Sunday, February 23, 2014

I stood with him on the deck, on the bridge of the night, when he came by to order his dinner through a touch of the computer screen with an extended finger.  I heard a soft, deep-voiced, hey, how you doing man…  We watched the water of the evening flowing, running out now, the last waves, as we always dealt with upstairs.  We spoke quietly for the night.  "Yeah, I'm fine when I get here, just during the daytime… Don't look forward to it."   He chuckled, louder than I'd heard him chuckle over anything I'd said for a long time.  Our most substantive conversations were about the exercise and the yoga we did during the day.  He'd get up earlier than I would.  He wasted far less time.  And what do you do when you get home, take the time to unwind, finally get to bed having processed it all, then sleep as the body deserves, get up late, don't do much, you get ashamed.

Later he came back from the office up the hall where he disappeared with a finished dinner plate, a napkin and a plastic wire bread basket.  Excellent, he said.  We had an eight top and I hoped they wouldn't want dessert and that no one else would want to come and want to linger over a glass of wine.

It was an interesting moment of candor between us, and perhaps he had more time, more a chance to exchange a word, on a weekend night, a Saturday, moreso than other nights I worked.  He had up 'til a few years ago regularly gone to karate practice early on weekend mornings.  "Gets the aggressions out."  Now he was really into the yoga, and swimming and biking.

Then later on I came home finally after spending some time with a  coworker.  He'd come up at the end of the night for a sip of wine.  It was the eight year anniversary of his father's death to brain cancer.  I wasted time plucking a banjo, putting a capo on it, adding to my understanding of Irish music.  But the wasting of time, the odd hours, how the wine was always soothing, the time completely alone, it was all beginning to gnaw on me, my life style of twenty five years of night shifts.  Cooking something, a hamburger for myself, in the wee hours.  Something creepy about it, knowing it would have to end someday and not feeling prepared for such circumstances.

Yeah, I was a country boy as far as the whole thing was concerned.  And as a country boy, I don't know, it's just that you have a set of morals.   Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew, in the way of rugged quiet poetic suffering of the sort a country boy feels normal with.  You're use to a lot of silence.  You listen to trees and brooks and creeks and grasses and all that sort of thing… cattails, snow.  But sometimes you bite off like thirty years of daily…  I don't know… should haves?  Or, that 'you were cool, and deserved it,'  to which you have to add, 'as if anyone would have known…'  but then, people are supposed to know.  Be discerning, right...

So when I said, okay, I won't write you, even if I do find a piece of paper and a pencil in the dust, and then didn't write that summer, that was just me being me.  Stupid, I know.  Because time is not infinite, at least you come to realize.  And it was all totally stupid.  Of course I wanted to write her.  What else did I want to do with my summer, but, just because I had my fool standards.  I could say I did a lot of things wrong that year, like when I picked out a place to live up on a hill away from campus a bit.  Incredibly stupid.  I had a great bunch of friends down in a dorm on campus.  But no, I had to go walking out past Emily Dickinson's house every day and night.

I think I tried to write a sketch of a story, like I went back to where I was from after, and there was a girl I could talk to, metaphorically, maybe she was big, maybe she was little, maybe she was old, maybe she was young, maybe she sat in fields all day and milked cows, and knitted sweaters by hand, cooked for her brothers, or maybe she played music.  Maybe she stood somewhere outside a mythical farm house and knew the ridges the way I did, knew where the next bend in the road, 12B, was, or how a road from the ridge dropped down into Deansboro, and old Indian trading road that came from Munnsville and Knoxboro, crossing 26.  Did I find her in rain?  Was I the one lost in the rain, and then saw someone far away who was comfortable with the rain and the cold…  I got the impression sometimes that was what I was dealing with in other people, that they were able to live like that, bare in a way, or that maybe I could.

I realized quickly on that I didn't have a sketch, or more than a sketch.  What I needed was to talk to people, to find a place to find them and talk to them, and sort of conduct interviews about what sort of nature they knew, what elements, what experiences.  They were too busy, really.  They knew something I didn't. But I was looking for authenticity, I guess, and you found it if you stood there long enough as a bartender.  Though, Jesus, the repetitive shows I've seen, acted out, time and time again….

Books are ghosts, or have ghosts…  I don't think I really read them anymore.  I just keep them, and there they are on the shelf, containing what they contain.  An interesting hodgepodge, as all libraries are.  Wine books mixed with art books, some book of Kerouac's you found supportive once, now distanced, but still reachable.  Like I remember the guys I worked with at McDonald's behind the line back in my hometown.  Kundera, Twain, Cheever, Chekhov, old yearbooks, American Library works of Lincoln, I & II, texts, poems, anthologies, letters, biographies, epics, classics, Faerie Queen.  A few shelves of Ireland related things.  Madam Korbonski's Encyclopedia B., saved from the rain.

I don't want to obsess, I don't mean to obsess, I try not to, and I don't, but, it's just that there is in everything some kind of a lesson.  Like when Samuel Clemens finds himself out of work and has to slink around in shame, avoiding his landlord, when he had failed at some 'real job.'  He snuck off, slinked around I mean, or hid, and that's when, through the awful grace of God, his career as a journalist started.  I'll just write well about something, he told himself.  And that's what Twain and Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, that's where they call come from  and what they're like.  They are creatures of good free writing, true stuff, stuff that made the author feel things, remember, summon scenes emotionally out of his own stuff, like we all have stuff.  He just started writing real, and after a while, you stop looking over you shoulder and just keep doing it.

Maybe it's more like cooking than anything else.  Cook something you sear it on both sides, then give it heat, but not too much, then you let it rest, to let the juices redistribute and become the sauce.  Twain didn't give a shit, he just wanted to write how he really felt, and goddamn, after all those jobs and all that real life experience--did they have the term then?--he just wrote.  The Dauphine, hell, I'm going to write about the Dolphin, or someone talking about him…  Fundamental way to write something, just by being real about it, not creepy, joyful, accepting, forgiving…  That's the great thing about Chekhov… It's like no one ever needed to say, oh, this guy is fucking great, absolutely awesome, and even shy about how fantastic, absolutely, he is, like he was hiding something like an ikon...

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