February 22, 2010

Long Face

Lately I have found it difficult to say anything about myself. I have been trying to write things down, but I have been deleting more than survives. I have no idea what it means. I have been busy in life, meeting people and pursuing new things. Some kind of six month crisis, maybe. I miss my little sister. That usually seems too obvious to say. I have not been successful in capturing this loneliness that I feel in her absence in words. Joanna Newsom is better at that:

I wanted to say: why the long face?
Sparrow, perch, and play songs of long face
burro, buck, and bray songs of long face.
Sing: I will swallow your sadness and eat your cold clay
just to lift you long face.

And though it may be madness, I will take to the grave
your precious long face
and though our bones they make break and our souls separate,
- why the long face?
and though our bodies recoil from the grip of the soil
- why the long face?

I do better with lists. I try sometimes, to cumulate. Things that Have Happened Since You Died. Or, Things You Would Have Liked. Or, Things that You Took With You. But I never get past the list titles. The hardest thing is that I can't actually make a list about her that includes anything new. I will never, for the rest of my life, say a new thing about Laura. That breaks my heart. I can say everything about what she was like, but nothing about what she is like. Today I was driving home from the grocery store and I remembered that her hair was that pale red color, and I spent a good five minutes thinking, Why? Why did she have red hair? The nonsensical nature of her hair color just gripped me. But I did not have any kind of answer. I then found myself eyeing my hair in the rear view mirror, thinking, Is my hair red? No, no, your hair isn't red. There are so few pictures of us together, really. Some, but they're usually pretty bad for one of us, if not both. We were never particularly photogenic. It's only since she died that I have really noticed how alike we looked, but it horrifies me, because I realize that I am noticing now because her appearance is static. We had long gotten to the point where we couldn't tell what each other looked like, we'd spent so much of our lives staring at each other. And now that she is dead, I can suddenly tell what she looks like again, and it's me. I hate that. She will look that way for the rest of my life.

I don't write like this in this arena because it always seems so self indulgent, or just needlessly sad. But I suppose I feel some obligation to be honest here, just because I have tried so hard to do just that ever since I started this thing. I hate that I don't have anything funny to say, so I'll finish with a weird observation from Gwynn's Island. There is a little house on the main road where an old man, it appears, lives alone. Sometime in December I noticed that on his front steps, these narrow concrete stairs to a door I don't think gets any use, there stood a gnome collection. Gnomes of all sizes, but all wearing green with red hats. I had never noticed them before, a pretty unlikely thing as at that point I'd already been on the island for months and habitually ride my bicycle right past this particular house. I took great joy, from there on, in slowing down to stare the man's gnome collection. A month ago, I finally decided to take a picture and drove out, camera in hand. I found that the collection had disappeared, leaving me baffled and disappointed. I wondered if I had imagined them. And then, this week, they have reappeared in the same gnome-y formation, all jauntily perched on the steps to his front door. Will they disappear again? There's no telling.

1 comment:

  1. So two things. First, I want to read some "fiction" from you. Write a story. I'd like to think the gnomes are a metaphor or a simile or a semaphore or something, but I suspect they are actually gnomes. Or cigars.

    Now, here's a little autobiography back at you.

    You'd never expect it, but I was a pretty good athlete. You'd never suspect it because I am the slowest human ever to tread the earth, and speed is of the essence when it comes to sports. Even golf, at which I now attempt to compete (competing mostly with myself) requires you to move your arms fast if you expect the ball to travel any useful distance.

    The fact that I have always carried too much weight doesn't make me any faster. It also did not help my social situation, nor my social confidence, when we moved to Marietta when I was 11.

    One of the activities into which my mother threw me was to join a swimming team. We grew up in public swimming pools, so I was at least as comfortable in water as on land. You know that part about being slow? It still held in the water. Slowest swimmer on the team.

    One of the members on the team was Lawrence Shaw, two years my junior (at 11, two years is a huge age difference). Whereas I was at least tolerated by most of the others on the team, Lawrence became a friend. He called me "Thumper" (from Bambi).

    I did not continue with the swim team more than two summers, and I did not see Lawrence again until high school, when he showed up in the marching band. We never became close friends, but I always recalled his kindness. I'll always remember him as one of the, if not the, nicest people I ever met.

    You are right about having to remember people at a point in time and not getting to know how they might change. That was really well-expressed.

    One day Lawrence and Clifford Hilton's little brother (well, I think Clifford was the older brother; I can't pick the other name out of my memory, just their nicknames, which I won't repeat here out of respect to the memory of my mother, who was taken aback when she heard me say it) ... anyway, they were walking down Wynn Street not far from West Side School, and for some reason Mike Mauldin was drag racing somebody. Apparently they came over a hill. I think the two boys were on the sidewalk.

    Lawrence was struck by the other racer and killed. His body was thrown into Jeff Matthews yard. Jeff came out to see what had happened and found him.

    I can't imagine how Jeff and Clifford Hilton's little brother have dealt with that over the years. Even to this day, I have warm memories of Lawrence Shaw, but thinking of him makes me sad.