Friday, October 9, 2009
#16 – MEMORY
So I was chasing a woman again, which might have been a pattern, and I was returning to visual art, a pattern that had been broken since I could not quite remember when. And this woman Jenny loaned me her Walkman and I realized how disconnected from music I had been, and I began to read poetry for the first time since I could not remember when. And all of it was new. T.S. Eliot on how much like birth a death could be, and at last I was getting straight which one was Handel and which Haydn, and I realized in my almost forgotten love for Beethoven I had, way back when very young and also in the years in between, skipped Mozart completely. I needed Mozart’s touch now.
And there were all these stories I as hearing in this time that I was dealing close up with so many of the sorts of people that family I came from dismissed as not-our-kind-of-people, people such as in past years I had sought out but not known what to do with when I found them. I was rising to their stories, these not-our-kind-of-people people who were in these meeting with me. A girl talked of how in her very correct Upper West Side secular Jewish family of academics you were tested at the dinner table to make sure you had been reading the proper books reviewers, and there was nothing there that was a clear-cut straight line to my life and yet it was clear cut enough for it to put me at an early age at the long shiny table for those formal dinners, back years ago at White Pines, and I was seeing things, back there and back in that same age again, that I could not, or dared not see the first time around.
It was like I was Scrooge and a ghost of the past had taken me into that past.
I listened to scarred man with AIDs talk about living very close to death, and I was close to death again, but not in those wars I had sought out in Central America and Africa and Southeast Asia but in the bosom of this family that I liked to think was something I had left behind and had nothing now to do with me. As dead as Cousin Margaret, the second cousin down.
And my twin brother came into it, in the CIA with people who were out to kill me, and I was in a scene I had thought of every day of my life but somehow did not realize I was thinking of it – two years old in a Pullman drawing room on an old steam train following a single track line that since the 19th century had led right up into the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and I was in a top bunk, and knew that if I pressed a button up there it might bring help but I could not press it, though there was non-verbal moaning and screeching in that train compartment with my mother and material grandmother and twin brother, and there was, it soon came back to me, the smell of fresh blood.
A woman talked of how her father always had a special meal for himself that no one in the family could touch, filet mignon, for instance, when the rest were getting leathery liver – and this shot me back not to the exact same thing happening but to the recent time in dreary Florida when my father lay dying in a third rate hospital, his chest an open red and green blood and pus cancer wound, and no one in the family except my then wife and me would go the hospital for they said he would not know if they came or not.
They ignored what my wife and I said, which was that we had seen him respond to names and kindness. We has heard him ask for them.
And in all the stories I heard of posturing members of family, military people, academic people, rich people, poor people I kept landing on what was sacrosanct in the family – one of many things which I had convinced myself could not have any effect on me in any present time. And I was back there at seven not quilte knowing what was happening when my grandfather made up the crucial family story that his son-in-law had gone down in flames in the Battle of Briton when, as I knew now, and they must have known back then, the son-in-law and another RAF guy had climbed a fence onto an airfield and tried to take a fighter plane up while drunk, and both were dead in moments.
And why long before my grandfather’s stroke it was so clear at White Pines that fatal things had happened and were still happening.
Death. Death. Death.
Death kept coming into these reborn memories.