Monday, June 30, 2008

bedrooms and other places

I am already homesick for this apartment I have not yet left. I loved this space when I first found it and I love it still - the exposed brick, the smooth, hardwood floors, the bright, palest-butter-colored walls, the bang for my buck. From my windows I can look out onto the el platform; the whoosh of the train an improbable lullaby. My space is large enough to feel spacious, even in the absence of a bedroom, a hallway.

My trifle dish is full of fruit and I keep my sugar in an old ball jar. Old custard dishes with flowery edges serve as cat food and water dishes. My fruit bowl holds rice and lentils.

Teaspoons and tablespoons have their separate homes as do salad and dinner forks. The teaspoons I inherited from my great-grandmother are kept separate from the (nicer; matching) set I use daily.

I have quality cutlery and expensive knives. I have a dozen or so inherited cloth napkins. My plates - mismatched - were my great-grandmother's. My table is formica and the chairs clawed by cat.

Can I blend myself into another home, with another person, with different silverware and paper napkins?

We joked yesterday - Updated for the new millennium! Two rooms of one's own! $20,000 per year and a cheese and wine per diem. Maybe I wasn't joking... I will gain in space, and the ability to move about, from room to room, will be wonderful. But only one room will be 'my own' and it will not be the room in which I can work.

I have lived alone six of the past nine years. It is sometimes lonely, but it is a loneliness of which I have grown fond. I wonder - I hope - will I be able to be lonely still when I move?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

"So what should I say?"

Lighthousekeeping has been my least favorite of Jeanette Winterson's novels. The story seems forced at times, the beauty of the words doesn't blend as seamlessly into the story as in her other works. Still, it contains some of my favorite lines, one of my favorite pages from all her works:

"Why didn't Babel Dark marry Molly?
He doubted her. You must never doubt the one you love.
But they might not be telling you the truth.
Never mind that. You tell them the truth.
What do you mean?
You can't be another person's honesty, child, but you can be your own.
So what should I say?
When I love someone?
You should say it."

In another of her stories, asking 'what can kill love?', Winterson claims: "only this: neglect." Shall we say then, that doubt is a kind of neglect?

I love you. You are my beloved and your name is like water and I am thirsty. Your person is salve and I am sore. Your conversation is unguent and i am burned. Yes. this can be love.

What is neglect? To stop seeing you, to take you for granted, to let you grow dusty; to place you on my shelf of trophies and never take you down; to stop exploring your riches and to believe I can move on to my "real life" having learned you by rote.
What is doubt? To insert my fears between us; to insert myself between us, relating no longer to you but to my own projection of you; to mourn your loss before I've even won you; to tether you to a conception of 'truth' and 'honesty' which I - hypocritically - have not even begun to grow in my self.
If I doubt you, I cannot trust you; if I do not trust you, I have already turned away. Holding you at arm's length, I practice my neglect and call it 'sensible relationship'.

Can there be love without complete, unreserved, unconditional trust? I cannot imagine it. Harder still, can we say that that trust must be earned? You love someone else; you have left me; you are making a different life; we scarcely speak ... if I love you, can I doubt you?

Oh, J.W. - you've changed Kierkegaard to Pew, a blind lighthousekeeper...

I wonder whether I will admire this book now when I reread it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"When your heart is full of love, you're nine feet tall!"

I wish that joy could be such a muse to me as heartbreak and indignation are! I am intoxicated by the beauty of which my life seems so wonderfully, defiantly full. I am more loved that I have ever thought possible. I am more connected than I have ever dreamed could happen. I find conversation and laughter and possibility and chance and warmth - it seems - all around me. It seems that I have never been so happy and it seems that all this is only a foretaste of the future of which I sometimes dream.

The words look trite and I cannot capture the deep and fierce optimism I feel. No matter. I'll let it stand.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"words mean things"

If I could choose a leitmotiv for the past five years it might be "words mean things." A leitmotiv that would later become its own fugue...

And still, meanings are so slippery!

I went to pick up my produce box today. I've been getting one weekly the past month. I used to only get a box every other week, as it was difficult for me to finish a whole box by myself. Now I pick up my box on Tuesday and need to buy more produce by the weekend - it's wonderful. I mentioned this to the woman who co-owns the store - I told her that I'm going through my produce box much faster than I used to. She apologized for the way inflated costs of organic food have sometimes resulted in smaller boxes. I tried to explain that I had only meant that I was eating more produce, but she'd already begun helping another customer and only half-heard my explanation.

It had never occurred to me that the produce boxes had gotten smaller; I actually am eating much more produce and I am pleased with the quantity and variety in my box. But then, I am sure it never occurred to her that someone might purchase a produce box and then let nearly half of it go bad in her refrigerator...

I don't think this was an example of my actually choosing inadequate words to express my situation, it was simply an occasion in which neither I nor the woman with whom I was speaking had adequate information about each other - I didn't know about the impact of inflation on their store's operations and she didn't know about my laziness/lack of inspiration regarding food. Still, I was disappointed that what I had meant as a casual attempt at conversation about my own silliness/change had been interpreted (and not necessarily wrongly interpreted, given her situation) as a critique.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hangover Eggs

There is nothing in the world that I want more when I am hungover than eggs, over-easy, dripping over a pile of fried potatoes. Salty, with cheese and, today, with ham. To be sure, I love this meal when I am not hungover. But when I am, there is little else that is more comforting. Perhaps only the enduring, persistent love my friends bear toward me...

When I am drunk, I am chatty. Confessional. I have learned that, if I want to keep my own secrets, then I had better stay sober - or learn to have no secrets. I annoy and disappoint myself. And still my friends call me the next day, they go shopping with me, they smile and look at me and there is kindness and generosity and love.

I do not deserve this. I deserve a stern talking-to. I deserve to receive fewer invitations. I deserve a shake of the head and a reproach. And what I get is, consistently, love. Not a "love" that says -I don't care that you get stupid when you're drunk- but a love that says -I care, and, yes, you do make a bit of an ass of yourself, and I love you-

If I let myself think too much about the very drunken conversations I had last night, I will reproach myself - How could I have said that? and that? and did I say that or did I dream it later? I will sigh heavily and feel the disappointment rise and feel like a failure again. And it occurs to me that those conversations I only half-remember were listened-to by my soberer friends - and if they can look at me with kindness today and the next and the next, then I suppose I ought to be similarly kind with myself.

I am eating watermelon now. Full and sleepy and humble. When I nap I will dream that I can learn to love my friends as well as they love me.