Thursday, 2 July 2015

A Story She Might Tell Herself; Je est un autre

The Fly Trap - Fredrik Sjöberg;

What an adventure! What stories I would tell! About freedom! But it didn't happen. So it goes when you travel for the sake of something to say. Your eyes go weak. 

The Isle of the blessed - August Strindberg;

But because the idle found it difficult to do nothing, they invented every sort of idiotic foolishness. One began to collect buttons; a second gathered spruce, pine and juniper cones: a third procured a grant for travelling the world.

The Man Who Loved Islands - D. H. Lawrence;

Only he still derived his single satisfaction from being alone, absolutely alone, with the space soaking in to him. The grey sea alone, and the footing of his sea-washed Island. No other contact. Nothing human to bring its horror into contact with him. Only space, damp, twilit, sea-washed space! This was the bread of his soul.

He was glad. He didn't want trees or bushes. They stood up like people, too assertive. His bare, low-pitched Island in the pale blue sea was all he wanted.

I got to the island armed with three books. 
A recently received and prematurely opened volume, "full of charm, a book about how to find meaning in life", named The Fly Trap. 
A book of one man's travels in Iran, titled Mirrors of the Unseen (started way back here), and a book of short stories titled Infidelities (purchased, with the first story ringing oh so many bells on this day).
The latter I thought I would have completed in a matter of hours by now, so voraciously did I devour the first few stories on that first full single day...

No, not for I said she.

These stories seem to hold so many little insights into my life at present - wonderful when they can do that... Pearls of wisdom gleaned from the trials and tribulations from the lives of others, experiences you're spared the effort of having to contextualise and philosophise, conveniently packaged life-lessons to lead you on your way...

It seemed my three weren't strong enough to see me through the first few island days. 
To accompany the heat and sweat and nocturnal outdoor reading, by the light of the street lamps, Pedro Juan Gutierrez gave me the Dirty Havana Trilogy, and all the hopes, sex and struggle therein.
I read the almost 400 pages in a couple of days.

Thank you for these Pedro Juan...

Now I was training myself to take nothing seriously. A man's allowed to make lots of small mistakes, and there's nothing wrong with that. But if the mistakes are big ones and they weigh him down, his only solution is to stop taking himself seriously. It's the only way to avoid suffering-suffering, prolonged, can be fatal.

In those days, I was pursued by nostalgia. I always had been, and I didn't know how to free myself so I could live in peace. I still haven't learned. And suspect I never will. But at least I do know something worthwhile now: it's impossible to free myself from nostalgia because it's impossible to be freed from memory. It's impossible to be freed from what you have loved.
All of that will always be a part of you. The yearning to relive the good will always be as strong as the yearning to forget and destroy memories of the bad, erase the evil you've done, obliterate the memory of people who've harmed you, eliminate your disappointments and your times of unhappiness.
It's entirely human, then, to be engulfed in nostalgia and the only solution is to learn to live with it.
Maybe, if we're lucky, nostalgia can be transformed from something sad and depressing into a little spark that sends us on to something new, into the arms of a new lover, a new city, a new era, which, no matter whether it's better or worse, will be different.
And that's all we ask each day: not to squander our lives in loneliness, to find someone, to lose ourselves a little, to escape routine, to enjoy our piece of the party.

That's where I was, still. Coming to all those conclusions. Madness lurked, and I eluded it's grasp. Too much has happened in too short a time for one person to handle...

Oh Pedro!

Helen had known then - she sees this clearly now - that she could show willing all she wanted but that didn't necessarily mean she could become one particular kind of person, the kind who didn't change, want other things.

How could Helen have ever felt she was fixed in that safe and secure way when all the time she had a kind of panic, that rose up gradually in the day, got better in the evening when she poured her first glass of wine, but then came back in the morning, dark and lusty, to claim her.

She sees now that she was nothing but change in those days.

No one would have ever known, would they, that beneath it all was this other life - rushing and uncertain and frightening, even - with a feeling in it that anything could happen, anything.

As though she might turn her life into a story told by someone else - like a story might calm a person and quieten them in the dark, fill the void with words and phrases and sentences that they might go to sleep.
Like that word: 'Dependable'. Back then, Helen thinks now, her mind was full up with those kinds of words and thoughts: That they might make her into somebody who would 'show willing' and do the right thing.

Like the characters in a short story though, you're only privy to bouts of enlightenment at any given time, life, even literary, invented life, has a way of getting in the way. 
As amazing as it is to find yourself in the pages, the words of another human, to see your portrait and marvel at how detailed it is in comparison to the reflection you daily see, the shock and thrill of having been 'seen' fully, appreciated and explained, elegantly at times, as amazing as those episodes are, episodes they are.

These little shafts of illumination and insight, the waves of understanding, have a habit of getting lost in the brighter, more jarring headlights of the everyday. 
The quotidian glare.

Yet even now when all that time has passed and Helen can think about these things, look back upon episodes in her life and reflect upon them - imagine her way into them, sometimes, is how it feels  - she considers how something did seem to begin for her then, that day, that night, in a way it continues to begin.