… yet, the birthday was lovely – just lovely. A handsome bouquet of bright splashy pink and orange gerberas and a beautiful bouquet of dusky purple, yellow-tongued freesia combined to form a dazzling centerpiece for my squat living room table, though they wilt slightly days after the fact. Add to them the single white and red roses – once fresh from a door-to-door salesman – that mingle solemnly on the bar amongst the glinting liquor bottles. There were hollered conversations about the implications of wearing high heels and Amaretto grown watery from the melting rocks within; wearily given up for a bubbly bottle of Moretti. Ah. Lovely. The apartment is neat but lived-in, as my feeling that someone my age is too old to live in a sty weighs on my shoulders.
My cousin Ximena wrote:
Hi! I hope you have a Happy B-day! … My family is o.k. the kids are great, Alejandro is so tall and big … it just made me feel old, I guess I am…. I hope very much that you read this mail, and I wish you the best ever! How many years it is? You’re old too.
My brother, Diego, says:
You’re going to try to review a play with Alec Baldwin in it? He’s old. The press release here says the play is about young people – how come he’s in it? Oh, well. You should have plenty to talk about.
There is file that won’t download and the necessity of cable phone/internet/TV presses me to practically dash off a pleading email to my roommates at once. A new bottle of “lemon grove” fragrance oil on the nightstand wafts tart and clean throughout the room. A heavy strand of clackety brushed silver beads sits around my neck – a gift from Gia. Nearly 60 degrees outside, yet work has kept me indoors, though I consider ditching my room in half an hour to take in the remnants of the day. Yellow cake mix and chocolate frosting wait, pleading, in the cupboard yet remain untouched. Lucio Battisti croons as always.
Over Indian food at the office, I told my friend, Greg, that I grow antsy, that I crave flightchangenewcontinents, that I feel boxed, and that now, when I open the door to leave, Heifer darts out into the hall, looking back at me, but not budging from her roost until I shepherd her back inside and scold her for such foolishness. Said Greg: “Maybe Heifer’s trying to tell you that she wants to be someplace else, too.”
I was stilled. It’s hard to argue with logic.
There was a time – shortly after I returned (or before I left?) from Europe in 2005 – that I mapped out a brilliant schedule for my days, the high point of which was “writing time”, from 4:30 to 7:00. Said “writing time” has only taken place perhaps once or twice, which is a shame. the sloth borne of working 5 nights a week until 2 or 3 in the morning and the resulting insomnia clamps me to my bed, fingers listlessly picking out keys to type to friends or pitch play review ideas. This must cease. 26 and barely anything to show for it; my juvenile dreams of becoming a wunderkind – my determination 20 years ago to learn to type since I planned to become an “author” – shot.
Oh, that as-of-always-untitled novel that creeps, creeps, creeps …
It has come to my attention that the proper way to name an enduring work of fiction is to make a reference to an earlier work of enduring fiction.
Case in point:
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway, from “Meditation XVII – No Man is an Island” by John Donne: “…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act V, Scene i: “Miranda: How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in’t!”
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner, from Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Act V, scene v: “Macbeth: It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
A Handful of Dust, by Evelyn Waugh, from TS Eliot’s The Wasteland: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust.”
Let’s see what I can come up with:
Morning: Excellent and Fair, from William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice: “This was not judgment day – only morning. Morning: excellent and fair”. Living in the unnamed aftermath – living as a victim when there never was a tragedy. Finding solace in reality. A coming-of-age story that isn’t about a shy, precocious or brilliant child but the intrinsically damaged adult they became. An epistolary novel.
The Raw Material of Divinity, from Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native: “Eustacia Vye was the raw material of a divinity”. One woman’s lifelong struggle with crippling, poisonous self-hatred and her constant utter failure to train herself to become what she considers to be a good person. A comedy.
Mortals on the Ground, from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act IV, scene i: “Titania: Come my lord, and in our flight tell me how it came this night that I sleeping here was found with these mortals on the ground.” Perhaps an alternate title for The Raw Material of Divinity.
Hard, Gem-like Flame, Walter Pater’s Studies in the History of the Renaissance: “How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy. To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” A study of wretched ingratitude. An anti-heroine, a piano bar, and utter failure.
Juices Like Wine, from Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf: “Mouth is alive, juices like wine, and I’m hungry like the wolf”. A supermarket counter bodice ripper set in 19th century Provence, narrated by the village priest who provides moral commentary and sexual advice for maidens. The lovers only go out at night; the lean and hungry type; the sight and the sound, they’re lost and they’re found; first sweet as grapes, the bitter as dregs …
Talcum Powder on the Letter, from The Monkees’ Randy Scouse Git: “There’s talcum powder on the letter and the birthday boy is there.” A mystery set in the 1930’s against a backdrop of train travel in Europe. The action begins in Ventimiglia, nestled on the Italy/France border. A servant boy delivers a very strange letter to traveling businessman Pietro Puglia in a foccacceria – written in special ink, the words will not form unless he dusts the page with talc. Insulted by the stupidity of this ruse, Pietro ignores the notes and letters that begin to follow him wherever he goes, delivered by increasingly snot-nosed urchins, until he realizes that his daughter, Teresa, hasn’t replied to his letters in weeks.
Godawful Small Affair, from David Bowie’s “Life on Mars”: “It’s a godawful small affair to the girl with the mousy hair”. On the folly of melodrama and anxiety; a hypochondriac in London can’t stop living her life as though she were in an apocalpytic film. Perhaps an alternate name for this blog.
The Right Kind of Sinner, from Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker”: “You’re the right kind of sinner to release my inner fantasy, the invincible winner and you know that you were born to be … you’re a heartbreaker.” Also a supermarket bodice ripper, set in the 1950s. Motorcycles. More Catholics. Sister Dymphna is a beautiful novice who does her charity work in shelters and schools. Because she is beautiful, she has to field many come-ons from would-be lusty habit chasers. No one ever manages to melt her steely facade … until she begins to help run a soup kitchen. Guilt. Ecstasy. Release. Sweat-stained pages. Gulp.
Butter Pie, Butter Pie, from Wings’ “Uncle Albert”: “Butter pie? Butter pie! The butter wouldn’t melt so we put it in the pie”. A children’s book about a little boy named Peter who refuses to be like all the little other kids. He manages to alienate all of the kids on his block and in his class. He’s not misunderstood, however – the other kids understand him completely; he really does think he’s better than they are. He changes his name to Butter Pie, dyes his hair pink and fakes a British accent. The other kids ignore him. Butter Pie realizes that it’s no fun being different if people don’t notice and that without the other kids’ favor, he ceases to exist. Maybe not a children’s book.
the wind keens and keens outside….