It starts with a borrowed house full of books and a parrot and a piano. Then it spills over into best friends in gowns and a graveyard picnic. Books, like cemeteries, are liminal: we walk through their gates and back out again, altered, touched by the diaphanous flutter of invisible wings.
“It is quite true what Philosophy says: that Life must be understood backwards. But that makes one forget the other saying: that it must be lived – forwards. The more one ponders this, the more it comes to mean that life in the temporal existence never becomes quite intelligible, precisely because at no moment can I find complete quiet to take the backward-looking position.” – The Diary of Soren Kierkegaard
“We delight in our sensuous involvement with the materials of language, we long to join words to the world – to close the gap between ourselves and things – and we suffer from doubt and anxiety because of our inability to do so.” Lyn Hejinian
It occurs to her in this space, in these particular white walls (only in the bedroom did a smell briefly hearken her back to her past; she did not pursue it), in this, present – (though it isn’t anything like that – i.e. static, rather like a conveyance it keeps moving) is a vastness, though a rather awkward gift it is since it is hard to put to any good use. She thinks it could be pleasant to play You Belong To Me by Patsy Cline on a phonograph but she has neither record nor device so there’s little point in that. How to describe it? A ribbon of butter churning in a fairy tale in which she keeps lifting her face up from the masher or grinder or pulverizer, her task to count the granules, to turn the quernstone, to harness the powderiness, to order the pebbles. Right now the best her story can offer is the company of the baba yaga hag; the trolls always hide their spoils behind the wood shed. Of course, in reality she is not lifting a finger, nor is she dropping crumbs to awaiting mice; it’s just that it’s something to fill the void with, the idea of the scraggly heroine in raggy shawls. And her benefactors and tormentors (like baba yaga one and the same), they are threads leading in all directions. If she only knew how the story unravels.
1. That time when we were talking about rejection and you said you had been dumped so many times that you had grown immune to the experience, I regret not mentioning that you were the only person to ever break my heart.
2. Tonight, when I ran into my playwriting idol at an reading and we gawked at each other like long lost friends, I regret not asking her how she wrote and performed that first piece when she was a nobody back in the day which haunts me still.
3. At the aforementioned event, after reading from her collection of dance reviews/poetry/ephemera, when the author asked which non-linear bits stuck with us, I regret not saying the bit about the reviewer not being allowed to drink wine before the show because it is funny and because laughter is a good way to salve the wounds that arise from appraising the situation and finding myself falling short.
A rent in the fabric of her serenity, luminous like the lake she drove past, surprised by its brightness on such a grey day, occurred at the estate sale where she went to collect a stove. She was standing in the nearly empty garage, surveying the wreckage, when a young man said to his companion, do you have a projector? From behind a rusting golf caddy he procured an aqua canister, the width of opened arms. Before her eyes, the man then conjured three aqua legs – a tripod! she said to herself, entranced – balanced the canister on it, flipped the thing 360 degrees, and unfurled a silver movie screen to the delight of his companion. The woman there to collect the stove stood, a witness to the event, dumbstruck by her sudden and desperate need to have this shiny object. The thought weighed on her that had she been in the room at the time of the couple’s discovery, that it could have been her to see it first, except that until that moment she did not know what she was lacking. It perplexed her to assemble the pieces of her desire; the tripod was mechanical, and therefore linked with her scientific father; the aqua-tinted metal stood for her murky, melancholic, water-loving childhood; and the screen itself, generous, a reflector of light like the lake she had just observed. And here it was, before her, but not to be hers. Such is life! She knew there was no changing the outcome, the couple would take the screen, at a bargain price, and she would collect her stove and pine for the unattainable, and thus, perfect item.
She drove home, the gnawing inside her now accompanied by the rattling of the stove in back. She put on the most cymbal-laden CD in her glove compartment and resigned herself to the crashing. She thought of how it had come to be that she was driving around picking up stoves on a Sunday when previously she had been practicing with a band. The dissolution of the band had not been her decision; it struck her now that the others had been laboring under the premise that the band was her brainchild. The band might have been preserved if members had determined that the band was their idea as well. It’s strange, she pondered, how switching one’s perception the slightest can shift things for good. When the option came up, she turned off the main road, and found a side road chock full of bumps and curves. The music caterwauling, and the stove clattering such that she thought it might collapse into a pile of rubble by the time she reached home, she followed the arc of the lake, imagining the banging metal as her rage, boiling unseen beneath her smooth, mirror-like surface.
It boils down to caring. It bothers her to think she is caring less about certain things she used to care more about. Yes, she is certain, there are things she is moving away from, and other things she is moving towards, in terms of caring, although the exact perimeters of those things she is unclear of. It strikes her that there are many things in life which she once cared an awful lot about, but now hardly considers outside of times like this, when a feeling of regret makes her contemplate her lack of caring and a caring is reborn in her. At other times a random thought or news item can infuse her with a new caring. At such moments she sees the ease in it; the minutiae of her caring are like waves in an ocean conveying her. Still she worries about the particulars of her caring, and whether or not she is caring or not caring and in the optimal proportions.
It was just what she found herself going for, a nebulous sort of thing, more of a feeling than anything. Yet she slipped into it, a kind of mood, a melancholia, even, yes; only it felt like finding herself, or falling into a familiar room. Like a tune she plucked out on the piano, a simple melody, 3 or 4 chords tops, just playing them over and over again. It certainly wasn’t brilliant by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn’t brilliance she was after, no, more of an itch she felt like scratching by means of those 4 chords. An itch was a sadness. It wasn’t the stack of paperwork she brought home for the evening, no, that was just ghastly, she’d rather die then resign herself to cracking that pile of crap when she had a burning itch there reminding her of her longing. That’s where her loyalties lay, why she didn’t show the troubled parts of herself the door; she found comfort in her state of uncertainty.
It occurs to her, how solitude is like setting off for a jaunt on a craft, not anticipating the fathomlessness of the sea until in the middle of it. How one then cocks one’s ear into the air, bent on this idea of someone on shore signaling a pressing need, delivering one from the unknowable. When nothing comes of this, one’s mind turns to food. It’s like one pictures a desert isle where jerusalem artichoke pickles will make all the difference.
It sometimes felt like this. Like some document was signed some impossibly long time ago which dictated these present and sometimes unbearable terms.
It sometimes seemed like the husbands had signed too, or at least been given access to the document so that they could, if desired, keep with its dictates concerning her.
Each morning it hung there, the gnawing sense that things had always been this way. A dull throb in brain and bowels. Stumbling about. Slurping hot tea to flush the body with fever; then, rustling up breakfast. A sandwich slap-dashed together and wrapped for travel. It was all quite unremarkably routine. She had to remind herself that it had once been different, that one day in the near or distant future it would switch again, that whenever she convinced herself that the arrangement of her life was static she risked missing the point, the unique kernel contained in the moment, which she was certain to apotheosize as time swept her immutably closer to oblivion.
A dog howls in the night. A leaf crunches underfoot. I cringe to recall the time I came home drunk and, feeling slighted, demanded that you acknowledge my body. I am rarely so hot-tempered, though I remember another time, walking in pitch darkness through forest and muttering, rape me, to the world at large. Why do I bring such matters up? Is it just to forge the heart in the furnace of desire?