So, out of the blue, up pops my very first boyfriend from 25 years ago on facebook yesterday. The one and only B.J., affectionately known as “homeboy.” The 17-year-old I lost my virginity to during an abridged, radio version of Purple Rain. The boy responsible for one of the most defining moments of my life. Back from the dead. On facebook.
As a child I often loved the idea of an old lover coming back after many years to find me still pining away for him and ready to pick up where we left off. But as Time, intelligence and my own transient, fickle nature would have it, it really never worked out that way. Nor would I have ever wanted it to. And yet Homeboy, and a boat load of others from my long ago past, keep popping up, forcing me to once again re-evaluate how far I’ve come and how very little of myself I am actually able to discard.
So, I start re-reading old journals from when I was sixteen, while simultaneously analyzing Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants and the John Patrick Shanley film “Doubt.” Combining old me and new me makes me feel as though I have come far (analyzing literature and film with my hot, intelligent, creative boyfriend as opposed to chasing some dope-smoker around, forcing him to wear purple bikini underwear-ah yes. I have changed).
Both Doubt and Hills Like White Elephants leave the reader/audience in suspended animation. With Doubt, the audience is asked the following: “do you believe character A or do you believe character B?” But no resolution is ever offered. If it were, the film would be sending a different message: we may always expect the truth and know the answer. That, however, is not the case, nor is it the underlying message in Doubt.
Hills Like White Elephants also leaves its readers conflicted as to what will happen in the end regarding Jig’s possible abortion and the relationship between her and the American because nothing is ever really said. It’s all implied with Hemingway’s expert use of symbolism and subtlety.
My point of comparison I guess with all these things, including Homeboy and the journals, is not so much the storyline as the fact that we are left without a solid conclusion. We connect to these characters but we never quite know the truth in the end.
To appreciate something like Hills Like White Elephants you have to be satisfied with guessing. And the same can be said about Doubt. Do we really know as audience members what the Truth is in either of these stories? Not really. Instead, we must replace “fact “with assumption and opinion and learn to appreciate it anyway. That’s a hard thing to do, and yet art and life so often demand it.
So, Homeboy popped up on the screen very briefly and then disappeared again. We connected, once and again, and yet, there is never any ultimate truth in the end. Still, the meeting left me to rediscover some long ago truth about myself and my past via his presence. That the collection of facts and memories and people from long ago never really go away. They are a quiet, unspoken, but latently existent testament to how I was built and who I became. Good or bad. They are the marks of humiliation that eventually morphed into what now makes me humble. And they are a celebration of my progress and courage to grow and change as opposed to a sad reminder of who I was. Most importantly, whether they be true or not, they have shaped me based on my own personal interpretation of them. And just like we can appreciate Doubt or Hills Like White Elephants for their substance and not their conclusions, so too can I appreciate my own life for the fact that it is circular, changing and sometimes has no ultimate message. And that the only truth I can assign my life is that which I make up all on my own.
Ironically, Spin magazine’s cover this month (July) has “Celebrating 25 years of Purple Rain.” I could so look at that magazine cover and say, “that fucking song should have been buried 25 years ago, right along with Homeboy.” But instead, I saw the purple, Princy cover and laughed at it having been exhumed. I remembered a 14-karat gold chain I was wearing during the “act” that one afternoon and how, much later, after I was home and crying hysterically about my newly acquired loss of virginity, I noticed it had broken off. It had made me smile as I assumed it was left some where between the sheets of Homeboy’s bed. Whether it was or not was really not of importance. What was important was that I remember trying to gauge at what point it broke off by the lyrics of the track. Did it happen as early as “I never meant to cause you any sorrow,” or was it later at “I only wanted 2 be some kind of friend”? At whatever point it happened, or even if it never really did, I was happy believing it was somewhere in his room. It meant I was connected to Homeboy. It meant that he’d go to sleep that night and feel the cold chain rub against his ass and think with his little 17-year-old boy brain, “Wow. Her virginity is all mine until the end of time.”