Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Moon River and Me

For the past few inconsistent blog posts, I’ve prattled on about Clark Kent and his relationship to Superman, and Superman’s relationship to Clark Kent, but I want to detour. Inspired by my friend Andrew’s excellent blog, I’ve been pondering the relationship between music and...well, relationships. And, perhaps, because I've recently unearthed several past relationships--friendships, courtships, wanting-to-be-more-than-friendships.

The other night, my hippocampus ignited neurons of yesteryear upon hearing Morrissey croon “Moon River” accompanied by the tears of the late, great Audrey Hepburn. A river flood of sentiment devastated my amygdala.

Naturally, the song made me think of her. The last I saw of her--I’ll leave her name out of this for now--was on my birthday on what would also be my last trip to Los Angeles before moving to the Bay Area. Back then, we decided to continue the relationship despite the distance. We did so with one eye on the foreseeable future; the other covered with a palm.

Shortly after my relocation, we broke up. Or, rather, I broke up with her. Then, we got back together again. Or, rather, I got back together with her. A television test pattern that we’d repeated over and over again when the broadcast day had concluded. Usually, she ended it, as she had this final time, and was always the first to want to get back together. However, unlike those other break-ups, I refused a reunited-and-it-feels-so-good.

My huckleberry friend

Johnny Mercer on lyrics and Henry Mancini on music wrote “Moon River” for the 1961 movie adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella "Breakfast at Tiffany’s".

I’d never seen the entire movie until about a year-and-a-half ago.

On a lazy Saturday in the summer of 2008, we lounged around my Los Angeles apartment and watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s, her favorite movie. We sat side-by-side on the couch, watching the movie stream via youtube in ten-minute, ten-part chunks. The officialness of the relationship was still new. By this time, we’d only been knighted girlfriend and boyfriend for a few months. My feelings for her were clear to me--I was in love. Hers were still a struggle.

On the screen, Japanese-yellowfaced Mickey Rooney screamed in Engrish accent, “Ms. Go-RI-ghtly!” Hepburn’s character name was actually Holly Golightly, but a Caucasian-trying-to-be-Asian can’t pronounce L’s very well.

I’m Holly Golightly, my then-girlfriend commented.

Holly Golightly hardly had her life together, bouncing from place to place, living in a tiny New York brownstone and surviving on the donations of charitable men with deep trouser pockets. A free spirit, she called herself, and the life of the party. She collected acquaintances not friends. She couldn’t even bring herself to name her cat. No one could get close to Holly Golightly, not even potential love interest Paul Varjak, who she called Fred. To my 80s childhood delight, Varjak was played by pre-cigar chewing John “Hannibal” Smith--George Peppard.

You're "Fred", she added.

I'm not, I said. For one, I'm not being kept by Patricia Neal, nor would I want to be. I mean, look at her. She's a horse. She's only good for being the nurse in some John Wayne movie. And she has...twice.

He's trying to be a writer.

Yeah, but he's already written one book that's been published. I can't even get past the first few chapters of mine, I said, referring to my graduate thesis which has since been boxed and put in the closet. In fact, I was procrastinating on working on the thing that afternoon. I added: I'm not "Fred". Paul. Whatever. And you're not Holly Golightly.

She curled herself into an S on the edge of the couch, pillow snuggled against her chest. My head resting on her shoulder.

Are you running like her? I asked. Running away from a husband I don't know about?

No, but I don't want to be trapped in a cage, she said. Eyes transfixed on the screen, she connected with Holly through the flicker. Herself transposed into the Technicolored letterbox frame, feeling trapped and oppressed by our embryonic officialness.

I sat up, stroked my chin, and watched the remainder of the movie, trying hard not to look at her. She’d bounced around like Holly in her own sort of way. Had been bounced around earlier in life (you’ll forgive me if I keep those details to myself). For a moment, I considered what words should erupt from my mouth. I found none. So we sat in silence as the final scene played.

Immediately following the movie, we trekked to the nearby Barnes and Noble to purchase the original novella.

Oh, dreamweaver, you heartbreaker

She prefers the movie of course. I prefer the novella.

In the movie, “Fred” and Holly embrace in the promise of ever after. Fade out. Life is happy. The ending she wanted. In the novella, the relationship of “Fred” (who is actually an unnamed narrator) and Holly Golightly is ambigious. The ending unresolved.

Holly fades into the world but is never really gone. She dangles; a loose thread on a favorite sweater, occasionally noticed. A swaying string that isn’t yanked for fear of ruining the fabric. An annoying reminder of how you felt and how you still feel whenever it's spotted.

I have that same thread, and I don’t dare tug.

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