Blogue Date: Sept. 22, 2012, 1:27 pm
Blogue Space: the kitchen table, 678 Sinclair Terrace, South Orange NJ 07079
Blogue Goal: Explanation and expiation
He takes a big gulp of air, and sighs it back out. He really wishes there were a distraction handy. The TV 'classical music' channel is playing Liszt's 'Totendanz' -- no disturbance from that department. Just 'Dies Irae' in various keys. Outside, it's one of those gorgeous early fall days everyone wants to store away for future use. But he's already bought makings for the evening's dinner, and he cleaned the driveway yesterday. The day's mail contains only unsolicited blandishments for life insurance, and coupons for bizarre items of questionable use. Instead of impediments, there's just the blank computer screen, waiting...
It's been weeks since he's written anything at all.
He's only trying to resurrect this because his doctor says it would be good for him. And as he is generally willing to be obedient to authority, as long as it requires no perceptible inconvenience on his own part, he thinks he's willing to try.
But it's surprisingly difficult, for one who feels himself so glib and verbally acrobatic. Obviously it's not a matter of not having the correct vocabulary to hand.
It's more the block of emotion that comes up, as he thinks about where his last entry left him off, and
how dreadful he's felt, since he managed, literarily speaking, to get his little autobiographical narrative that far. Now, he finds himself crying when he drives. Crying when he folds the warm laundry. Crying when he tries to complete a cross-word puzzle, or goes outside to pull the volunteer oaklings and maple saplings out of the rosebushes, to keep the front sidewalk from becoming a young deciduous forest. He can control this crying, generally, but it's always perilously close to the surface. He feels, most of the time, like a cheap plastic glass filled to the absolute brim with salty water. The merest hint of a jar will do the job.
And when he thinks about it, this seems a bit odd, if not downright darkly funny -- he only started that autobiographical reminiscence in order to illustrate how benign and uneventful his four years of military service -- in the US Air Force, from 1964-1968 -- were, especially compared with the battle experiences of his colleagues at the Combat Paper group, with whom he still works most Sundays. But instead of reeling off one instance of banality after another -- to the point of having to describe the upholstery on the Olmsted Air Base shuttle bus, just to have something to write about -- he has unearthed a malign treasure trove of his own making -- a heap of bad judgements, instances of stunning selfishness, heedlessness and lack of the simplest moral fiber. And, tangled in among this sticky mess, the recollection of one improbably clean thing -- one sliver of a friendship that, somehow, he didn't manage to dirty.
So he has now done a stupendously stupid and futile thing -- more than one thing, really. He has launched a search. He asked friends on a popular social network to spread his request. He has begun the process, with what aid the US Navy can provide, of relocating this friend from so far away. The belated news of the 1978 fire that destroyed warehouses full of military records in St. Louis should have blotted out hope, but it didn't. He wonders about contacting high schools, city halls, places where county records are kept. This is the age of Google, he scolds himself -- everything can be found.
'After all, they find golden rings inside of fish, don't they?' he has asked himself, in his semi-comic self-defense. All the while spinning out, on an almost unconscious level, mental mini-movies of where another man's life might have gone in almost fifty years. The possibilities are too numerous even to scoff at. Still, every day, he feels a tiny hopeful twinge, opening his email, or going into the front hall, where mixed with the ads for furnace cleaners and gutter repair, there might be a small hand-written envelope with a note inside.
And he's ashamed of this, of course. Shame seeming to be his principal attribute -- the one thing in life at which he's truly a world-class talent.
Well, and he's got some editing to do. Past chapters have been pointed out as being too explicit, too much of a possible problem for friends and family. He doubts changes one way or the other will make any difference, but this rewriting will give him something to do, until it's time to start the laundry again. Or try to get the pineapple mint out of the bed of low, blue-flowered, dark-leafed ground cover plant he can't remember the name of, so he must be drifting into Alzheimer's. That sort of thing.
So, this is the sort of thing he would write. Trying to apologize, perhaps, for the length of the silence -- not that this has been of especial inconvenience to anyone. Trying to explain, as seems unpleasantly usual, something he would rather not know about himself.
He wonders, parenthetically, how long emotional stages like this last, if this can be known. Even a general ball-park estimate would do, since he's got shopping to do this week, and he may as well really stock up on paper towels.