I can't sleep. Well, clearly I can
sleep since I conked out at 11pm or so, but I've been up since 2ish, and now I really
It's dark. I don't think I've been up this late/early since I moved downtown. There are no lamps lit in our little corner of the world. There is only one dim incandescent bulb on in the upper reaches of the building across the street. It's still. I bet it would be hard to find someone walking around out there at this hour.
When I lived on Riverside Drive and was up late, I would stand out on the balcony and look out at the water. It was never dark, never still. Roads always had cars, street lights always shining, always a dog walker or two... I wonder when I'll stop thinking of that as my home. It's attachment, of course. I'm rather accomplished at attachment after all, virtuosic even--although in unpredictable ways.
Last night I took J to a panel that was really a bit of marketing for the newly published version of Martin Moran's The Tricky Part
, which I saw in theatrical form last year. It was one of the more moving pieces I've seen. Simple, honest storytelling. He talked to the audience with the house lights at half for a while, and then they almost imperceptibly dimmed as we were drawn into the life of his tale. It was almost like being around a campfire and getting sucked into the ghost story. What an appropriate comparison. Sheesh. Marty and I have emailed each other a handful of times over the years--mostly about the couple of pieces for me he's written for me. He's such a gracious soul. So open.
Anyway, the panel was just a panel. All the magic that occurred was unplanned. Besides Moran, it featured Doug Wright, Eve Ensler and Michael Cunningham. Anita Gates, the NYT critic/culture reporter, moderated. Obviously, I'm well acquainted with all of their work. I mean, who else in the room saw Necessary Targets
? Even Gates looked blank on that one. The themes were family and religion. Rather broad, no? They seemed to use the topics as more of an outline to talk about themselves in an intimate way. I was moved by virtually every word. It was like being at a delightful party of smart people.
Afterward, I took J to dinner. (It was obviously my turn for "date night.") We discussed the event in personal terms. Moran writes and believes that the tricky part is that "what harms us may come to restore us." So much of what Cunningham and Ensler had been revealing was that their work was the way in which they restored themselves. It's sometimes hard for me to face J about these sort of deeper subjects because he truly doesn't believe he's ever been "harmed." I'm not talking about physical abuse here. I'm in the perhaps more common realm of--as Philip Larkin wrote: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad/they may not mean to, but they do." J claims he is unscathed. He behaves as if he had a perfect childhood. Is there such a thing? It serves him well, he says, to behave this way. He finds no logic in carrying on about ancient history. I find this very hard to swallow. I was not a starving, frightened child slapped into a corner somewhere, but I am aware and awake to what has shaped me. And if there's anything I've learned from all that, it's that I am drawn to other aware and awake individuals. Except J. I'm drawn to him, of course. But I wonder if he's "asleep" or hiding or really had a perfect life. At any rate, his shrugging lack of interest in wounded souls escapes me. As L used to say to me, examining this part (the tricky part?) is the "meat of life."
Here's the full Larkin poem. My college advisor, Venable Herndon, gave it to me my first year of school. What a character that man was.
* * * *
They fuck you up, your mum and dad,
they may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had,
and add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn,
by fools, in old style hats and coats,
who half the time were sorry stern,
and half at one anothers' throats.
Man hands on misery to man,
it broadens like a coastal shelf.
So get out as quickly as you can,
and don't have any kids yourself.