So, now that the cat's out of the bag, let's have another little chat about unrequited love, shall we?
Our FAQ answered a lot of questions that no one really asked, but since its publication, the question I am getting most often in my WTC mailbag is this one: "Don't you really love Trent? Because, I totally believed you" and that's a question I want to answer right now:
YES, I FUCKING DO.
Remember all those times Dierdre said that the most attractive thing about Trent is his body of work? That was in 100% earnest from the real girl behind Ms. Keating. Trent Reznor's work has meant more to me than that of any other artist, ever, and I am totally not kidding when I tell you that I will love him forever for doing it. Seriously, you guys, there is no way I could have written more than half the shit I have on this website if that work of art hadn't really and truly made Trent a permanent, and unshakeable place in my heart a long goddamned time ago.
We've spent a lot of time talking about this word "love" here on WTC, and about all the different kinds of love one could experience. There's love of one's mate, child, devoted friend, or beloved pet, and there's the love we feel for Sparklepants-wearing rockstars with great asses, etc. What I'd like to talk about today is the kind of love we sometimes feel for an artist who has helped us articulate our most elusive truths right when they were most needed, who has taught us the things we most had to learn at just the right moment in our lives, and who has been a comfort and solace to us in our most serious moments, because THAT is a love I bear Trent Reznor FOR REAL, and always will.
One of my favorite literary critics, J. Hillis Miller, wrote a totally brilliant article called Literature and Religion. In it, he talks about how he sees the relation between a critic and the work he studies: "The proper model" says Miller, "...is not that of scientist to physical objects, but that of one man to another in charity." He goes on to say that the proper approach is love, and that "Love wants the other person as he is, in all his recalcitrant particularity... the lover says to the loved one, 'Volo ut sis': 'I wish you to be.' " To take that even further, I'll quote Miller again, this time from his book On Literature: "The relation between reader and story read is like a love affair. In both cases, it is a matter of giving yourself without reservation to another."
To bring it all down from academic nosebleed territory, I'll just quote one of Rock's greatest geniuses, The Who's mastermind Pete Townshend, who once wrote a song called "Jools and Jim". It's about how people on the outside look in, without really seeing. In it, he sings, "Typewriter tappers/You're all just crappers/You listen to love with your intellect", and I'll just tell you that listening to love with my intellect has always been among the last things of which I would like to be guilty. As Dierdre has said, many times, the thing I most believe about Trent Reznor, and about any artist like him, is that he works from the soul, and that even if we don't know what he gets up to as a daily guy, if we have listened to him with love, we know something more fundamental.
Here's the thing: I agree with Miller and Townshend. I don't think you can even hear what a work of art truly consists of if you aren't looking at it, or listening to it, with love. There are those who would argue that you can't be a proper critic, with a clear eye to the flaws, without objectivity and distance, but I think "objectivity" is a false god, and that "flaws" are the most essential ingredient to the paradoxical conundrum of human perfection in all of its recalcitrant particularity. Distance can teach us perspective, and that is often useful, but the perspective provided by distance is useless without having first been close enough to have been effected by the gravitational pull of that other planet.
I once wrote a photo essay explaining in what was, I think, a pretty convincing manner, that Trent has always been trying to get us to love him. I stressed the notion that he has always been trying to compel us sexually, but I think the truth is even more embarrassing FOR HIM, because what he's really always been asking for is truly our love. Art is a communication from the soul of one man to the rest of us, and it is asking us to see him, to understand him, to know what's in his heart, and to love him for it. The bottom line is this: to Trent Reznor, as prickly as he has always been, I've never been able to say "No".
What does all this have to do with unrequited love? Nothing, really. My love for Trent is requited everytime he makes a new record and I get to rig up my headphones and give myself without reservation to the voluptuous pleasure of letting it into my heart. Does that sound crazy, overwrought, and senselessly romantic?
Well, it's like I said: Dierdre and I have a lot in common.
Well, I've had a foray back into the land of dating.
I'd been steering clear, you know, ever since I left Michel on the eve of our planned nuptials and ran away to London, but I've had another little trip, and I'm returning from Romancia to tell you guys that, just like I thought, being in love with Trent from afar is a lot more satisfying than actually engaging in carnal gymnastics with some guy you just met after drinking 5 beers when everyone knows you have a three beer limit before actually puking.
I mean, sure; it's nice, every once in awhile, to actually GET LAID and everything, and there are real needs that can be satisfied by a skillfully wielded uh... instrument, but for the heart and soul, true love is the only food, and that's what I feel for Trent: TRUE MOTHERFUCKING LOVE.
Oh yeah, I can hear the haters laughing; talking about how my vagina is too close to my brain... don't they know that it's the exact opposite? As a matter of fact, I'm talking pure, spiritual love, right now. I am practically the fucking POPE at this moment, people. I am saying that feeling my soul correspond to the pure, transcendental poetry of another's is a consummation far more devoutly to be wished than actual consummation. It's a pity, really, that I can't take vows of chastity, and get me to a nunnery in Trent's name -- The Convent of The Great Holy Name of That Which I Can Never Have. Awww, yeah. That would be the best. In MY convent, Meathead (and slavish minions), fingerbanging oneself while listening to rutting beast Trent pant through his ultra dirty cover of "Physical (You're So)" on repeat would be a HOLY FUCKING RITE.
Fuck you, haters. I hear you huffing with righteous indignation, and I think you are all a bunch of fucking pussies.
Mind you, gentle readers, I'm not saying I wouldn't be positively delighted to welcome the Royal Imperial Highness of My Heart, should he ever pay a visit to my Netherlands, but that's neither here nor there. What I love about Trent has precious little to do with the fact that he actually posseses a cock, for chrissakes. It's his BODY OF WORK I love, and of course, his everlasting SOUL.
I could easily subsist by holding that perfect vision of Trent's glorious, supernal luminosity with perfect focus in my third eye until the day I drop dead, and all I ever really need him to do is keep singing me songs in that voice that pierces me as surely as any actual TOOL ever could, and fills me, body and soul, with his incomparably mighty potency.
London is grey and I am feeling a little emptied out these days, after all the drama of my romantic interlude in France.
In a way, it's nice to be back in the bosom of my hopeless love, but I can't help feeling sad these days, and sometimes it's just not enough to be licked by a friend's dog while listening to the voice of a faraway dream of a man who doesn't know I'm alive, and probably thinks I'm fucking insane if he does. I'm not, you know. If anything, I'm totally, depressingly normal.
One of my all-time favorite images of Trent, ever, is this one, from the closer video:
I love how, in the video, he holds the nautilus shell, with all its flawless geometrical symmetry, next to his face, and then glances at it, his brow knit in consternation, before looking back at the camera -- at us -- as if to ask what relationship there is between his troubling irregularity and that perfection, while he sings "my whole existence is flawed."
I've always loved that moment because it made me want to yell "YES! You are exactly that perfect!" at the television, and it's a satisfying feeling, because I think that, by seeing that about him, even if he can't, I am helping (just a little) to fulfill the hope there is in his work. Is that crazy? Maybe it is.
I always feel that, as wrong as he might feel he is, there's always been something about Trent that's a bit like Chaos Theory, and all those pictures of Mandelbrot Sets in which equations that seem to exhibit chaotic behavior reveal their complex beauty and surprising organization when plotted after hundreds of iterations, and it's both magnificent and comforting. People always accuse Trent of repeating himself, like that's a bad thing, but I think every good artist has, like, one or two topics that they can never leave behind -- equations that have to be solved hundreds and hundreds of times before they start making sense.
He's way ahead of me, though. Sometimes I think I'll never have the courage to hold that nautilus shell up and even suggest a comparison like that. All of my equations are unsolved. Maybe it's because of how much I've always sucked at math, but sometimes I think my self-confidence gave up the fight a long goddamned time ago. Maybe not, though. Maybe not. I don't know.
Something Trent and I have in common, other than the way we both seem to enjoy wallowing in unrequited-ness, is that we're both "a quart low in the mood department." Maybe it's the holiday, but I'm feeling blue, here in London: uninspired, exhausted, essentially silent, lonely, and as if no one will ever look at me and see the kind of pattern I see in Trent... If I even have a pattern.
Plus, I try to fight it, but I can't help but feel a little sad that, in all likelihood, Trent Reznor will never fuck me like an animal. That's just fucking tragically unfair. As I've said before, sometimes the unrequited love is high-minded and makes you feel rich, and other times? Not so much.
Michel called me yesterday. All I can tell you is that I made the right decision -- not that it makes me feel any better about causing so much trouble with my stupid, romantic longings and the way I tell myself stories that totally aren't true.
I'll leave you all with a poem. It's from Don Quixote, but I changed it up a bit, you know, for Trent:
Either Love has too little understanding,
or too much cruelty, or else my grief's
not equal to its cause, though it condemns me
to suffer this, the harshest kind of torment.
But if Love is a god, then logic tells us
that he is ignorant of nothing, teaches
that a god's not cruel. Then, who has ordained
this terrible anguish that I adore?
If I say you, Trent, then I am wrong,
for evil has no place in so much good,
nor does my woe rain down upon me from heav'n.
Still, I must cry, of that I am sure;
when the cause of this sickness is unknown
only a miracle can find the cure.
I think I need to go home for Christmas. Gabriel? Are you checking in? Can I stay with you?
This is a long one, people, and this time, we're not joking around, so be ready for that.
So, yeah. Unrequited love.
People like to make fun of it, especially when it involves writing letters on the internet to sexy-little-ass-having rockstars that you don't so much know. I get that, and I know why; but you know what? It's all bullshit. Love is love, and it's nothing to scoff at, requited or not, and no matter where it's directed.
All the enlightened Buddhist Lamas out there can worry about me for my 10-years-running never to be requited passion for a man who doesn't know I'm alive, despite the fact that it's a bit ironic that they, of all people, whose spiritual path is one of renunciation, would advise me to invest in the concrete desires of the flesh, when the love I speak of is, in fact, of a more spiritual, renunciatory nature. You can tell me that the love of real boys I actually know -- love that stands a chance in hell of being requited -- would be better and more fulfilling than being run through by Trent Reznor's mojo from afar. You can say I'm a pathetic dreamer, and that this kind of love means I'm crazy and need psychological help. Sure, you could say all that.
You know what, though? I don't care.
I hereby swear on a all that's real and true, that I'm never going to camp out in Sparklepants's bushes, or otherwise impinge upon his sovereign right to not return my affection; hence, my love from afar isn't doing him any harm. Meanwhile, all things being equal, I must tell you, that to date, no man I've ever personally met has even come close to filling me up, mind, body and soul, the way Trent Reznor did 10 years ago, and still does, today. In fact, I have no idea, really, how you could listen, and really hear that voice -- listen to the way his music, his words, and the entire grain of him is so ineffably soulful and utterly committed, in a way that is so entirely disarming, and for all of its strum und drang, is really just all about wanting to be truthful, authentic, and wanting to love and be loved -- and not be a little in love with him.
Unrequited love, my dear readers, is all about dreaming. It starts with some real catalyst, say, an especially beautiful and perfect performance, or a particularly clear voice that for some reason, goes right into you, or even less -- maybe just a fleeting expression in someone's fine, dark eyes, or the way he moves through space -- but after that, you want more of him, so you listen carefully, and watch attentively, and look more closely than you ever do at other people.
Not on purpose, really, but because you can't really not, you start collecting the pieces of a puzzle that tell a story about someone other: his story. You collect all these little details -- magnificent perfections and flaws, spiritual and physical, all his good and bad -- and recompose it as poetically as only art or love could do, and you rebuild that magnificent creature in the space between his reality and your imagination, out of all his most beautiful pieces and parts, using your most aching empathy, sharpest attention, fondest wishes, and pure devotion as glue.
But, he's not imaginary, is he? The man moves, of his own volition, and when he does, he blurs your perfect picture, complicates it with things he says and does. In his hands, he's holding all your fragile hopes for the beauty of a human man, along with the strength to break them, and he makes you nervous, because you want him to be just like you imagined; but even more than that, you want him to be real, and surprise you with beauty you couldn't dream up by yourself.
Before you know it, every new thing he does or says thrills you, because you're not completely sure exactly where your dream ends, and his reality begins. It's like a roller coaster, because every time he acts, there's a chance he could falter, that his work could become heartless, or his voice could become shrill, and stop speaking to you; or, he could somehow just prove, conclusively, that he is incapable of carrying your hopes -- in short, that he is not the man you'd hoped he could be.
I've been carrying Trent in my heart for a long time, and I won't lie: he's had some bad days. there have been times when I could not hear him, times when he has seemed nothing but sad and ridiculous -- times when I'd nearly given him up for dead -- but there's always been a process in him, an ongoing story that I've needed to hear, and in some very serious way, remarkably, he has never been a disappointment, because what I've always loved about Trent is his work, and his work has always come from the soul, even if it's been hard for me to swallow it all.
That Trent, himself, in his work, so clearly imagines purity, truth, ideal love, and their diametric, impassioned opposites -- that he so ardently strives for his own unalloyed truth -- makes him seem essentially unrequited, too, in a way; but in my heart, he is every thing he has ever aspired to, and more. I'll always be watching him and listening to him, and it will be the dearest wish of my heart that he can make everything that's best in himself real.
What are "real boys" to that? I mean, have you seen them? Wandering with bovine submissiveness behind their big-haired, dumb looking women in the mall, resplendent in backwards baseball caps, cargo shorts and stupid t-shirts? Seriously, go outside right now, and I promise you, you will see an entire herd of steers that couldn't stand and deliver despite enormous cost, like Trent does, if you drew them a fucking map. Do they even have souls? Do they aspire? So many real boys are just so paltry in comparison, and even the ones who say they aspire to something fine are usually all talk.
The real boys I've met may be able to requite a momentary need with their real cocks, but they don't seem to have the tool that can quench the pure, eternal flame of the love I'm talking about, and that's because they can't even imagine that such a thing exists. I know Trent can. I'm totally positive that he does.
What? You say Trent, himself, is a real boy? You say I've built him a pedestal far too monumental for his freaky feet of clay -- that he is flawed and imperfect? That, as much as I like to tell myself that it's nothing but a photoshopped monstrosity, he may even have smiled like a retard and allowed the infamous "red robe" pic to be taken (and, that link is hereby dedicated to Gabriel Miller, try not to touch your monkey when you look at it, ok G?), which will traumatize us all for all posterity? What about the fact that in the past, Trent has been at the bottom of the most squalid pit in the garbage dump of hell, covered in disgusting slime and sleaze, and probably vomit, has had intimate congress with Courtney Love, and very likely has behaved as ignobly as it is possible to behave.
Yeah, sadly, I know that, too.
Maybe as much as 95% of him is just an ordinary man who shits and eats, and gets dirt under his fingernails, and makes big mistakes, just like anyone else. I know that. I know that guy wakes up with nasty ass-breath, scratches his nuts, and gets pimples on his back. Also, he's short, quite possibly a bit napoleonic, can sometimes be ill-mannered with the help, and wears black socks at inappropriate times. He obviously spends far too fucking much time looking at his muscles, and plays lame video games. I know that man is there, and that he is probably endlessly capable of being thoughtless, unconscious, uninteresting and worst of all, utterly common.
But you know what? The fact that he is just flesh and blood, like anyone, makes it more unspeakably gorgeous that there's something else about Trent, too. That's not all he is. There's another part of him that I can see with the x-ray eyes of my love, and it's pure poetry. It's the part of him that falls from grace, and struggles back up from those depths, the part of him that wants what it can never have, but it keeps striving, and nothing can stop it -- the part of him that decided it wanted to live and work despite all he's undergone, so he listens for his muse, faces fear and all his demons, and feels divine and godlike when he creates. There's a part of him that's always going to be singular and secret, and it's the part that holds the truth of his soul, and the soul of his work, beating as quietly and as surely as my heart does.
That part of him is just as real as every shit he's ever taken, literally or figuratively, and it's every bit as divine as my ideal love. And you know what? On the day that love is requited by a real boy, I'll thank Trent for making sure I'd know what it looked like, and that I'd still be waiting.
But, having said that? At the same time, I'd be delighted if Trent would quit fooling around and satisfy some of my momentary needs with his real cock, too. I mean, I wouldn't throw him out of bed for eating crackers, or anything.
I'm not sure how many of you guys remember the Self Destruct tour, but that was the first time I ever saw Trent Reznor in the flesh, and it left its mark on me forever.
I was only 12 years old, a mere slip of a girl, and a snow-white virgin when I arrived at that show -- innocent, but susceptible -- and when Trent took the stage, I could feel his heat as surely as I could fucking breathe. That night, I gave myself up when Trent made dirty, delicious love to us all, and my dear readers, he complicated me, alright.
That was the night Trent Reznor made me a woman.
Oh, God. It was so good. I can still see the shape of his body -- the way it moved through space -- his sheer, athletic mobility, with its strange blend of violence and grace. I can never forget his sharp, relentless eyes, glaring out into the darkness of the hall, or the way his voice ripped through me, his raging howl and whispered, heartbroken whimper penetrating me while his breathtaking volume vibrated through every single nerve in my body. Yes, EVERY SINGLE LAST ONE. I was a live wire conducting Trent's pure potency, and it buzzed through me like nothing I had ever conceived of in all the days of my young life.
I'd worn a black slip dress, and sheathed my little girl's bosom in skin-tight silver latex. I grounded myself in the heaviest boots I could find, and ripped my fishnets. My eyes were as soot black as a raccoon's, my lips were black cherry red, and my hair was deep, dark blue-black, smooth and straight to my bare, white, shoulder blades. I was jailbait, and the guy next to me at the concert was hooked. He tried all night to get me to reel him in, and his hands were all over me. No doubt, he could smell that I was ripe for the picking -- wet, and aching for something I could not name -- but it wasn't for him.
In fact, I couldn't imagine how that guy, or any of the other guys who'd come there that night, could stand to be in the same room with a man who so obviously out-gunned them in every single respect, and then, on top of it, could be deluded enough to try and distract my attention?
Oh, hell no.
I shrugged off his advances with vague annoyance, and without so much as looking away from the stage, which had become nothing less than an altar for the One True Flame, a torch I knew then that I would carry forever, one way or another. I only had eyes for Trent. In fact, I felt like my eyes had found their pre-ordained purpose: they had been placed in my head by God himself to feast upon the glorious beauty of Trent Reznor.
My friends, I was undone. His violence subdued me, and his prickly vulnerability opened me to him. I was eating forbidden fruit with a sensuality that frightened me, and it was the best thing I had ever tasted. Let's just say that I was feeling some feelings you wouldn't believe. That night was the first time in my life I'd ever felt that ache -- you know the one I mean -- the ache from deep inside that can only be assuaged by one fucking thing.
It's also the first time I ever really fell in love.
Later that night, I climbed back into the window of my childhood room, got into my narrow bed, closed my eyes and saw those pale, slippery arms and legs, that face, with its burning eyes and sharp teeth, as if they had been seared into the insides of my own eyelids. I could feel him move against me, unbidden, hard, insistent, and uncontrollable. I could see his wet black hair sticking to his skin, in tangled, wet knots. I replayed, in my mind's eye, the way he'd slipped his hand into his shorts, closing his eyes with infinite softness, and the way his breathing had hitched a little bit as his hand found its object. Sheer necessity guided me that night, and I tasted sweet physical release for the first time.
Of course, since then, I've had boyfriends and lovers, young and old. They've touched me with their fumbling or skillful hands, and I've even felt like I was in love. I've had "real" loves requited and unrequited, just like anyone else; but that night, the first I spent with Trent burned into heart and body, as if I had been branded, when I was only 12 years old?
That night has yet to be equalled.
(To be continued...)