Eraserhead and the Vulcan of Loneliness

(Graphic: No matter what you do, sometimes life is just a B-side.)

J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie taught me a thing or two about life over the weekend. Sometimes the second time around is not as good as you think it might be. And Vulcans will be Vulcans.

I saw the “rebooted” Trek film with Mikey the Stickler, a friend to Pastry Chef Chris who I hit it off with during a few Tuesday night coffee klatsches at Lido’s Caffé in Oak Park. I don’t wonder why––when we get together, you could write a book about the similarities in our behavior. Bitches Who Bitch Too Much comes too mind as a  prospective title.

We’d been meaning to hang out for a couple of months. But life seemed to keep getting in the way, as Mikey had a habit of reminding me. “You’re too busy with your guy,” was a refrain I heard regularly. Sure, what I was mostly too busy with was obsessing over my former guy, not actually seeing him, but Mikey didn’t need to know that.

A free Sunday–and my thorough dumping by said guy–was as good enough a reason as any to finally break our Waitresses-song-worthy string of missed opportunities and actually hang out with each other. We met up before the movie at Lido’s, Mikey taking the same seat opposite me that Sonny had occupied the night before. In my meager defense, I guess I had been hoping for a second chance.

“I wanna hear the whole story,” Mikey said, almost simultaneous with his butt hitting the seat below. I obliged, and told him about Saturday’s two-hour meeting with Sonny, only the second time I’d seen the man I gifted with Mold-A-Ramas since he did an unannounced disappearing act the day after Easter.

In retrospect, I should have told Mikey to wait for the movie version.

I really thought I’d like the second coming of the Star Trek franchise more than it turned out that I did. Gorgeous actors, great sets, fabulous action, tons of new backstory–the new film has it all. My favorite part was the unexpected love intrigue between a certain Vulcan troubled by feelings he kept trying to hide, and a persistent human who kept trying to reach out against logic’s seemingly insurmountable odds.

But there was other logic in the film, faulty logic concerning time paradoxes and black holes and bad science that I would have expected more from a Star Wars film than from a story out of the usually better-crafted Trek universe. It made everything seem a bit too contrived for my tastes. I was disappointed the screenwriters took the easy route with the story.

Sitting in the darkened auditorium on Lake Street, imagine my surprise to realize I was reliving the same story from 24 hours before. I let Mikey in on my sense of déja vu after the move, over barbecued chicken and pork at his seldom-seen Forest Park abode.

“I know how bad my decisions can be when I’m not in recovery,” I said.

“You’re as crazy as I am, that’s probably why we get along,” Mikey replied.

“No argument,” I agreed. “But I’ve never told anyone that maybe I need to be alone for the rest of my life because the stress of my job makes it hurt too much to let anyone in. It was like opposites day on the Electric Company. I saw the feelings dancing there in his eyes, but everything else about him was all Vulcan. He’s afraid to let anything out anymore.”

Mikey thought for a second. “You know, I can be really mean to the guys I date. The last one hasn’t gone out with anyone else since me, and that was ten years ago.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” I told him. “That could be because he’s a big drunk and his father hates the government and calls TV the delta wave, too, you know.”

“True,” Mikey replied, as he slipped a handful of ice cubes into his wine glass.

I continued. “I sat there and felt like I was a cartoon character and he was an unhappy artist with a big, fat eraser, just rubbing me out, swipe by swipe. It’s one thing to think you’re only up against up against your own demons. It’s something else entirely to be told by the guy you loved that he’s made a decision to be alone for good.”

“You think he’ll be able to pull that off?”

“You ever hear of anyone who’s made a decision like that and lived a happy life afterwards? Priests don’t count, for obvious and growing legal reasons.”

Mikey smirked but didn’t answer. He didn’t need to. Plain Jane, the oddly aggressive counter clerk at Lido’s had said it all earlier in the afternoon before Mikey’s arrival.

“It’s too bad for the two of you,” she said. “You think you’re doing the right thing running away from people, but then you wake up ten years later, ten years lonelier, and you’re me.”

I stood there, astonished at her candor. Her voice began to quiver as she went on. “And you’re putting on a happy face, and you’re feeling dead inside,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “And it’s too late to do anything about it. Jesus, I wouldn’t wish my life on anyone…”

As the hardest woman I know fell into my arms and wept in the back of Lido’s Caffé, much as I had done the night before with her coworker after I left Sonny’s company, I really had to wonder. About Jane. About Sonny. About me. All these lonely people, where do we all come from?

And where do we go from here?

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