It is almost exactly one year ago now that my ex and I broke-up. (About 11 months since the first Break-up Files piece, if you're keeping score.) It was a rough year at points. My life was almost completely upheaved and I found myself living in a new town, working a job I wasn't crazy about, and having almost no one to rely on except for my dog (and thank god I at least had him to listen to my drunken ramblings/songs). But along the way it got easier. I started meeting people, started having things to do during the week that weren't going to movies downtown by myself or reading Infinite Jest at the local coffee place, feeling just as pretentious as that sentence sounds. Soon I realized that I could have another life, and that I didn’t necessarily have to mentally live in the old life.
During this (horrendous) year there really wasn't much that was wrong, aside from the feeling of being trapped in a situation that was out of my control (but that's just part of the human condition, amiright?). What really got to me was the simple banality of loneliness. Not the kind of loneliness where you feel like a loser for not having anything to do or anyone to hang out with on a Saturday night, but the crushing indifference of months spent going from work to home, washing and repeating, and seeing no way out or any way that it will ever get any better. It becomes demoralizing, you become numb, and a certain auto-pilot turns on that at least helps quell the feeling of nothingness, but only by having the nothingness consume you entirely. So, I became nothing. I went to my job and did it poorly. I worked on stuff for the site, sometimes half-heartedly, sometimes like it was all I had left in the world. I walked my dog, I went to the gym, I prepared meals on Sunday to eat throughout the rest of the week so I didn't have to worry about cooking. (One thing I learned is that the will to cook is highly dependent on the people who compliment said cooking.) I floated, I functioned, but it all felt at a distance.
During this time, I would even see my ex. We would go out to dinner on occasion (as she had moved 4-blocks from me after I had moved to my new town…so that was also a thing) and she would inevitably bring up the topic of why our relationship had fallen apart, criticizing some aspect of my personality. At first I took these in stride, (how often do you get real constructive criticism on your own personality from someone who would know?) but after some months, these comments began to upset me. I could feel my ire raise as she complained about how distant, or uncaring, or even mean I could be in the relationship. I let her speak but my mind would rail against the thoughts and I'd realize for brief, strange moments, that maybe she never really did get me, and that maybe we were just wrong for each other the whole time. Over time these thoughts would come out even when she wasn't being critical, then even when she wasn't around. She became something else. Not the girl that I had screwed up with, not the lost love that the time just wasn't right (thanks Dire Straits for the tortuous "Romeo & Juliet", by the way), she just became my ex. She became something that had to happen, someone that I had my time with, learned what I could from the experience, and left relatively unscathed. At some point I realized I had found my life again, and, to put it tritely, I had found myself.
With this realization that I may have truly moved on (only took about a damn year), I thought it is probably time to bring this series to a close. And to close it out I wanted to relive a moment in our relationship, a cherished memory. I first saw (and reviewed) Mood Indigo at a French Film Festival in New Orleans. My ex went with me and it turned out to be one of the more memorable theater experiences we had with each other (I even mentioned Mood Indigo and she remembered the night, unprompted). I want to do this for a multitude of reasons. One of the big ones being that it's a strange feeling to get over an ex. While cathartic, realizing that your life has moved on and you are ok with that, I now crave some nostalgia, some sense of what I dreaded leaving for so long. For the past year there has been a lot of questioning, self-doubt, self-loathing, and far too many 'what-if?'s. Getting over the hump makes all of this dissipate and I seemed to let go of the past in a way that is almost disconcerting. It begins to make one wonder what was ever there, if you can't remember it anymore. I want to relive the good times and I want to see how this good time affects me now. And I just want a proper send-off for the relationship. Something that I feel comfortable calling 'the end'. After a year of feeling like I have so little control over what's going on in my life, I want to reel in control over how I feel about this, and hopefully move on feeling slightly more fulfilled, if a slightly more jaded person (but that's just life, amiright?).
Mood Indigo is a Michel Gondry film (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind, Rewind), with Gondry at his most insufferable. That isn't to say that the movie suffers for it (though I do really loathe the first half hour), as the film acts as a slow sinking from the quirky, happy life that the main character Colin (Romain Duris) knows, to him falling in love, while reality slowly starts seeping into the idyllic world that he has centered around himself and his beau, Chloe (Audrey Tautou). It is an oddly literal killing of dreams that happens to their seemingly perfect life, though very early in the relationship.
One of the most poignant moments of the film comes in the typewriter-assembly-line, which serves as a stand-in for a thought process going into a script (I guess?). At one point, to attempt to save Chloe, Colin somehow makes it into this room and tries to write his own sentences into his story, but he is forcibly ejected. It at once becomes an act of love and desperation, which is infinitely relatable, as we try, ever in vain, to rewrite our own scripts, our own lives, but forever have to rely on the whims of chance and randomness, and on the other people in our life, who are anything but predictable. If there's anything we ever hope that we could do for those that we love, is write them out of their bad situations, just change the whole plot and make it about us again, about the people I want us to be, and who I want you to be.
But rewriting the plot doesn't work and life will take its own turns, with or without our help. We accept the sadness and loss of our significant others as much as their happiness and love. We do what we do, out of infatuation, loneliness, or even boredom, but soon we are intertwined with this person and now these two separate lives are on a track, where pain is heightened and joy is shared. It occurs to me now how utterly human love is. That there is a bottomless propensity for pain when love is involved, but that love is perhaps the hardest thing to pin down or define. Some people react to any sort of love with an aversion, some seek it out to their own detriment. In the end, though, it is just part of the human experience and it will never be your last time being in love, and each new time is like the first. We are fickle creatures that move through life, trying to reduce pain in whatever way we see fit. And life is pain. But life is love. And we end up in the same cycle that Colin finds himself in: trying to save his love/life, but being utterly out of his league and lashing out at the unfairness of what is the most natural part of the being human, loss and death.
When we (me and the ex) first saw Mood Indigo there was a moment as the credits were rolling that I looked over to her, with tears welling from my eyes, to see her in an even more desperate state of tears. She reached over, we hugged and cried there in the theater together, as people shuffled out and even stepped over us to get to the aisle. It was a moment, it was utterly human, and it was about us as we were totally affected by the film, but also acknowledging how small we were in the whole equation. It's a cherished memory of when we cherished each other, when we truly understood without having to say a word, when we knew the world was a little bit easier to navigate because we had each other. But, like time, the memory fades. The problems were still there, even as we cried in the theater, and while we understood the pain, we would never be able to make it better, not for each other at least.
As the world moves on and as we try to find our place within that movement, there will be lots of false starts, lots of misunderstandings, and lots of loneliness. But if I've learned anything, it's that the loneliness is necessary, that to truly define ourselves we truly need to know ourselves. I don't know if I know myself, and I guess I don't know how much I really know her, but, in the end, what's really important is how I fit into the world, and how I want to fit into the world. I can do this without her, as she will surely do it without me.
With that, all that’s really left to say is a final:
Good bye, Kseniya.
And Good Luck.