17 January 2010

The Terrible Truth

You know, I really don't like to write. Actually, I loathe it. The honesty it requires, the effort. It's not easy, not clean. It's mostly not happy work, and it's mostly alone.

Dear Reader,
I haven't shown you the rest of my trip to Edinburgh because I don't want you to see. Or rather, because I don't want to have to do all the work for you. Go do it yourself if it's that important to you.

I watched a movie tonight called "Paris, Je'taime". Filled with Hollywood celebrities, it's entirely in French. I love watching movies in foreign languages. I love their cadence, and the rhythm of speech which transcends language. It reminds me of why I like to travel; because it's nice not to understand sometimes.

I watched wrapped in a cashmere blanket, with all the windows open--cold night air pouring in, the smell of rain, and most of all the sound of water dripping outside, like a Paris fountain. It's how I'm writing now, to those of you who appreciate the visuals. The blanket is gray. I'm sitting on a hard leather chair, in a color described as "oyster" by the commonplace store that sells them. My feet are bare, and my toes are cold, so I have them folded into each other, like they are praying.

One of the short films was about a woman who goes to Paris alone. She narrates her sad story in godawful broken French like she's writing a book report, and looks for all the world like an American housewife--fanny pack, white tennis shoes. She eats terrible food, and misses her dogs. Then, in the final scene of the short, she sits on a park bench, and feels the dreadful combo of joy and sadness. In that moment, she falls in love with Paris, and Paris falls in love with her.

That, dear Reader, is what it means to me to travel alone. It's a little like falling in love. It's a little like getting to know yourself, and then realizing that you're really not so bad, and that you like what you're seeing, and that--hell--it doesn't matter if you're seeing yet another Eurpoean dream-spot alone. At least alone isn't so bad.

This week I counseled a friend--been doing a lot of that lately, which is ironic, really--that she should be kinder to herself. She was making dinner, alone, and saying that no one would be there to eat it, that this fabulous dinner would be wasted on herself. In as kind a tone as I could muster, I said: "We single people, we are not on an easy road. No, we're forced to learn to love ourselves. To make room for ourselves. We are dating ourselves; and that's not so bad. We have moods, like any lover, and sometimes they can't be soothed. That's okay. It'll be better in the morning. And the terrible truth of it, after so many years alone, is that the secret to the bad days is making it to morning, when we will forget how much the lonely night hurt."

A porous memory is the secret to happiness.

So now that this new year already doesn't feel so new, I sit here writing to you that I don't want to tell you about Edinburgh. It's mine. So is the castle, and all its secrets and joys.

Which makes me think that the terror of narrative is that we tell, we give away, only what we're willing to give away. The optimist gives away only the good parts, the pessimist only the bad; both are lying.

This movie made me miss Paris, and brought back memories of solitary travel. Pere lachaise, and the tomb of Oscar Wilde. I kissed that tomb, with Prada lip balm, and added the outline of my lips to the hundreds (thousands!?) of kisses before, like farewell kisses beyond the grave, waving at a great granite ship as it sets sail on those gray seas. And that made me think of Rome, and the Vatican, also seen alone. And the Parthenon and Coliseum, where a crow kept me company--in fact where a crow first made itself known to me, and where I began to watch them--and Florence, much of which was spent alone. And London, trying to lose myself in galleries (it's very hard to lose yourself in neoclassical architecture, by the way--it's all a grid), and Macchu Picchu at dawn, at the Temple of the Sun, in quiet solitary meditation.

I have kept myself good company, dear Reader, for much longer than I imagined.

So there are times--more and more frequent--when it is harder to open up. I forget what to say. Sometimes I want to disappear. I know that the world would go on just fine--none of us are irreplacible. The world marches on, and we are forgotten. In such a world, does it matter that I don't write? Does anyone really notice? Ignoring my blog then becomes a metaphor for death.

I'm no fool: my dear Readers' lives march on, and that wily crow is easily forgotten--the space he once inhabited taken up by Tivo, or The Onion, or NPR, or a longer chat with a friend, or an extra long bowel movement.

I said to one of my friends the other day that when I die, I should very much like not to be buried. I should very much like to be feasted on by crows, and carried in their little bellies far afield. I should like to fly, not moulder in the earth. I suppose the last laugh is that even in death its more about other people than it is about ourselves. I am unlikely to get my wish, and will probably end up in some detested box, forgotten in a long row of forgotten boxes. The living need a place to visit, or whatever.

In "The Fountain", Izzi describes a Mayan guide whose father dies. "No, no. Listen, listen," says Izzi. "He said that if they dug his father's body up, it would be gone. They planted a seed over his grave. The seed became a tree. Moses said his father became a part of that tree. He grew into the wood, into the bloom. And when a sparrow ate the tree's fruit, his father flew with the birds. He said... death was his father's road to awe. That's what he called it. The road to awe.:

Solitary travel is, like death, a road to awe. But I don't just mean solitary vacations. I mean the solitary journey through life is a road to awe.

Diabolina believes that we are all connected, that we are all one. Quantum physics, particularly string theory, might agree with her. But we are having solitary bodily experiences, and there must be some purpose to that.

I'm rambling tonight, and not even sure I'll post this blog. Most of my Dear Readers might wonder if I've gone mad, or if I'm suicidal. I assure you, I am not either. I intend to commit suicide by old age, and that takes time.

Until then, I'm on a journey, and the last few months--mind the gap!--have been a good part of that journey. I am glad to have the holidays done with. I am frustrated in the few goals I have for myself, so I am living in a kind of limbo. I get up, I do the same thing I did the day before, and I go to bed.

Well Reader, what started out as an intended inspirational musing on the nature of solitary travel--and by extension solitary evenings--has ended rather badly. Take solace however! Your part ends here, and perhaps after this you'll go to Amazon, or another blog, or off to work. I, however, am still trapped in my thoughts, wrapped in melancholy as surely as a cashmere blanket, and headed to bed.

But don't worry. I have a very porous memory.


weezermonkey said...

Well, you'll be glad (or astonished) to know that I made it all the way through! These days, my attention span is shorter than Snooki of Jersey Shore.

It is good to "hear" from you. I don't write anymore. I blog. But I don't write.

Pictures are so much easier for me now.

cyberob151 said...

You are a very good writer. I mean that with all sincerity and honesty.

The Dating Optimist said...

Wow, what a post. I stumbled across your blog and was driven to read the whole thing. You're a wonderful writer, and you've made me want to watch Paris, Je t'aime, like, right now. :) I also like what you told your friend about being single: that singles are dating themselves. It's so true, and all I can say for other singles, too, is that at some point, you won't be single anymore, and you'll want to look back on this relationship as one of the BEST you ever had. After many years of being single and over it and certain I was going to die alone, I started embracing it as a passing phase to cherish. Single is a time for learning about yourself, traveling, experimenting, searching, writing, making new friends, tasting new things and discovering exactly what authentically real, true and happy person you want to be when you meet the love of your life. Keep writing, keep traveling. :)