Friday, October 12, 2012

waking over and over

we've seen a late, dry summer here in portland.  i think i heard it reported that last month had been the driest september in oregon in sixty years.  two weekends ago, i biked to a cafe in northwest portland to meet an old friend who had just moved from birmingham to portland, almost exactly four years after i made the same transition.  the bike ride had been pleasant, the weather temperate, but as we sat on the sidewalk by the cafe, the sun blinded me, seemingly unseasonably hot as perspired and drank iced coffee.

lee is great to have around, great to spend hours with talking about everything.  she's literary-minded, extremely intelligent, can joke and keep up, and always teaches me something new.  lee is also one of the few people i know, maybe the only person i know, who has also read all six volume of marcel's proust's in search of lost time.  lee and i briefly made some jokes about the book that afternoon, talked about it a little, and though i found myself sweating that afternoon, i always associate proust's very, very, very long novel with the fall.  when the nights grow chilly and apples can be found everything and pumpkins and gourds sit out i find myself lost in thought, reminscing, remembering.  memories conjures themselves from the basement of my memory.  i do not know what it is about the season: the cold, the smoke from chimneys, the rain.  i always find myself nostalgic, remembering, and thinking about memory.

proust pursues the power of rememberance in his long novel.  his narrator is haunted by memory, constantly reflecting upon how some tea or a cookie, a dinner party, or a lover remembered shapes, influences, and distorts one's experience of any other dinner party or woman, sometimes to one's detriment.  the narrator's experiences in youth with gilberte and the beginning of his romance with albertine determine the rest of his relationship and obsession with albertine to the point at which the narrator looses love for her, tortures her, and cannot let her leave.

at the very beginning of swan's way, proust's narrator finds himself drowsing and waking over and over, each time waking in a different bed, a different time, living a different memory.  and i, too, am haunted by the spectre of the bed.  a bed, two pillows, a nightstand to either side with lamps and reading materials: this came to represent for me as a young adult the promise and comfort of companionship, of a boyfriend, a lasting relationship.  i would say i've grown up, my thoughts relationships and marriage and sex have changed, but that image of the bed and the associations with love and companionship i've made continue to affect me.

some of happiest, most affecting memories were formed in bed.  as proust's narrator measures his relationship by the memory of gilberte and albertine, i measure my happiness with other men through the prism of the past.

over a decade ago, i woke one morning crammed in my bed with three friends from school.  to either side were liz and ali; my boyfriend jeremy underneath me.  at some point in the night as we slept, jeremy had pulled me on top of him since there was hardly room for the four of us in my double bed.  i woke with hi literally holding me on top of him, our faces together, the morning light softly illuminating his limp, sleeping features.  and at sixteen i thought that this what happiness and love was supposed to feel like.

some of the happiest days i've ever known were years ago, after college but before i had moved to portland.  that year i dated a man who also had a birthday in febrary so i hosted a party for us in our apartment.  in the morning, we woke to music coming in from the living room where friends of ours had crashed after the party.  st. vincent, her first album, new then, and it sounded beautiful and strange and perfect that morning.  drew woke up so many mornings with me in that apartment that spring.  one chilly morning, he woke me to tell me it was snowing, the light from the window dim, but the white of the soft snow bright as it slowly and silently drifted past our view.  mornings like this i would put my head on drew's chest where a strange anamoly in his bone structure causes the rib cage to grow out concavely.  i would feel his course chest hair under my ear and hear his heart gently marking off the seconds.

late one evening last week, engaged with a young man in my bed, i discovered by mistake on the man's body an unexpectedly ticklish area.  when we woke the next morning, i kissed this man on his lips, the side of his neck, a nipple, his navel, all the way down under his testicles, kissing him then rubbing my beard gently against the soft skin of his scrotum.  he shuddered, ticklish, smiled at me.  we spent the morning joking with each other; shared breakfast together.  a beautfiul morning, i could wonder if this moment with this man, this memory will reverberate through the years, shaping my perspective on happiness and sex and men and mornings and dating.  there's no way to tell, though; these things are unpredictable.  the webs of memory created in my brain are complex and beyond my conscious control, and this guy may just become a forgotten fling.

in the fall, the triggers for my nostalgia come unbidden and unexpectedly and all one can do is remember and relax.  this morning the rain started falling again in portland.  inevitable like my memories.  and i wonder how the constant percussion will not make me go crazy, the insistent sound and wet.  but it's fall and now and somehow we always make it through to spring.  but at least now there will be hours to spend with lee in cozy cafes talking of proust and the fall and our memories.

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