Tag Archives: literature

Worth Being Won

27 Feb

Couer_BriseLiterature always feels the most sorry for women like me. Years of their lives lost on a love never to be requited. Narratives are built to leave these women alone in rooms with cobwebs, or sitting helplessly by while the man they love struggles with whether or not he is gay. There is a very slight tone of mockery, and heaps of sympathy for one so lost as to perpetually let love for another remain unfulfilled.

Earlier tonight I was on script and said, “I have a sickness, and it takes the form of him.” (Classic daddy issues, never good enough to gain his love, yadda yadda.) But after a few more hours wandering my 700 square feet of hardwood floor over the earth, I was telling my kitchen cabinets, “It is the great romance of my lifetime, loving this man and his sons.” I would say that on my deathbed. (I watch too many really silly, not at all violent, pseudo-dramatic murder mysteries.)

It’s really not that tragic to love and not be loved in return. Certainly my own true New York Friend would attest that Unrequited is a genius for keeping us in the first flush of love for ten years. Maybe I don’t mind being held in suspension. Clearly I’ve chosen this simulacrum of affection over any truth that will flicker and fade.

Because I actually know what was written for me, and it doesn’t involve a fulfilling love. Or at least, not any more of those. I was so lucky to have so many. Maybe it’s okay if I let my mind manifest the script in which I know I’m already riding along. Sitting on a bus, looking out the window, I’m connecting my isolated self to each of the crazy, old eccentric ladies walking by on the sidewalk, usually pulling laundry carts full of random bags. I psychically high-five them. Yes, hey hey, you were loved and lost. Then you loved and lost and decided never to pick it up again. You started believing in some impossible unattainable love, or forever mourned the loss of a great one, to occupy that part of your mind, and then gradually filled in all the empty bits of your life with despair-deflecting activities and routines.

At worst, the patterns slip and your apartment gets messy and people see your lunacy in unkempt hair. But if you can keep it tidy, like my own loneliest mother did, then no one has to know the hollow echo of so many chambers of life left unfilled. Laundry done again and again, meals made and eaten, dishes washed. Motions are to be gone through, and they provide built-in comfort through the reward of endorphin release when each box is ticked.

Everybody on the outside reassures me that my story has a different ending, and that I’m beautiful and, oh, I’ll find someone. But what if I’m Jane Austen minus some novels. What if I’m noble and brave and just decide that the best love on offer for me is an impossible love. Would I really be so much better if I hadn’t ever met this person and we locked in to an eagle-talon-clinging platonic tumble through space? Would I be in a functional romantic relationship? Or would I be in a terrible situation with someone who added little color to my life while I erased his, until we both faded to a pair of patterns clicking along a set track.

I know there is a third option there, an in-between, but I don’t think in-betweenness suits me. You really have to make me laugh and think hard, as often as possible. That’s not in between. I think I’ll take the amplitude of hearing from Unrequited and feeling some happiness that he’ll visit New York, and later sink a bit in wonder about the guy he mentioned who lives here now.

Will I be supporting him in a big, new life? Will that be what finally releases us from this strange death grip of pseudo-romantic love? Thereby completing our terms using each other for whatever healing distraction or suspended animation we needed to repair deepest damage. Because the older I get, the more I know it’s damage that holds me here. And I may be the most enlightened, meditating, self-aware version of myself, but I can’t for the life of me see one tiny sliver of a path that will coincide with another.

I resent the fact that the Beatles are in my head right now. But it proves my mind has a sense of humor even when it’s spinning the oldest piano reel of my disconsolate viewpoint.

You see, honestly, as my teachers and practitioners tell me, love is about how you are together. Not about some list of things in common. But what if the best I am together is with this person who elevates every thing. I cannot feel low in our suspension. We look ever upward for some gesture we can make for others or one another. We hold doors, we make jokes, we return people’s dropped slips of paper, we make up silly narratives for bad pieces of architecture, we carry bags up stairs for strangers, and we never stop adding to the moment while being in it. There isn’t a story like ours. One where I am so clearly a better, more open and generous person for knowing him. And where we honestly have constructed the best humorous devices and philosophical enquirers of this epoch.

I need him. And I would never say that he needs me. But I know in my heart that this gentleman sees the world differently when he’s saving bits to share with me. Sure, I’m a fool, and I am that literary figure who waits and hopes for what she is told to be impossible time and time again. But Tame Impala says it: People change. And hopefully you have a chance in this lifetime to hear that song with your Unrequited while riding in a tiny Fiat Cinquecento over the limestone hills of southern France, only the dashboard light to keep  you company when the engine gets overwhelmed and you have to pull over and hope the car will find the spirit to move on.

And on that dark winter night hillside, you laugh and are calm together, because you operate on this very placid level and you love the story while you’re in it. You’ve both seen things shatter and you’ve both done a bit of that breaking, and now you just want to love every chance you get, no matter what form it takes. Because maybe, just maybe, your script hasn’t been written, and you’re fumbling through the greatest love story of all time. Too many times, you don’t recognize a good love story until you’ve crossed some preordained threshold, or it’s all over. So maybe hang on to whatever this is that’s unfolding around you, because it feels like an intimacy you haven’t known before, and you can’t predict the ending. Or every time you think it’s really over, the engine kicks back on and the music starts and you find you really can lean on this person for gradually more and more things. Maybe it is just a lifelong, beautiful friendship. That tortures you with its perfection never to be fulfilled.

So, maybe you see why I’m stuck. Until someone is bold enough to take the very slight risk of guessing my affection for them (I show it pretty clearly, and you’d have to be a moron or simply a modern-age, “infinite choices are available to me so why should I bother with this intellectually thrilling but sub-par on the attractiveness scale selection” love-resistor not to feel it), and asks me to follow through on a mutual feeling, then I’ll just maintain the status quo. Because I used to be a little too willing to try other narratives that might bring the feeling of this trophy heart… and too often I pushed them most of the way there myself before I realized it’s not the real thing. So, alright, no pushing. I’ll just wait patiently to see what arrives, and in the meantime keep my trophy heart in its glass case, where it’s well cared for and gets a good amount of laughs. 

Turn-Down Service

9 Dec

Books have always shared my bed. Since I was just half the height I am now, I’ve tucked in with pages and bindings surrounding me, adrift in the places they’ll carry me before I sleep.

You’re never alone with a book, I’ve written here somewhere before. And written here too are some lines about how when you’re single you can sleep with your books. I used to be giddy during the short phases between boyfriends when I could sleep morosely with hardcovers beneath soft covers. But now it’s just the norm. Three years of bookfriends in my bed.

That would be fine except now I am adding a newspaper section and moleskine calendar floating on top of the comforter too. Do I really never expect to share this bed again? I guess so.

At least I’m surrounded by love. And my life pursuit keeps me warm at night. I intend to become an author by osmosis.

Bookmarks and Placeholders

29 Jun
The bookshelves at Brewed in Fort Worth offer a Katherine Hepburn biography.

The bookshelves at Brewed in Fort Worth offer a Katherine Hepburn biography.

At this very moment, bathed in the fading dusk light tumbling from a sky portal in a vaulted Salt Lake City ceiling, there sits a a thick hardback edition of an Isabella Stewart Gardner biography. It possesses the dusty green paper jacket and simple lettering prevalent in the mid twentieth century. It is my book. And yet it sits approximately 1400 miles away from my present position on a sofa facing another coffee table in Fort Worth.

Despite the fact that I was only in Salt Lake for a short while last month, I absolutely had to procure this massive, unwieldy tome from a used bookstore, because the coveted object’s pages contained so many beautiful 1960s artifacts from Boston. The Aloof Percussionist said that these artifacts were probably plants, fake random tidbits shoved into pages by bookstore staff to boost the charms of happenstance, but I countered this cynicism with facts. The book was on the “new arrivals” pile and these envelopes, mailed magazine book review clippings, and event flyers formerly were clearly cherished by a single, singular person. There was obvious congruity in their origin. And whoever owned the book was clearly a kindred spirit of mine. Their correspondents sent book reviews in the mail, with handwritten dates on the clippings, and they lived between New York and Boston. Oh, and they tucked things into books.

This is my habit and my problem. I put important pieces of paper, fragments, words written for me, poems selected and sent, into books, and then I lose them in the stacks of my library home. Woven throughout the forest of pages are all the good thoughts and intentions anyone has ever shared with me. Some lucky shelf-hunting second-hand book buyer will discover them someday, if such a vocation still exists when I pass, and they will know that I was loved, and interesting, and traveled the world, but never did settle down long enough in any one place to finish every book and keep every single piece of paper in one safe receptacle.

For the past few days I’ve been haunted very specifically by one such lost fragment—a small, folded piece of paper carrying the words of a William Stafford poem. This scrap once resided in the hand-made wallet of my dearest Heart Friend in Salt Lake City. He handed it to me quietly during a cafe visit last August, paused, and then requested that I tuck the poem into my purse and keep it with me. He’d already sent me the same poem, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other,” on a postcard one month beforehand, but now in this new portable form, he wanted me to have it again. Clearly it was important to him, and so I guarded it carefully, retrieving it often and retracing each syllable silently and aloud, so the meaning changed with settings and circumstances.

But a few days ago, while I was preparing to dine with The Gentleman from Carrollton, I became preoccupied with the location of that very small, soft from refolding, piece of paper. I hadn’t seen it in a long time. Such a long time. I had so diligently carried it with me for so long. But then there was an awful lot of receipt farming and shredding… in a flash, I feared the worst. While The Gentleman stood near my front door, I briefly considered rummaging in a drawer or two, pretending I was searching for something I needed that evening, but really seeking this shred of past thought that I suddenly needed to have immediately to hand.

I resisted the urge. But did become frantic in my search again this evening, cursing myself aloud for being so careless, until I found the original postcard-affixed facsimile of the poem in a book shoved inside a cabinet in my bedroom. That is the storage place for books that would embarrass me if a guest should happen upon them. The books that are telling me what is wrong with me and how to fix it.

Ohhhhh books, try to tell me why I cannot cherish what is given to me, and flail instead through piles and shelves of lost gestures and absence.

Three weeks ago in Salt Lake City, again and always packing to leave, I carelessly decided not to cram the giant Isabella Stewart Gardner book into my carry-on. My enormous suitcase was full, and I didn’t want to add the extra ballast to the other two bags I’d be heaving through the terminal. I was sure I’d come back for the book. I was so in love with The Aloof Percussionist, after all. He offered to send it to me after I left, but I refused, insisting I’d return for it. Now book and artifacts are as lost to me as anything stored in such a way. Important, tucked between pages, and then placed on a shelf and forgotten.

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