"Being with you is like being born all over again," Rocky says to Adrian in Rocky IV, in my opinion the best film in that series. He goes to the Soviet Union to fight the somewhat retarded yet pristine Drago, which, in 1985, directly correlates with ongoing Cold War rhetoric at the time. This notion of being born again is likely secular in idiom, but one cannot help but invoke Jesus Christ himself, or at least his carnal manifestation, since Rocky's central motifs of moral rebellion, out-of-body epiphany, and cyclical ascension-and-fall borrows itself from Christianity's most effective narratives. Rocky does in a barn what Drago does in a state of the art training facility, in a deft sequence juxtaposing their respective training sessions on the same body part, the ultimate lesson being that you can't buy conviction's set of nads. In all the Rocky films, our titular hero conquers his opponent from within, that place of fractured ribs and internal bleeding, as if bluntly crucified by fellow man with cushions around hands. We look to in Rocky Balboa what we may not find in ourselves: someone who will suck down raw egg yolks and run for miles and miles in the freezing chill towards City Hall, on whose steps we splay our arms not T-like on the cross, but higher, V-like, directed at the heavens, as if pointing to ultimate Dad for approval. Here, my couch feels so deep. May we each find our own Adrians, to whom we victoriously speak with utmost love into the mic, eyes sealed shut in injury, our tearful inward gaze suspended in warm blood.

Somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond the panes of glass through which I ventured into his films, there in the dim room of my college media center, on unlaid Saturday nights when a profane comedy was most needed. But if art is the passive voyeurism directed at its creator, then are we not complicit by his hands? His fingers? The bad taste in my mouth may be the sudden bulimia of idle worship. “Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” ends the first sentence of Anna Karenina, whose translated copy my mother read hidden under the covers with a flashlight, that indoor tent of starless wonder, whose heroine I’ve thought about—in the highjacking of my mind since—every time I wait for the train. The gift of fiction is that, at worse, it is an allegory; the horror of journalism is that it may be false. Solemn humility is not knowing, though I can’t help but think I’m a coward. A gentlest of scenes seen was in a bookstore, in Hannah and her Sisters, as Eliot read unrequitedly to Lee an e.e. cummings poem as desperate verbal foreplay, her coat not even off, the chilly air as the universe’s ongoing invitation to cuddle. We allow the pervert his page as we do the sniper his video game, as if collateral damage were mere aesthetic flaw. May a lawyer pen my ultimate open letter, a publicist my epitaph, and a forger the check that pays for it all. In the antiporn of responsibility, for once in my life, I’m trying so hard to relate to a girl. It feels cold. Nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.

Every year, as an existential promise perhaps, I tell myself that I won’t watch The Bachelor that year, but end up doing so. I started feeling this way about five years ago, when seeing past contestants on the Bachelor Pad, a lesser-budgeted “sister” show featuring the most pathological personalities in basically a frat house setting, and regretting how much of myself I invested in these fucktards. The faces looked so familiar, but in ways devoid of nostalgic fondness, only apathy’s forgiveness, the way one might look at a former co-worker or roommate one habitually despised but chance encountered at the grocery store many years later. The Bachelor does more than promise its contestants love: it promises the viewer the emotional torment of its very unrequitedness. Tears fall in the limo at the end of each episode as if in our ultimate behalf, this genius of corporate voyeurism. I become so involved with each season that I often decline social engagements on Monday nights (8:00 – 10:00 PM), or rush home resenting whatever obstacle that made me late. The show is shot in a soft lens, always warm, its rosey-orange tint straight from Bonnard. Add to this heavy foundation and some bulimia, and we find a kind of heaven on earth. After the finale, each year, I would actually feel relief that I would not have to watch the show anymore, that my personal more-boring life could nudge forward and have a chance to actualize. I always feel distant empathy with the runners-up, or those who come in 3rd/4th place, and wonder about their return home, to their pleasant cities and euphemistic careers, if their minor celebrity might enhance romantic prospects. There’s something cruel and redeeming about a hot chick not finding a man. No one ever declines the “fantasy suite,” because everyone wants to fuck. And the rose with which such sentiments are conveyed is gently placed on the bedside counter, that timeless night, curling into itself in a negative bloom.