What Price Love?

(2)

photo: Melissa Gira Grant

“I wanted us to be so naked with each other,” Acker/Laure writes to Bataille, “that the violence of my passion was amputating me for you.” But “as soon as you saw that I got pleasure from yielding to you, you turned away from me… You stated that you were denying me because you needed to be private. But what’s real to you isn’t real to me. I’m not you. Precisely: my truth is that for me your presence in my life is absence.” 

- Steven Shaviro, quoting Kathy Acker as Laure as if writing a love letter to Georges Bataille


 

I carry every love letter I wrote to B in a Gmail label on my phone. They aren't all love letters; they pitch and shift through six months of taking a conversation that began in public, across two blogs, into a more protected space. 

For the last two months, I've been publishing these letters to readers who bought a subscription. I have four months left to send these letters, in which the reader receives my half of the correspondence, time-shifted one year after I wrote and sent them to B.

It's called What Price Love? and so far, in sum, love is priced at about a thousand dollars.

 

"...for me your presence in my life is absence."

 

I think about how I have made a living exposing sex, including my own, for the last 14 years. How nearly anything we are supposed to do for love but instead accept money for can be defamed – by someone uncomfortable with that exchange and our decision to enter into it – as "prostitution." Is selling a love letter prostitution? Is telling you to buy it somehow worse? I want you to read them but I am not sure I could say I "enjoy" this. 

(But then that's not that different from any other kind of work.)

(Am I turning my love into work?)

All I knew when I started is that I didn't want to alter the form of the letters. They are what is left of the affair, and I trust them more than my own ideas about what happened. 

Here's what I do with with them: I read through them a few at a time before I send them out to my subscribers. I don't format them. I take each email in turn (does anyone say "love email"?) and turn it into a text-only email newsletter using a web-based program designed for marketers and canvassers. I can't pretend this isn't about publicity. I'm constantly reminded. Under the rows of check-boxes I could tick to track opens and bounces and the SEND button, there's a line of italicized text, like a motto, that I'd never noticed before and it reads "Here is your moment of glory."

 

"...because you needed to be private."

 

Would we drag misshapen boxes and bundles of paper around the city with us, to keep our correspondence near, if we had to give consideration to it? I've always wanted to be able to flip back. Even as I wrote these letters (in bed, on trains, for the most part), even though they were my own feelings, I felt I needed a reference. How did we meet? When did we start this? Who sent who what first? This kind of love affair was so ungrounded: someone I met diffused through photos, audio files, bullet pointed lists. 

How can you love a bullet pointed list? 

How have we confined our feelings to valid entries in a database?

 

"I wanted us to be so naked with each other..."

 

The email is still a whisper. It's a way of keeping quiet in a chattering web. Using email as we did is an abuse of this invention. Email was born as a bug report. It never meant to make us feel. 

My phone, similarly (and B's phone and now, your phone) was never intended to carry such a spectacle. 

I think about the old red light district in Boston that was both the eastern terminus of the old postal road and where Alexander Graham Bell kept his studio. I think about the other loves we carry around the city with us: romance novels now concealed in Kindles, appointments made with escorts on BlackBerrys because there's so little street left for prostitutes to stand on. Protest signs, too, are a kind of declaration of love, of the possible, only though even as I occupy space beside them, no one around me knows I agree with their sentiments unless they are following me on Instagram at that precise moment and see my photos expressing solidarity. 

I want to take my love public, even though it isn't only mine and it doesn't exist anymore.