Yesterday, upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish, he’d go away.
I am often drawn to men who are not there. A blankness, a disconnection, a lack of identity. I like the space they present to me, the possibilities. The lack of someone concrete and known, the lack of risk that they will want to know me fully.
These men come in many different guises. Some are lost boys; some are married and attempting to lead a ‘double life’; some have deep psychological problems. Some are just men, living in that hole that won’t be filled, called ‘masculinity’. That great unploughed field that none of us really understand. These men don’t know who they are. The detective in me enjoys trying to find out.
But it never comes to any good. A blankness will never accept love and it won’t love me back. It can’t examine itself analytically and with compassion, the way I attempt to examine it and understand the man that isn’t there in the void. Often these men are angry, confused and frustrated, and they don’t like a little girl coming along and prodding them to see if they react. I have had them lash out at me before now.
Men who are there are much more enjoyable company, and they notice and value and seek to understand me, as a person. Sometimes I think of these kind of men as somehow less ‘manly’ than those other, disassociated ones. That seems so unfair. They love and they talk and they are not scared to show their feelings. And my sexist, submissive subconscious comes to the stereotyped insulting conclusion that they aren’t proper ‘men’, not men I’d like to fuck, anyway. The fact that some of these men are in fact gay just adds more complexity and possibly paradox to the whole situation.
My best loved man who wasn’t there isn’t here anymore. I knew him as a boy. I played with him on the canalside and I scrutinised his freckled face for clues of who he was and how he felt. But he suffered from self-knowledge, from knowing there was a deep chasm inside his chest. He knew he wasn’t there, and never would be, symbolically or emotionally, so he decided to not be there at all.
I wish these men who aren’t there would go away. Not to the extent my friend did. But so that I stopped being so transfixed by their absence. I wish we would all find a way of being present, and of accepting the presence of those we come into contact with. We are all here. We may as well face up to what that entails. I see you. Stop hiding. The game is up.
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) By Ethan and Joel Cohen
Antigonish (1899) By Hughes Mearns