A Bum Knee, Solaris, and Manny 18 Years Ago

Tuesday, December 17th, 2002 | Dreams, Family, Film, Gay, Travel

I fell down my stairs, again, on Sunday, a few hours after banging into my “health chair” while grappling for the light in my studio downstairs. It didn’t bug me until tonight, my knee, after doing a little Christmas shopping, well, actually buying myself the new Criterion release of Contempt while shopping for my loved ones, and then after climbing my hill and the flight of stairs to my flat and, whammo, instant inflammation. I made a long entry last night in my blog about Manny–I spent an hour or so on it–but then inadvertently deleted it. So I’ll try to recap, although the throbbing in my knee and the half bottle of wine I drank at BC’s will surely temper the sentiment of last night into something perhaps less sappy and hopefully less lengthy.

So I went to see Solaris with Bob last night, a fairly decent stylish and moody remake of the Tarkovsky film, directed by Steven Soderbergh. George Clooney plays a psychologist, “Chris,” who is called to investigate the strange goings-on in the space station orbiting the planet Solaris. Upon his arrival, he discovers that two of the inhabitants of the station have killed themselves, and after a night of restless sleep filled with unsettling dreams of his recently deceased wife, who had also killed herself, he wakes to find her, his wife, actually there with him.

Last night was the anniversary of the night that I met Manny, 18 years earlier, while working at Marcello’s Pizza on Castro, when he picked me up (saying he was 40), despite my protestation that he should be picking on someone his own age (I had just turned 19). The movie made me think of a dream that I had of Manny in 1993, about a year and a half after his death, while renting a freezing cold apartment in Florence with Bob from the Marchsesa Frescobaldi. In my dream, while driving down Market Street, the sun setting, the city bathed in that late summer golden haze, I noticed a man on the side of the road who looked like Manny, seated in a wheelchair with a blanket over his lap, soaking up the last of the rays of sunlight. As I got closer I realized it WAS him, slammed on the brakes and ran to him, ranting hysterically, unbelievable. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing there, why he was alive, but I was so happy to see him again and to hold him. He held me for the longest time without saying anything, and then said, “Ya know, Christian (he always called me that, but it’s not my name), I’m really happy here, very cumftable (he grew up in the Bronx), and I’m going to be okay. And you’re going to be okay, too…” I got back in the car, drove away, and woke up, feeling that sadness that’s like a boulder on your diaphragm. Something was over.

For months after his death, I had thought that I had seen him here and there, and even once leapt from my car and chased a guy down, thinking it was Manny. I had so deeply and intensely loved him, a love bound to his physicality, the smell of his breath and the taste of his skin, that I couldn’t convince my senses that they were to be deprived of his molecules. Waking from my dream, I understood that he was completely gone, and more importantly, that I was letting go of him, too.

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