Crushed Soul

I never really thought it would happen, but I guess most things have to happen at some point. At least when they concern something you carry with you, something that is kinda bottled up inside you and which you can’t endlessly carry around with you all bottled up like that because eventually that’s just gonna make you sick. In short, I’m gonna tell you the story about the one girl that really broke my heart. In fact, that’s not said right: A heart breaks fast, and, contrary to what most people seem to believe, it heals pretty fast too. What doesn’t heal is your soul. So what’s really tragic is when someone crushes that. So let me rephrase: I’m gonna tell you the story about the one girl who crushed my soul. You should listen well. Out of respect, I mean. I haven’t told anyone before.

The one girl who crushed my soul was called Natasha. A beautiful name in itself. But maybe that doesn’t matter so much (even though I think it matters more than what most people would want you to believe). I met her when I was going to film school. I did directing, she did script. We worked together on a project in our second year. I had seen her around before, but that was all. Unfortunately, as it turned out now. We seemed to share a very similar experience at our school: Mostly, the other students and their egos got on our nerves. And the professors and their stupid theories of art. We just wanted to make movies. Sure, Jim Jarmusch type movies rather than John Cameron type movies, but that didn’t seem so much a question of art, just a question of common sense, good taste and an uncorrupted spirit.

So together we’d watch all these little wanna-be artists who either had not the slightest sense of artistic inspiration in them or who would sell out the second they got a chance – and the only way we could deal with it was to laugh about it, and, man, did we laugh! I sure had the best time of my life sitting with Natasha laughing not only about the other film school students, but soon about the art scene in general, the pretentious little town we were in, the stupid country of ours, the whole world. And for a long, long time I would have sworn that I knew that she had the best time of her life as well. But that changed about a year ago. You know, when she crushed my soul.

It didn’t take long till we dated full time. Maybe three weeks after we started talking. It was pretty intense. I’m not gonna say it was the most passionate love affair ever ‘cause who can rank these things, but it was up there. You know, one of the ones that might as well have been. That kind. We were tight. It lasted a good eighteen months.

What happened then, I still don’t really fully know. If I did, maybe I wouldn’t be where I was today. Let’s see. What do I remember? Not much, actually. Maybe it was just that at some point Natasha got bored of me. Or something. Or maybe not even so much me but the life we were leading. Or me after all. I don’t know. Things just started to be different from what they used to be, and some days Natasha was really moody, and she snapped at me, or not even so much snapped at me, but got impatient with me, or said she already knew that, or you have already told me that, or just yeah, I know that; you know, like it wasn’t funny to listen to me anymore, or interesting, but kind of a drag. It annoyed me, but I just thought of it more as a phase than anything really.

Then she got involved in this project about this guy wanting to make the ultimate short film, like a movie seven minutes long and all just stills, and I guess the idea was fine, but it was old, and I read the script and the guy’s liner notes, and he was just some pretentious little prick without any real idea or vision, but since Natasha had somehow gotten involved I couldn’t really say much, even though I didn’t understand what she wanted to have to do with this in the first place, but you don’t wanna be against something your girlfriend is really into, especially if you happen to respect your girlfriend, now, do you? I still didn’t understand what this was all about though.

It didn’t help much either that Natasha knew what I thought and was defensive about the whole thing right from the start. She told me those guys weren’t as bad as I thought before I ever even said that I thought they were bad. ... They were though. And she knew it. Or I thought she did. But maybe she just knew that I knew. Or, from her perspective, knew that I thought they were, while, in reality, they weren’t. I don’t know. If you wanna know the truth, I still believe she knew how bad they were, but they got her a job in the movie, and they flattered her, and the guy was kinda big amongst the school’s professors, and it was said that he might go somewhere, and maybe she was hoping for a ride along. Fair enough, I thought. But she should have at least been honest about it. Instead she just huffed, or walked away, or scolded me whenever I said something critical about our phony peers now. Like, the same remarks that made her go into hysterics just three months earlier (about that guy’s new Johnny Depp haircut, or that girl’s new retro sunglasses she bought for $35 from a guy who got them out of a Goodwill’s for two, or that professor’s new theory on French cinema from the 1950s that amounted to those movies having been black and white and French) would now earn me nothing but rolled eyes, disapproving looks and exasperated sighs.

One day it got to the point where that shit became hard to tolerate for me and I finally went into the offensive. I told Natasha that I wanted to know what was going on and that she had really not been cool with me lately and that I thought I deserved a bit better. To my surprise Natasha sat down and looked kinda sad. “Stu,” she told me, “I think we have to break up.” The rest is not very clear to me since that second everything went kinda blurry. I think she continued explaining something about how we weren’t good for each other, how we closed ourselves off, how we criticized others for being haughty when in fact we were, how you had to be open-minded and ready for new things, and how you had to accept other people’s talent. That last part I do remember well ‘cause that was when it occurred to me that the beforehand unthinkable was probably true: she was not only working with this pretentious little prick, she was also fucking him. That’s when I lost it.

I trashed everything in the apartment that could possibly be trashed, doing a particularly good job on the TV and VCR and Natasha’s CD collection, and when I was finished, I told her that she was a stupid little whore who deserved no better than a pretentious little prick. Okay, no smart move on my part you might say, but then again, you weren’t there, were you? In any case, Natasha grabbed her bag and left without a word.

I didn’t see or talk to her for three weeks. Her brother came to get her stuff, or what was left of it, and even though he didn’t say anything, I could tell that he understood and felt sorry for me. Jeff was a good guy.

When I spoke to Natasha again it was about the CDs. She said she needed to replace most of them since her music was really important to her and she thought I outta give her some cash. I told her to go to hell or ask that new little prick boyfriend of hers for some dough since he was gonna be such an indie movie big shot anyway. She hang up on me. Probably not that great a surprise. But what else was I gonna do? Give her money to re-buy Björk, Portisehead or the Cranberries? Give me a break. Her taste in music sucked anyway.

That was generally my trip then. I had realized that Natasha had always been an ignorant bitch, a sell-out, one of those people, only that I, longing for a soulmate, had tricked myself into believing that she was in fact cool, perturbed by her cuteness and occasional (at least apparent) insight into the truth of things. You know, the things you do to fall in love with people you shouldn’t fall in love with just ‘cause you wanna fall in love with someone. Projection and all that. I’m sure you’ve read about it.

The bad part was that this trip I was on didn’t really resolve all that much. Instead, I missed Natasha more than ever. It got to a point where it became unbearable. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t work. I basically – and believe me, I am ashamed I have to admit this in all its patheticness – could not do anything but think of her.

So one day I waited for her outside class. (I myself hadn’t been to school in two months. I had arranged for some research credit with a couple of sympathetic professors to keep my enrolment and scholarship, but actually physically going to school to potentially run into her and the prick? You gotta be crazy. I might have as well just signed my death warrant. Or theirs. Depending on how shit would have fallen into place on that occasion. These things seem kinda hard to predict.) Luckily, the prick wasn’t there. When she came out of class and saw me, she stopped for a second, then strode away fast. I walked alongside her telling her that I was really sorry and that I needed to talk to her. She said she had nothing to say to me. I said I really, really needed to talk to her and that she couldn’t run away from me, not now, not like this, and that all I wanted was to talk! She stopped, looked me in the eye ice-cold and said: “It’s a bit late for that now, Stu, don’t you think?” The look really froze me. I stood there and couldn’t say anything. Only looking for at least some warmth in her look. But there was nothing. She turned around and walked away. I felt my eyes getting all watery. I couldn’t help it: “But I love you, Natasha!” I think I noticed her hesitate ever so slightly, but she instantly regained her pace and did walk away from me, and this time it really seemed forever.

So, I never tried to even contact her again. I knew she was gone. I saw her only one more time. I was walking around town on a cold winter night – which I had started doing as a curious means to heal my soul (you’ll probably be surprised to know that it actually did work somehow – at least a little) – when I walked past one of these quasi-alternative bougie restaurants where they serve four cubes of sautéed tofu over three leaves of lollo biondo lettuce with two drops of organic-honey-wild-parsley-homemade-flaxseed-oil dressing for $13.90, and, for some reason, looked at the bougie diners. And there I saw Natasha and the prick, a bunch of other in-crowd students, and that one professor from our school who was pretty big and who I particularly hated. He (the professor) was obviously just telling a story, and everybody seemed to love it and laughed, and I could see Natasha clasp the prick’s arm and gently lean against it, and I guess it would have been a nice social scene if you looked at it from a certain angle, but I just wanted to flatten the place right there and then. However, I just kept on walking and told myself that it wasn’t worth it. As you can see, I had made some progress.

I dropped out of school by the end of the semester, and then I left town, and now I do independent animation stuff and I get by. I think the stuff I do is cool. At least it’s not pretentious.

The prick did make some sort of a career. One of his shorts showed at Sundance, and he got a feature film deal now or something.

I lost track of Jamie, but she’s not with him anymore, he’s with some actress now. Sometimes I do take some comfort in that and hope she is really miserable, but most times I don’t really care. See, once your soul is crushed it’s not about the person who crushed it anymore. Like, anyone can tear down a house – but build one? You know what I’m saying?

What it is about, is your soul. And yourself. And about how you can live a life that can still know contentment, or even happiness, despite a crushed soul. That’s what I’m trying to learn right now. And I think I’m having success here and there.

But don’t get me wrong: It will remain a life with a crushed soul. Some things just don’t come back. For real.

(2004)