film. I’ll have to dig it up, dust it off and present it to the world in the animated form. Something to think about. Thank you!

  5. paolo says:

    meanwhile, good luck with the first feature: I have seen a clip of it in Annecy Plus and it looks promising

  6. Nina Paley says:

    Mesmerizing story!

  7. Sam Chen says:

    Engaging and captivating Signe! i agree it should be made into a film.. if not feature.. perhaps a long short. i think it’ll speak to many, especially those souls lost in big cities.

  8. Carl Friedberg says:

    Hi Signe, this is the second time I’ve read this through, and I really like it. Very good flow, good story line, lots of important thoughts. Thanks for writing it down and sharing. Carl

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