My day was spent reading A Home at the End of the World cover to cover, again. I am now emotionally wrecked, drained, revived, reborn, more settled and more anxious.
I don’t know exactly why this books speaks so deeply to me. Perhaps because everyone in it seems to be a perfect amalgam of the people I’ve been surrounded by for most of my life. My parents are in there, in spread about pieces, crossed over different characters, my friends, my exes are there too and certainly myself. In weird way that I’m not entirely comfortable with, I am Clare. At least half of Clare. Book Clare only though, not movie Clare. And only before Rebecca.
When I was younger all my lovers had been clenched, possessive people. My husband Denny had danced six hours a day and still despised himself for dilettantism. My lover Helene had had screaming opinions on every subject from women’s rights to washing spinach. I myself had trouble deciding whether or not to wear a hat. In my twenties I’d suspected that if you peeled away my looks and habits and half-dozen strong ideas you’d have found an empty spot where the self ought to be. It had seemed like my worst secret. I’d offered lovers my willingness and susceptibility–it seemed to be all I had. I’d worked out a general policy of pliable sweetness toward people who eventually changed the locks over some unguessable offense of mine. Who claimed they’d die if I left them, but slapped me in a rage when I brought home the wrong brand of beer. After the divorce I’d gone from one lover straight to the next, thinking every time that I’d learned a lesson that I wouldn’t repeat. This new lover would have a sense of humour or wouldn’t take drugs. This new one would be a woman, or a black man, or a computer magnate whose heart belonged to data.
Since my early thirties I’d been retired from love. I’d been living like a child. Just hour to hour, while other women my age went to their own children’s recitals and school plays. Drifting wasn’t hard. I had a silly little job, and a big lump of inheritance money waiting for me when I turned forty. There were people to meet for coffee, and movies and clubs to go to. Time had passed pleasantly. And now–it seemed so sudden–salesgirls called me “ma’am.” Young men didn’t glance up automatically when I passed them on the street. I no longer showed on their radar screens.
In a sense I liked the way I was aging. I’d invested in a life of my own. I wasn’t a prim careerist living with two cats in a town house full of ancient maps. I wasn’t a drunk drifting from binges to purges and back again. I was proud of that. But still, I’d expected by this time of life to have developed a more general sense of pride in my larger self. I’d thought I’d be able to say, if somebody asked me, just exactly what I was doing in the world.
The first time I read this words read almost as if they are mine (well, except the money part-–and where is my huge lump of unearned money?) and yet now I feel somehow removed from them but still linked as if I am made up of small pieces of them. Sometimes I’m not sure where I am right now. Or rather I don’t know where I am supposed to be and thus can’t pinpoint myself on some mysterious, possibly non-existent, map of adult life. I think as a teenager I imagined what kind of person I wanted to grow up into and I’m sure I have become that person and yet it feels as if I’ve literally become that person. As if my teenage imaginings were not fully formed, were too vague on the details and thus the person I’ve become is a sketchy version of an adult at best. All lines and angles and not quite colored in. But I’m not unhappy. And really I rarely give it a passing thought. Just sometimes I wonder where I am supposed to be. Am I doing the thing I was intended to do? Was there ever any intent really at all? Or should I actually be the one to determine fate and live it out as I see fit?
Yes, I do know the answers to these questions. Sometimes I ask them anyway.
In the book I lose Clare later when she says: “I’m not this unusual, it’s just my hair.” Partly because of the horror she commits later based on this sentiment and partly because maybe I am that unusual and I don’t even really need my hair or skin to demonstrate it to the outside world. It’s just sort of there, shimmering around the surface of me. Though I suppose I’ve tried to color that in so it’s obvious to everyone.
And Clare, after Rebecca, offends me so deeply in her choices, I can’t do anything but hate her, even though I think I’m supposed to be somewhat sympathetic.
I want to be Bobby, placidly content where ever he is, even when he’s aware that that he’s cut off from other people, even when he hurts. I want to be Jonathan, completely exposed, no matter how he tries to cover it up. I want to be Alice, so tightly reserved and controlled that she can barely laugh and yet she still finds joy somehow.
And a last bit from the book, mostly for bassgrrl: Jonathan and I are members of a team so old nobody else could join even if we wanted them too. ♥ to you, Riri.
Now I’m exhausted, though I’ve done nothing but read and eat today.