Reno’s Simultaneous Distance and Interiority

I want to grapple for a moment with Reno’s initial time in New York, as Kushner discusses in Chapter 4. It sets fingernails scraping on my internal blackboard — well, maybe that’s a bit severe, but this section certainly made me uneasy on some level, and confused, and sad for this character. Projecting my own appreciation of companionship and laughter and friendship, I feel for Reno as she cycles through her first days in the city, plodding along in her own small, strange pattern. She seems completely alone, an observer; at the pizza joint where she takes her evening meal, there’s only one interaction — “none of them asked if I needed friends. Which is something people never would ask” (pg. 49). Reno even notices a similar isolation with Giddle, “which was troubling, because she’d been in New York, as far as I could tell, for many, many years” (pg. 49). Reno seems to describe her relationship with the city during this time as almost a broken one, or at least a convoluted one; she is in the midst of its people and its energy, but she’s not able to engage with it, to be whole with it. Her descriptions, as with the imagery around Giddle, or the people in the park, or the denizens of her apartment building, all echo this intense, aching loneliness. These climax fittingly, then, in the conclusion of this chapter: Reno’s fling with the man wearing the Marsden Hartley t-shirt. The scene describes and reflects Reno’s condition and her relationship with New York, perhaps with the potential for anything meaningful in her life at this time, quite effectively I think; she is drawn to surface features, to elusive ideas (the Hartley reference in this case) but is unable to actualize them or to truly be involved. Indeed, the fling lasts one night and she doesn’t even learn his real name — it is more an act of Reno passing through, of trying to scrabble for connection or footing and sliding past. To that end, the inclusion of this scene at the end of the Chapter 4 is effective in helping me to better understand Reno’s state during this time, and pushes me to consider this disconnect in learning about her other relationships and situations: there is a distance related to Reno, especially during this period.

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