Thursday, May 8, 2014
Breakfast With Sigmund
He looked even smaller than the pictures I had seen of him, but as soon as he sat down, I could see the intensity in his eyes.
"Thanks for meeting me," I said. "It must be strange for you to come back from oblivion for asiago cheese bagels and chai tea."
"Not at all. I do it often, usually when men feel the decline," he said.
"Just men?" I asked.
"You'd be surprised. I keep studying, even though I am gone. I see more than I used to. Women are no longer neurotic about being 'non-men,' if you know what I mean. That penis envy stuff is so last century. In many ways, women are further evolved than men, but they still have their fears, their wounds... " He looked at me through those ancient, round, pince nez glasses.
After a painfully pregnant pause, he continued. "Men still worry more about performance and control, the whole 'large and in charge' thing. You, for example, might feel that a rush of attraction might be the last one you ever feel, so you hang onto it, cherish it. It's not just sex; it's the intoxication of young love. You are on the brink on darkness, you think, and you are afraid."
"Well, I hate to say it, but when that goes, what's left?"
"You will see. Eros can take many forms."
"But I like this form. It's what I know, what I have learned to value above all else. I mean I can handle almost anything as long I know there is sex in there somewhere. It's what makes living worthwhile. The DNA needs to know it's still viable or it will just give up."
"Eros is also about surrender to creative work. Your sexual energy is ready to take different forms."
"What about all those young, beautiful women walking around campus with clothes cut to reveal silky, intimate skin?"
"Yes, that is the trigger."
"But how do I make the jump from wanting skin to writing or painting or some other art?"
"Grieve your losses. Embrace and share your gifts."
"Easier said than done."
"Exactly. Why do you see so many old men chasing younger women? They are afraid of pain, and, of course, really, joy."
"Yeah, but you did not succeed so well."
"Again, you'd be surprised. It takes work to find erotic release in art and intellect. Confinement, tedium, and hopelessness helps. And yes, I don't have a body, so I can speak freely."
"The desires seem to get stronger."
"Things do get worse before they get better, if they get better."
"You are pretty harsh."
"That's what they say."
"So, that's it? That's the work?"
He smiles at me through his gray goatee. He slathers pink salmon spread on his bagel, never taking his eyes off me. The smell of the yeast, the melted butter, the salmon, the rich fat of the cheese gathers like an aromatic cloud over the table. He relishes the prospect, and then sinks his teeth into the high gluten heart of the bagel. His eyes say much about pleasure, about earthly delight. And they radiate intelligence, knowledge, years of reading, long days of work, writing, synthesizing. They straddle two worlds, united by their opposition, urgent in the scarcity of time.
"Not for me to decide," he says. "Can't have the best of one without the other."