Robert at 80. Robert Roth

Iskay niraq wamichakunata quyasqanmanta brther Bobert willawachkanku, kusa. Este es un fragmento del nuevo libro del brother: Book of Pieces.


Robert at 80

What a Pathetic Life I Lead

A German filmmaker in her 70s

A Zimbabwean woman in her 20s

Love them both

Wildly attracted to each

Have no chance with either

“I’m a very good lover, a terrific friend and a lousy boyfriend.” I would say this to women and it worked like a charm and more often than not we would have sex. An anarchist poet living in the Village. Sometimes that’s what it would be. We would keep it that way. A bit impersonal, more impersonal maybe than it should have been. It created a space of excitement and had an allure of freedom. Sometimes my actual talent would disrupt the fantasy. “Hey, you write beautifully” with a slight surprise that was always a bit hurtful. But still I enjoyed it. It moved from a kind of cool “impersonality” in playing out a fantasy, to a subtle but real distancing which while at times disorientating was not the worst thing. Because I thought it was still mostly play acting and not all that impersonal. And I said what I said with conviction because I thought it was true. But unfortunately emotions crept in. Jealousy. Possessiveness, expectations etc. One lover said, “I have the worst of both situations. I’m too caught up with you to have other lovers. And I don’t have the security that a commitment would give me.” And that was it in a nutshell. Not exactly a nutshell. Because it doesn’t include my own insecurities and jealousy. Once I understood that I really couldn’t follow through I could not say it again. It would have just been a line, a lie to get sex. And without conviction it wouldn’t have worked anyway. So I stopped saying it. Have not really been able to figure out what to say or do since.

My downstairs neighbor. A very thin dark brown woman always spectacularly dressed. A Mohawk hair cut and an aura so bright it lights up the stairs or the street, always bringing a big smile to my face. Before we actually met I saw her talking to a tender, muscular man who works in the restaurant on the ground floor of my building. His father had recently died and he had been away for quite a while to be with his family. They stood in the vestibule, her empathetic face filled with emotion, her heart wide open and present. A couple of months later we spoke. A fashion designer from Zimbabwe with magic, soulfulness, tenderness and wild, brilliant perceptions. My head spins whenever we are together. What can I have with her, a woman in her 20s maybe early 30s, who wants to get married and have children. And who doesn’t want anything interfering with the plan.

There is nothing I can say at 64. If I were 28 or 33 or 42 I wouldn’t have wanted children any more than I do now. And I certainly never wanted to get married. A younger me now would probably be different than the younger me then. Who knows how and in what way. But for better or worse it is this older me that’s at issue. What would I need to change in myself to have even a remote chance of being lovers with her?

Friends with benefits? My feelings for Aziza too intense and complicated for that. Fuck buddies? There is I guess a difference between fuck buddies and friends with benefits. Fuck buddies might in fact be easier. More straight forward. More direct. Why? I don’t know why. Just felt like saying it. Though haven’t heard that term for a while. Francesca’s fuck buddy moved into her apartment after 9/11. He came over the night before and it was two years before he left. What starts out as friends with benefits often winds up on court TV. At 65 being Aziza’s “boy toy” is probably out of the question. But then again stranger things have happened.

I think again of my beautiful downstairs neighbor. For the first time age really comes in on me. I think of myself at 80. That is just 15 years away. Though 50 was a while ago. And what does she need with that? And how then can this intimacy be expressed without committing her to the possibility of tending to an old man. Obviously anything can happen to anyone at anytime. But here there is an almost certain future if I live that long. A commitment to each other would take that into account. Eighty though is still potentially very vibrant and very sexual. Another reason monogamy as an ideal is shit. With some real fluidity between us whatever sexual connection we had would not limit her to it. Me neither I guess. But in this case it would be her I would be most concerned about. Why am I obsessing and fretting about something that is very unlikely to happen? I guess because its fun to do.

Months later. We speak about one weekend before we became good friends, when she was still living downstairs, when she cut herself off from everyone and everything. No e-mail. No phone. A four day urban retreat, looking deep into herself, trying to find a “purpose”, a direction, a deeper meaning, a deeper pursuit. I tell her about a small cottage on the top of a hill somewhere in Zimbabwe where I imagine living when I’m 80. In my fantasy Aziza has created some space for me on a large plot of land that is dedicated to some very significant pursuit. Maybe a place for children. Maybe something entirely different.

“What will you do there?” she asks. “Well, I’m there. That should be enough” I answer. “You have to do some work,” she laughs .“You can’t just live there.” “I’ll be a presence. What more do I have to do?” “A presence is more than enough,” she answers, yielding to the power of my argument. And so there it is. My future. A cottage on a hill in Zimbabwe. The destination a certainty. The route getting there very much a mystery.

Walking toward the East Side I come to Greenwich and 10th where there is a fork in the road. Totally forgot where I am going, who I am visiting. A total absolute blank. This has happened a few other times recently. Two times at that very spot. Scary feeling. Tried to relax. The destination returned and I continued. At 80. Hot muggy Zimbabwe summer. Wild committed energy everywhere. Up and down the hill. Not knowing where I am. Which direction I am going. Maybe this is something that will happen from time to time. Hopefully no more than that.

The total blank was very scary. Maybe try to surrender to it next time.

My father at 76 had sold his business, but still tried making deals, still overflowing with energy. “You’re still wheeling and dealing,” I said. “I’m doing more wheeling than dealing,” he replied.



At 73 I might have a whole new future. Here’s a link to a wonderful video that just appeared in the online NY Times. My comment and the reply.

Make sure to watch the video first.

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