I love my personal library because it is always being refreshed and it is informed by the blurbs I read in magazines and books and blogs and the performances I attend. If a work or artist is mentioned which I am unfamiliar with, but intrigued by, it is brilliantly easy to place a hold, which means at some point in the future, that book will enter my stacks. From there it’s up to fate, whether I’ll open its spine to peruse its contents or not, though one factor increasing probability is what’s commonly known as the due-date.
Due-dates are desirable, because we’re all procrastinators, right? The due-date is the secret to life, or at least the key to busting open those musty volumes to see what’s inside. Every 3 weeks the bell tolls; and although there’s a superb chance of renewing, especially the more obscure tomes, it serves as a reminder that the clock is ticking and that one’s reading window is finite. Of course, there is infinite grace here; if a book simply must be returned before one’s time with it is complete, one can place a new hold on it as soon as it’s been put back into circulation. This is a perfect closed circuit, in which books are constantly placed in new hands along with the desire that accompanies an experience which is terminable.
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.
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.
“What is it that makes a person the very person that she is, herself alone and not another, an integrity of identity that persists over time, undergoing changes and yet still continuing to be – until she does not continue any longer – at least not unproblematically?” Rebecca Goldstein
“When I look most transparent is probably when I have just come out of the fire.” Anais Nin
Seven things to know about me (you probably know most of them already):
1. I come home after my day and have to, how do I put it, stitch myself back together?
2. When in the throes of #1 I am not usually amenable to company
3. I sometimes feel envious of others’ successes, not taking into consideration the incredible effort and sacrifices made
4. I resemble someone who has been deprived of life’s luxuries, so I act quickly to amend the situation
5. It sometimes feels like writing this list is the thing I anticipate the most, like Sisyphus and his rock
6. The only way to truly shift the whole damn thing once and for all would be to move somewhere like Iceland or Australia
7. Even then, it would probably catch up with me eventually, I mean, once the novelty wore off
A difference. You rarely drink alone, whereas I always drink alone. A similarity. We both feel destined for something transcendent.
“Missing me one place search another. . . I stop somewhere waiting for you.”