Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stolen Lines, Abandoned Selves

I dated this poet once that used to steal my lines. Can you imagine that? Sometimes I'd write them or text them or say them and then, suddenly, as if they were his own, they'd make a guest appearance in one of his poems. Not the Hilary Duff-like guest appearance on Gossip Girl, where she's scheduled for a handful of episodes in a season, but Blair's-employee-Dorota-guest appearance on the same show. The kind where she pops in for a minute and just as seamlessly pops back out and we don't see her again for the rest of the season. He inserted them in as if he had written or even just thought them up when he hadn't. Don't get me wrong, he had a masterful command of language, but it felt a little like creative theft to me. 

One time, during a reading he gave, someone seated a few feet away actually whispered to the person beside her, "I love that. Did you hear it? I love that." After said poet read: "I am on sabbatical from the world." 

Yup. That was mine.

At that moment, I wasn't upset, I was still rationalizing the emotional conflict I felt about being written and read aloud about. I was still hoping that my existence, if it had to be used in someone's poem, might have the ability to spark some sort of genius that I doubted my own life would be suspended long enough to create. On the first count, I'm fairly sure it didn't. On the second, I've now come to the realization I was wrong.

I have since decided I don't mind that I was written about and I've come to this conclusion because that person that was written about all those years ago is like the narrative self in creative nonfiction: chosen to serve a purpose, to tell a specific truth, not to make sense of or define a whole. That person, who was broken and depressed has remained just where he knew her and committed her: to the past.

Last semester, a student of mine from a class I taught his poetry to years ago emailed and asked me for a copy of his work saying, "I think my class would really enjoy it and I need to bring something in. Do you have it? Can you send it to me?" I didn't, but I directed her to the last email address I had for him, one I found in my old email account that serves as a receptacle for junk mail, forwards and the rare significant note from a long-lost friend, the one he used to write to when we still cared for one another in a way and with weight only letters could carry, around the time when he started to steal my lines and I started to fill my belly with bottles of rum and pills. When I found the address among the graveyard of my old life, those emails were there, too, shoved into a folder called "Ebay and Stuff" along with purchase confirmations and tracking numbers for vintage clothing from the 40's that I no longer wear. Those dresses of pink, black, white and plaid hang somewhere in the closet I share with my husband. I had forgotten I even had them.

When I navigate away from the email account, I leave the contents untouched, unopened, not willing to visit the girl that I was, afraid to hear what destruction she spoke, what lines he stole, how unknowing and desperate we were: he in his love, me in my despair. I think it's better, not feeling bad for what happened between us, not trying to make sense of that self I can't understand or excuse. I abandoned her there out of fear. How frightening it was to be left alone with her! Anywhere with her was like death! Even then, with so much time passed, I decide it's best to leave her there, amid the unwanted emails and unworn clothes, an age that defined an era, a movement of tragedy. Unopened, unread, unstirred. Sometimes its best not to linger on what scares us most. 

When I send my student the address, I wish her luck, apologize I can't do more and hope he understands that by sending her instead of me I'm letting him know that I'm sorry and that he can keep the lines.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two Years

Today is our two-year dating anniversary. In other words, two years ago today we decided we would stop dating other people and just date each other. Six months after this day two years ago, we were engaged. Now we're married...for exactly 151 days. In 31 more days, we will have been married for exactly six months. I could continue with these numbers, but to calculate them, I keep needing to pull up my desktop calculator and I'm losing track of what I'm calculating (that's what you get from a literary person).

For the last few months, I've been busy writing and revising answers for my comprehensive exam. This has rendered me useless to the rest of the world, for the most part. The oral is schedule for December 7th which is the last week of regular classes for the semester, 11 days before D's 32nd birthday, 20 days before my 30th (ouch) and, has a 50% possibility of being the last important day of my 25 years of education. (I know. I'm doing it again! The number thing!) WOW! 

For the last few months, D has been studying for his comps, teaching, and holding down the Michael fort (which is no easy task with a pair of humans, dogs and birds, plus visitors! and a wife that is not allowed to drive in the state of Missouri for another thirty days or more).

I'm not saying we're "back" yet, since catastrophe or tragedy could occur at any moment (keep in mind that orals day)...but we're, at least, thinking about it.

Mainly, I just wanted to let everyone know that two years ago today I began dating the man I would inevitably marry and couldn't let the day pass without mention.

I love you, D. Happy Two-Year-Dating Anniversary! Here's to many more!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Yes, Virginia...

I don't have much time for a real blog, but as I was perusing the news today, I noticed some info about this 1897 editorial, better known as "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." A movie is being made about this editorial in which an 8 year-old girl wrote to the New York Sun to inquire as to whether there was a Santa Claus or not, having been told by classmates that such a thing did not exist. The response has become one of the most reprinted pieces in new history. I felt ashamed that I'd heard this quote "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus..." before, but never knew where it came from or what the significance was. I suppose I thought maybe it was written in a tone where the rolling of eyes would be appropriate, but found myself in a mist of touched tears when I read it through, recognizing such beauty and care in the response the author wrote. So, with Christmas a little over a month away and Black Friday, the season kick-off and cue for sheer insanity and greedy chaos to ensue just around the corner, I thought I'd post this as a reminder of innocence and beauty and faith.

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. 
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. 
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.' 
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. 

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.