Thursday, March 29, 2012

À la recherche du temps perdu

Mother, still stubbornly acting as if nothing is new, insists I should get a job. "You can't live off my money forever" she says, but the way she says it (not really condescending but without any sense of self-awareness) makes me seriously consider just that as an alternative. When I'm spiteful I feel like telling her about all of you that have asked me to write a book, just to see her freeze at the thought of the scandals such a book could result in.

Not much else has happened. I went out to buy lilies yesterday and for the first time I felt lost amidst all this steel, stone and concrete. I love the sound of pavement under high heels and yellow cabs rushing past skyscrapers over streets and avenues, but sometimes in the gray those childhood memories come back to me, like a splinter in my mind: running barefoot in high sun-drenched grass, picking spring flowers and chasing butterflies over the fields around our summer house.

They were loving times, so heartbreakingly truthful and real, but like everything else they couldn't last forever. It has to be life's saddest and most definite tragedy, that nothing beautiful survives and that all that can be left of it in the end is the ashes, the smoldering charcoal and, for as long as we're alive, the haunting memories of times that have passed and will never come back.



Monday, March 26, 2012

Down the rabbit hole

Ever since Wednesday's eery snapshots of the past I've been living my life under multiple layers of mulberry silk. It works as armor when the skin becomes too fragile for whatever reason. I get into mother's bed when she's not at home, undress under the flowing sheets and read the opening lines from the books on her night stand:

Agnes Grey (All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut)

Alice in Wonderland (Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, `and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice `without pictures or conversation?')

Anna Karenina (Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way)

She pulled me away instantly the moment she saw me talking to the lady in black at the party. "I want to introduce you to some friends" she said frantically with her hand wrapped tight around my wrist, but the dark spots of wine spilled on the antique Persian carpet told another story; a bourbon-drinking ghost in the corner of my eye for the rest of the night, mother talking incoherently and high-pitched between breaths.

When we got back home she said "that one is a little bit crazy" and went straight to bed. I slept lightly next to an ivory white dress she used to wear during warm summer evenings in LA. When my father died she stopped using it, and last week I found it in the back of her closet here in New York. It still smells of daffodils and cigarette smoke, ten years later.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Flashes from the past

After a week of absence, mother calls me from JFK at 7 PM Wednesday. "Put on something Chanel" she says, "we're going out". I'm tired but my curiosity slowly gets the best of me, I start dressing up to go meet her outside a Starbucks on Park Avenue near Waldorf Astoria. She takes a quick and professional glance at my outfit, smiles approvingly and starts digging around in her (adorable) little Prada snakeskin purse. "Here, put on some lipstick".

We enter into the lobby of a tall brick building a few blocks up on Park, the doorman exchanges pleasantries with mother as if they've known each other for years.

The apartment is on the 24th floor and looks like it was taken from a movie scene with its carefully polished dark wooden floors, floral wall tapestry and colorful turn-of-the-century paintings. If I didn't know better I'd think we were in Paris. Mother dissolves into the collection of chic ladies in their early forties, most of them hanging on the arms of slightly older men wearing dark tailored suits and patent leather shoes, a glass of something old and expensive in every free hand.

I try to hide myself in a corner but soon notice a woman dressed from head to toe in black, one of the few sitting alone by the bar. She looks at me in a way that suggests more than a shallow interest, I'm unintentionally drawn to her like a moth to the light. "Do you know me?" I ask. "No" she says, "but I knew your father". She scans the room fleetingly, for a second I imagine detecting a little spark of contempt in her eyes. She comes back to me, tilts her head to the side and smiles crookedly. "We all did".



Monday, March 19, 2012

You and I

In the end it always becomes too much to handle, the childish hope that if you just keep ignoring something and pretend like it never happened, it will eventually go away. It doesn't.

I'm on the bed with all curtains closed and a letter in my hand, a sealed envelope with my name and address handwritten in black ink. It's from him, the boy I grew up with, the first love of my life, the one I did something terrible to and ended up not seeing for over five years.

When we finally met again in a Gauloise haze at a party somewhere he was so different and so very much the same, all at once. We never talked about it, I just started to call him by another name, one that was never his: Carl. He didn't ask me why, maybe he understood or maybe he just didn't care.

It was all about timing I guess. When I saw him in the right light after so many years it was already too late. He had found someone else, a dear friend of mine, someone I love equally much but in a very different way. I had to put a wasteland and three hours between us just to be able to breathe for a while, but it only works for as long as you let it.  

And now he's written to me. It took me two weeks to get here and it's too bright even in the darkness of mother's apartment but I have to open it and when I do all I find is a quote from a song and the words "I know what this means to you".

And it does, it so does. He understands it like no one else and that's why I love him.



Friday, March 16, 2012

There is no band

No word from S yet, I guess she's fine. The ones from Carl are still incarcerated in their envelope, a sort of quarantine for the unwanted I guess, a carefully suppressed memory when Chloe calls me from across the wasteland and breaks the spell. We're mostly quiet but knowing she's there is almost enough; her tiny heartbeats like butterfly wings echoing through the wires. I miss her more and more.

"He loves you" she whispers and it sounds like shattered illusions.  Il n'y a pas d'orchestre. I ask her about the letter, she says she doesn't know and I believe her. It's a night later and it sits right here in front of me, ready to be opened. I just had to write something first, and maybe I'll tell you about it later or tomorrow or some other day when I'm past the anguish.

Until then, know that I love all of you and that your reading, your commenting and following, your sending me sweet little e-mails and caring when I need it the most is the air I breathe when thunderstorms are outside my window. Thank you ♥


Monday, March 12, 2012

You say your life will be the death of you

New York woke me up to another Monday, one without S. I helped her pack before we left, she held my hand in the taxi and wrote our names in the transparent condensation from her breaths against the window. Tomorrow we're a day older and the traces will be lost.

She held my hand in the terminal building and drew a heart in the thin layer of dust on her little suitcase. "I love you" she said and nothing ever sounded more truthful.

We held hands and said our goodbyes as the sun began to set, Manhattan dressed in gold across the river. "Never let go" she said and I watched her disappear, like traces of names written on the inside of a taxi window.

When I got back it was dark, mother's apartment smelled of silence and solitude. I fell asleep early and dreamt about a merry-go-round on the edge of a pier somewhere. It was summer and the wind danced through my hair like fingers.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Ambitions

Three more days, the letter still lies unopened in its bright blue envelope on the kitchen counter. "If you don't open it I will", mother yells through a cloud of cigarette smoke. She has this way of disappearing and reappearing without giving anything away about where she's been or what she's been doing. Suddenly she's just there again, looking as graceful as ever in sharp designer suits and a glass of wine in her hand. You can tell by the fine lines in her face she's not young anymore, but she still knows how to make a stunning appearance wherever she goes.

When my father died she said he didn't leave a letter behind for us to read. I know she's lying but not why. In her diary - the one that starts with the trip to Russia - there are a few pages missing. On November 27th she writes that she knows what she has to do, this is the entry five days later, after the missing pages:

1978-12-02

A heavy snowfall halts the train, I know where we are for the first time in weeks. T hasn't said a word in days, he sleeps a lot and when he doesn't he stares out the window at the white wilderness flickering past us. I'm calm, maybe because I can't feel anything but I try not to think about it. It wouldn't help me, not now, not anymore. I can never go back again, and I guess that's a good thing after all. The only thing ahead of me now is the future, and those endless landscapes between us and the redemption that awaits somewhere.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Winds from the west

Madison Avenue in the sunshine, I'm walking alone in a Burberry trench and sunglasses, feeling like a fortune. Lunch in solitude at Bloomingdales after browsing through sheer spring dresses and purple leather gloves to the clicking sound of heels on marble. The skies aren't just clear, they're limitless, nothing like that airtight glass ceiling that kept pushing me to the ground in LA and everywhere else.

And then I get back home. S is out, mother too, all I hear is a deafening silence as the afternoon sunshine dances over dusty book shelves, velvet-clad armchairs and ivory statuettes. An opened wine bottle on the coffee table, the dry smell of worn vintage blouses hanging from the closet doors.

I kick off my shoes, slip into the kitchen barefoot and there it is, like a bleeding wound on the counter next to the fridge: a letter, an thin envelope with my name in blackest ink. Even with a return address missing I know it's from him, no one else writes a capital A like that. He takes me back to the cold in ten seconds and I can't even bring myself to open it. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A wasteland, Dolores

I had that dream again, the one with the smoldering charcoal and a sky full of ravens. I think it's about Carl. Standing there alone in the smoke feels exactly like imagining him and Chloe in bed together, but the air is different this time. It doesn't smell of gasoline but of rain, the kind that revives the earth in March after a cold winter.

And I guess it's true. We're a wasteland apart and I never burned the ground behind me as I left, so how could it smell of anything other than wet soil and newborn flowers? It's a treacherous smell that I've always loved, I remember it vividly from those early spring days in the country house. He was there of course, all through the summer until it was time to go back home.

His blank face on that last night scared me for so long, and I still sometimes wonder what hurt him the most. I asked Belle about it years later. "Being born is a death sentence", she said, "the rest is just silence". Every time I wake up from this dream I find myself just a little bit closer to understanding what she meant.

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