Monday, December 11, 2006

like you and me

The trip to NYC was lots of fun and lots of exercise. I'm currently decompressing.

I will tell you all about it once I finish decompressing.

If I ever finish.


In the meantime, here's a run-down of the last book I finished, While I Was Gone by Sue Miller. I don't think this book was incredibly well written. The plot didn't move me. The characters weren't dear friends to me by the ending. But, due to my circumstances, parts of it spoke to me. Parts sang out and said, "These feelings you have had in the past are not your own; they are shared by many." And that was reassuring. It stirred up some feelings for me. When you read these parts I chose, you will probably understand what I mean.
It wasn't that I had been conscious of falsifying myself when I was living my other life. I'm sure I hadn't. I think, in fact, that I was barely conscious of having a self in that world. My mother tells me that I was a willful little girl, but I don't remember that. What I remember is later, when I wasn't willful anymore: the inner calm of knowing I was satisfying expectations, I was pleasing. The self isn't important in such a feeling. It was only as I began to startle and disappoint others that I was aware of myself at all – that I came to understand, slowly, that I wasn't who I pretended to be.

I started to move away from the car when Daniel called over to me, "Lock it."
He was right, of course, it was a rough neighborhood, but somehow I felt annoyed with him for thinking of it and for his peremptory tone – one in a series of what I knew very well were petty grievances I could have been said to be collecting against him over the last few days: He stood up one evening in the middle of something I was saying to him and began to pick up the bits of wet leaf one of the dogs had tracked into the living room. I overheard him on the phone passing judgment on a movie we'd seen in exactly my words, without crediting me. Even the blood-speckled tissue stuck on a shaving cut one morning got on the list, and the familiar, theatrical groan as he rose from a living room chair. I knew these were absurdly small-minded; I knew they weren't, in some sense, real. I knew anyone could have made a similar list about anyone else. About me, for instance. I knew, but somehow once I started, I couldn't stop myself.

Once, in the night, Daniel stumbled into the kitchen when I was there and, turning on the light, started at seeing me. There we stood, blinking at each other in the sudden harsh light. Each of us had raised a hand toward the other. I wanted, more than anything, to go to him, to touch him. I wanted his touch. When I thought of this moment later, I saw us as actors depicting yearning across a stage set, the black windows painted into the backdrop, the strewn table and angled chairs the props, the main characters stage left and stage right, stopped in the act of moving toward each other. It seemed for an instant he might make some gesture to come toward me or that gave me permission to go to him. It seemed so, but he didn't. His body slackened, his hand fell. He smiled, an ironic smile, a sad smile. "It's no fun at all, is it?" he said.

Perhaps it's best to live with the possibility that around any corner, at any time, may come the person who reminds you of your own capacity to surprise yourself, to put at risk everything that's dear to you. Who reminds you of the distances we have to bridge to begin to know anything about one another. Who reminds you that what seems to be – even about yourself – may not be.


posted by Jennifer at 12/11/2006 11:27:00 AM

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