At four in the morning the Middlemarch
book brick tumbled off the bedside shelf, picked up momentum, took a cruel trajectory and landed on my face, book spine to nasal cartilage; probably as a sign of protest against its use as a bookend. I found myself awake at this early hour on a day when i was neither chirpy enough to dive straight out of bed onto the yoga mat nor poetic enough to press my face against the window pane and watch dewdrops trickle down the leaves of my favorite tree.
I wanted to read but the recently hazardous books didn’t seem enticing; so i logged on to stories that were safely encased in distant computer servers. I found myself browsing ‘The Paris Review
‘ for love stories, even when that fat cherub, Cupid, had left an unpleasant taste in my mouth yesterday; it reeked of the black bile of indifference. I found one
that was straight out of my Before-Sunrisey
dreams and packed in serendipity, Edna St. Vincent Millay, long journeys, and a loft with a typewriter. I also learnt that in Yiddish, there’s a beautiful word called bashert
that describes the person you are fated to meet, your soul mate. I read a cleverly titled ‘Love Stories
‘ by Phoebe Connelly. The lovers separate in the end, but I could identify with the little things one does, unasked, uncalled for and often unnoticed, when gripped by the throes of love. I felt a sad tenderness for her when she started reading books for him, not out of curiosity or interest or compulsion, but out of affection. The aching familiarity was an odd comfort; halfway across the world a woman in love had done the same things that I had done, and felt foolish about later. Here is an excerpt.
“…courting each other with words—our own, but also those of any writer we thought might impress. We certainly weren’t the first to go this route. But like every romance, and every reading list, it felt like our own. The question “What are you reading?” became a convenient excuse to chat when we spotted each other online, to send links, to write long, complicated letters in which the subtext was always desire. For him I read Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter, which I had dismissed, without reading, as rankly sexist. (My opinion didn’t improve much after the fact, but he argued that the main character was a true portrait of the male writer.) I sent him John le Carré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy after quoting a description of Smiley’s wife out of context. He told me it drove him near mad that the line didn’t come until the second-to-last scene in the book. I started compulsively reading novels set on the West Coast. A sticky July was spent filling in the gaps of my Lew Archer catalog; I hoarded tatty James M. Cain paperbacks and dreamed of smoggy afternoons and winters without snow. Was I falling in love with F. or with the idea of a city that lent itself so easily to narration?“
These lines wouldn’t mean anything to the casual reader, but i had to thrust my lower jaw forward and blink rapidly to block the stinging tears. Stupid, that’s what i am!
It was still early but a pale light had sheathed everything outside my window. It felt like a Norah Jones moment, and I brushed my teeth to the rhythms of ‘Sunrise‘. Try singing ‘and i said ooooooooooo‘ with toothpaste foam in your mouth. Fun, but not a pretty picture. Edna Millay was still on my mind, and I downed my morning coffee searching for an appropriate poem that spoke of my attempt to distract my mind from an inappropriate person for whom I had inappropriate feelings at an inappropriate time. Turns out she had written just the poem for it. Another proof that all over the world, beyond barriers of distance and time, people are linked by the familiarity of emotions. Here it is.
Intention To Escape From Him
I think I will learn some beautiful language, useless for commercial
Purposes, work hard at that.
I think I will learn the Latin name of every songbird, not only in
America but wherever they sing.
(Shun meditation, though; invite the controversial:
Is the world flat? Do bats eat cats?) By digging hard I might
deflect that river, my mind, that uncontrollable thing,
Turgid and yellow, strong to overflow its banks in spring,
carrying away bridges
A bed of pebbles now, through which there trickles one clear
narrow stream, following a course henceforth nefast—
Dig, dig; and if I come to ledges, blast.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay
I try to distract myself; i read with that crazy glint in my eye; my
writing typing threatens an impending carpal tunnel syndrome; i work on and off as i await an important outcome; i scratch dogs and strange babies behind ears and pretend they are cute; in the late afternoon i risk bursting my lungs on the cross-trainer; i nap snuggled under a soft, blue blanket; often i have giggling fits with friends; on weeknights i watch the drama unfold in a fictional hospital with a predilection for the unusual and even the promiscuous; sometimes i sketch bare trees on a winter landscape; on my Nigella days i bake umpteen coffee cakes; i dig up old songs too; i discuss books with friendly bookstore owners; obsessively cleaning sprees calm me down; i go on drives without destination; i surround myself with family and laughter; but no matter what I do, a name remains glued to my mind. Bashert? Unlikely.
“Dig, dig; and if I come to ledges, blast.”