15 December 2008

Relationship Lessons

After my third cup of extra-strong coffee and a past the point of caring amount of cigarettes, I turn off the television and head towards the keyboard that has been taunting me all night.

I try and think of something, anything to write, but no, nothing. I lean back in my chair, open the window and the sound of Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone breezes into my room from somewhere not too far away.

The song brings back to me the image of Nick Nolte as a famous artist splashing paint onto canvas in the film New York Stories. Nolte plays a man desperately trying to hold onto a girl who is making tracks to leave. He impales himself on the broken glass that she has purposefully scattered around herself, all the while telling himself that it doesn't hurt. The Nolte character both needs and deserves this treatment; he is neither truthful to her or himself. He refuses to tell his muse if her own artistic efforts are worth her time because if he does tells her she's talent less then she might leave, and that is the one thing he does not want and will not admit. So he dangles hope on a hook, only to watch her wriggle free as she finds her own truth in the situation.

In the scene just after she leaves, his paint covered hand clamps to his mouth emphasizing the sudden, hopeless realization of what he has lost. Later on we see Nolte offering another beautiful assistant, room, board and life lessons, and you can see that the whole cycle is about repeat itself.

Although the title of the film is called Life Lessons, you get the feeling that Nolte's character has learnt nothing from the last 45 minutes screen time. Or maybe his whole life has been a lesson in not quitting, not giving up on hope. The aftermath of a break-up is sometimes like one long really bad hangover, one so bad that you promise yourself, never again. Later, when the hangover has become a distant memory, you are there again, promising yourself that this one will be different, you will not repeat past mistakes.

So is it eternal hope that keeps Nolte's character searching? If not for hope we would all be growling at each other as we pass by in the supermarket aisles, and late night bars and clubs would be devoid of single people on the prowl, internet dating agencies would disappear and speed dating would become a hell of a lot quicker. Psychologists and Woody Allen movies would not exist and marriage guidance counselors would suddenly just not give a shit. Eternal hope has no memory; if it did then the human race would come to a halt.

We know that Nolte's character is going to blunder through another relationship, reliving the same mistakes time and again and like a puppy continually fetching a stick, he is happy to do so. From time to time I've found myself in relationships like these, full of high drama with no actual point. One minute you're having a heated debate over something completely meaningless and the next you're stomping down the road with your clothes hurtling after you. Some people love this type of relationship, they seem to see these continual break-ups and then the following honeymoon make-up period as some sort of reassurance of unconditional love. They constantly endure the low of the break-up just to score the high that comes with the inevitable make-up.

For others they are a pain in the ass and an exit route is quickly scoped out. Other people don't even realize that they are in this type of relationship until friends, who have had enough of constant ear-bending, tactfully point out that, maybe you're just not right for each other. Are these relationships really all about control and power struggles, or have the people involved, when trying too hard not to relive previous mistakes, actually come full circle without knowing it. Maybe it's only afterwards with hands suddenly clamped to their mouths that this hopeless realization sinks in.

And then, we have to start all again.

Bloody Bob Dylan.