So, I’m sitting here in my overlarge bed, in the dark, sniffling, because I just watched the series finale of Friday Night Lights and it was amazing and symmetrical and surprising and heart-wrenching and true and everything else I could ever not know I had wanted from art.
I have watched this show from its pilot and loved it always. I’ve always had trouble articulating just why I love it so much. Of course, it perpetually has the best-looking cast of any work, anywhere, any time. However, I know nothing of film’s formal aspects, or how to critique it. I don’t know much about acting, except when it’s bad. I don’t know anything about structure, except when it’s exceptional. I don’t know how to judge good plot from bad, why twelve shows can all be about the mundane, and yet eleven aren’t worth my time and one is worth my world. Shit, I haven’t cared about a TV show ending since The Cosby Show. Go figure.
So, instead, I will ramble, per usual, and try not to give anything away, since you poor suckers don’t have Direct TV.
A lot of tonight’s episode centered around transitioning relationships, which, I suppose, is inevitable in any finale. And it makes me think, God, what would I do without art? What romantic relationships do we ever see, can we ever study, mimic, up close, except maybe one or two of those who are closest to us, and those fictional ones in serial media like television, and maybe books or short stories?
Of course, The Taylors are the couple to whom many of us aspire, but, for me, at least, it’s because they are real, because they fight and are conflicted, and yet rarely get big in their conflict. Instead, you see their disappointment manifest quietly: in the tilt of a head, more careful elocution, more careless hand gestures; you see them withdraw, as we are all wont to do when we are upset and just need to be upset, and do not need our partners to know and recognize and name that we are upset.
Another, perpetual question, of course, is: when do you know it’s for real? How do you know that you should really marry this person? What is forever, and why are we moved to proclaim it, convinced of it, compelled to rise up to it?
Why do proclamations of forever come so naturally when you fall in love, anyway? Do we really feel forever? Or have we just seen it performed so many times that, consciously or subconsciously, we feel we must name it when we love romantically? I mean, shit; I’ve been engaged once, and moved across the country, planning my future, visiting open houses, a second time. Both times I thought, yes, I love this man now, and, based on what has come so far, I can love him forever. But maybe thinking I “could” love him forever was me telling myself that I didn’t really think I’d love him forever.
So, is forever performative, or is it true? Are those two phenomena really mutually exclusive, anyway? Because, God, when you first know you love someone, it’s like, shit, you were “complete” (barf) before, and yet know you are bigger than you had ever been. When you fall in love, your whole truly does feel like it’s greater than the sum of its parts.
It was June in San Francisco. You know how it feels there right after dark: cool, crisp, inconstant shivering; absolutely clean, pristine. Where Noe Valley straddles the Mission, you can look out of your rent-controlled apartment’s windows to see your neighbor’s cat on your porch. The City sits neatly before you, and the fog rolls in across the Bay, and the Bridge strains under it. Across the water, the Walkers blink at you from the dying port. Every single summer evening feels absolutely perfect, both morbid and familiar, and clean and hopeful, in its chill.
I sat, cross-legged, in the corner of a cavernous, bed-less mattress, in the late summer twilight that peered through semi-open vertical blinds. I wore panties and his undershirt, that Ralph Lauren one in which my boobs looked fucking fantastic. I reclined against the dresser handles, one eyebrow raised, as he excitedly shoved The Big Lebowski into his computer, ecstatically looking back at me every other second, bouncing with joy, so glad to show me something new, something he loved. He pulled me next to him and promised the world through this single film! And the credits started rolling, and he sang along, terribly — he still can’t carry a damn tune, or pick out a rhythm, even if it were the only thing that could bring me back to him — and was so buoyant, so alive, so open, as he let his spliff dangle from his fingers while butchering this sweet tune, that I was buoyant, too, and couldn’t stop smiling, and loved him then. And all I could do was grin, roll from my Indian-style seat to my knees, crane myself to him, back arched, and kiss him as he refused to shut his damn, endearingly infectious, perfectly mediocre, silly, beautiful, face.