Close Quarters

October 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

Fitzroy Being Cute

Charles will be living here in two weeks. That still seems like an alternate reality. The human solitude of this apartment seems intrinsic to it now, as it did when I first rented it 26 years ago, taking it over from a recently deceased long-term tenant. It seemed tiny, coming from a 7-room house; now it seems big enough—for me.

But we lived here together for 16 years, and there were lots of good times. Granted, most of the good times took place outside the apartment. Still, in the late 80’s, we had New Year’s Eve dinners with six or eight friends, which I cooked in my closet kitchen. Whitney visited with her cat and we all survived the great fire, running down 12 flights and then having a 3 am breakfast at a diner just west of St. Marks Place. Jay and Andree came for the 4th of July and we watched the fireworks from the roof, back when you could still get on the roof (elevator, stairs, ladder). Ramona and Delilah came as little girls and were deeply envious of the newsstand selling candy in the lobby. Charles drew pictures of me sobbing during my therapy decade—great tears springing out from under my oversized glasses—and those drawings made up for all the now-incomprehensible infernal torment. Kind of.

Charles is happy now and I’m not unhappy, though I feel diminished in ways I can’t define, possibly as a result of the anti-depressants. But as “mature” as we may be, far more able to negotiate conflict, etc, I’ve grown used to quiet, to controlling the level of social interaction. Charles will talk. Not uninterestingly. I like his talk. But he’ll talk in the morning and at night and at noon and in the afternoon. When he’s silent on purpose to give me solitude I’ll imagine what he’s not saying. I’ll apologize for ignoring him even though he always laughs when I do that.

On the other hand, we’ll gossip about everyone we know and everyone we don’t, and about all the ideas we’re too tired to implement. We’ll reminisce to a degree no one else could tolerate. I’ll call, “Come here, the cat’s are being cute!” and he will, even though they’re cute all the time.

I need to make space for him, so I’m sorting through papers: what to throw out, what to move to storage. I find a very old, unfinished story about a young librarian, her sister Alice and an elderly lawyer (the librarian’s lover: conniving, vain) to whom the sisters mean harm. What then? There are lots of trees in the story. The other night, Merwin read his poem about his parents not knowing the names of trees, and talked about how they didn’t even know there were trees, not really.

I’m quite sure when I wrote the story, the trees were not as important as they seem now, reading it. I probably thought the sex was more important. I read a paragraph about the lawyer planning to take the librarian into the woods for a romp and all I can think of is: woods. I used to live in the woods.

I stop sorting, feeling sad in the old way, as if someone were coming, and has been indefinitely delayed. Not a person.

Humans are good at showing up.

The Sound of Trees

I wonder about the trees.
Why do we wish to bear
Forever the noise of these
More than another noise
So close to our dwelling place?
We suffer them by the day
Till we lose all measure of pace,
And fixity in our joys,
And acquire a listening air.
They are that that talks of going
But never gets away;
And that talks no less for knowing,
As it grows wiser and older,
That now it means to stay.
My feet tug at the floor
And my head sways to my shoulder
Sometimes when I watch trees sway,
From the window or the door.
I shall set forth for somewhere,
I shall make the reckless choice
Some day when they are in voice
And tossing so as to scare
The white clouds over them on.
I shall have less to say,
But I shall be gone.

Robert Frost

Screw Loose

September 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

White Zombie

A friend came over for dinner last night, and we had a nice time, nice pasta, nice salad, good wine, gentle words, but he left early, especially relative to my schedule: bed at 2 am, up at 10 am. I didn’t want to drink the rest of the wine and couldn’t focus on work, so I took a walk. Glorious night! The French-blue sky clogged with gray, slow-moving clouds; the persistent Quad Cinema; a store called Filaments, full of plump, excited lamps; and lots of NYU real estate. I realized how much the hot summer had debilitated me, pinning me to my bed to ready gory fantasy novels full of necromancers bringing the dead back to life (it’s very hard to get rid of them once they’re already dead: you must burn them or mince thoroughly), in between hours of work in the fake chill of the air conditioner…As often happens when I spend too much time without feeling physically well, I started imagining I was an automaton, or a person Who Once Was, that all the good stuff in life was over, and what’s worse, I was no longer entitled to complain.

I’m not entitled to complain. I will, though, when I figure out how to mask it better. Some pathetic ne’er do well minor character in the fifth volume of a series, a brilliant portrait of whining, petty why-me regret and greed…and, he’ll look nothing like me! No one will ever guess!

I’m remembering the good stuff now. Much of it is over. But memory has its pleasures, and if forced to watch football, one can always admire those tight, well-defined butts… I digress….When I returned from my walk, I spoke to a woman on the elevator, never seen her before, she was Southern and friendly in the old style, reminding me of the past and also reminding me of a time when I was full of excitement about strangers: who they were, how they lived. Yes, I know more now and the big surprises have been unveiled, or so I imagine. Really, who knows? Maybe the universe will turn inside out. Maybe I’ll become a button. Maybe wolves will run over the crusted snow endlessly, in a novel that is never finished, the words stopping just there: the wolves flowed like water over the untouched snow, their lean bodies merging into one shadow-colored, ferocious wave, the horizon removing itself invisibly…


They scare me by saying

There’s a screw loose in my head

They scare me more by saying

They’ll bury me

In a box with the screws loose

They scare me but little do they realise

That my loose screws

Scare them

The happy crazy from our street

Boasts to me

—Vasco Popa

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