Michelle Williams stared at me in the night-quiet of a Brooklyn apartment. Lifted from a coffee table, she was shorn and reduced to 10 questions within Time's red and black oil-slick pages. One question - the obligatory question du jour - What helped you prepare for Blue Valentine? - was sourced from an anonymous John of Montana (Ryan Gosling once compared Michelle to Montana. She's like Montana were his exact words - did you know?)
Her answer: it was a performance bled out of poetry and song. She stitched together the character's outline with banjo notes; reached her bone-thin arm, like a needle through the ice, into the words of Galway Kinnell to fish out its soul; a paper doll stuffed entirely from the wrist and pulse skating atop Kinnell's white pages.
"There's a line in one of his poems, 'Being forever in the pre-trembling of a house that falls.' [...] The poem is called "Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight." Go find it."
Go find it she said. So I did.
And after I found it, I also found Galway's take on finding love:
"It takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems — the ones that make you truly who you are — that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person—someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, 'This is the problem I want to have.'"
I sat in bed chewing on this. I wondered if I'd grown into my wrongness fully enough yet - or if I still needed to wrangle my deepest demons to the ground in my very awareness of them. How well did I know the topography of my darkest and most unsolvable problems? Enough to know the shade and silhouette of the right wrong person I ought to be on the lookout for? Perhaps there was still living I needed to traverse to know who I was, which would explain everything - my singleness... the fact that I was alone, awake at night, contemplating such things.
When then, of course, he texted. He who has (self-confessed) run to and from me for a very long time.
"You should write alongside me," he said.
I'd been anticipating his text - not this text, but a text from him - it's always only ever a matter of time. I even had a planned response - the gist of which was to be something like, "I'm sick of this - If you can't run to me without running so long and so far from me - Please don't come back."
But I was feeling particularly melancholy - wondering about my wrongness, you see - so it was well-timed (boys always know), and this opener was also a little outside the scope of the usual pattern - it had different tone, was striking at a slightly different chord... but also (probably especially) because I knew what he meant, as a would-be writer himself he wasn't merely proposing that I write alongside him in the sense of 'you do your thing & i'll do mine,' but that we might be something more simpatico...
So instead of an eternal sayonara, I responded, "Shall I...."
For when it comes down to it, right or wrong, my imagined picturesque future has always consisted of a house or a cabin or a room with another writer in it. A person I sense is there, but who is quiet, as we spend our days tapping, thinking, spinning impossible threads naked to the mortal eye - reconvening at a regular time near dusk to murmur about what we didn't accomplish, or what we hope we did - saying "and what do you think of this?" with a bizarre sort of wild delight I think only a person with one foot in their imagination and one foot on this planet who is constantly trying to merge the two can.
But is this - or he - the right problem for me? Writers as a species are notoriously neurotic, self-absorbed, off.... And when it comes to him in particular, I may never know since I'm not sure there's a chance we'll ever get past his see-saw of approach and retreat long enough to have a real shot. But still - it's a question in my heart.
Particularly since so much of the reason I began speaking to him again some time ago can be ascribed to a coincidence related to Blue Valentine - a theme that now seems to be recurring. In the film, Michelle Williams' grandmother says, in essence, how you much you owe it to yourself to trust that the person you choose to fall in love with is worth it for you..for all it will cost. Which makes me doubly wonder when I see such blue flags.... what they mean... and how they relate to the problem I ought want to have.
Photo is by Henri Cartier-Bresson