Blogo Ergo Sum
I’m writing from the one truly comfortable chair in the bright, mustard-yellow living room of our small but comfy apartment. I fell in love with this room immediately, on the first day we saw the place. Throughout the endless gray of this soul-killing winter, there’s always been something hopeful about this room and its collection of vegetable survivors: the relics of the despised and desiccated houseplants abandoned by the previous tenant; the Cyclamen that Dolce Metà gave me for my birthday (by early November I was already desperate for color); a smaller specimen of the same that sports just two optimistic and indefatigable leaves (we uprooted it during our nature walk in Porretta during the last week of Fall: I had the idea of starting a terrarium, to replace the semi-successful aquarium I had in Livorno, but this wild Cyclamen is the only thing that survived the attack of mold that covered the terrarium with what looked like wet cotton); two spider plants that remain upbeat despite the fact that I remember to water them only sporadically; a pair of Dracaena, both of them spindly and woeful; and something I believe is a Begonia.
All my life I’ve wanted to be able remember the names of plants, but the information will not stick. Now that there are Italian names to cope with as well, I’ve essentially given up. I can remember the scientific names of hundreds of fossils and marine animals, but I couldn’t pick a Stephanotis out of a lineup if my life depended on it.
Talking of the apartment still: I like the kitchen, too, though I feel as though I spend half my life there: between cooking supper every night and working all day. (Now that we finally have Wi-Fi, I can use my laptop anywhere in the house, and the kitchen is the best place to work.)
The bedroom, frankly, is a disaster, and I’ve never liked it. It’s painted ice blue and, when I walk toward it down the long hall, the pale and benthic light that comes through the one, tiny window (why does the largest room in the house have the smallest window, you might ask yourself) always makes me imagine one of those Antarctic documentaries shot from the interior of a glacier. Behind the enormous wardrobe (hardly ever are there closets in Italian houses, only armoires, which range from the hideous to the hideously antique; this one is feckless and royal blue), there’s a bumper crop of mold. One of these days, we’ll have to get back there and clean it, but that can wait until it’s warm again. A great many things are waiting until it’s warm again….
M is off visiting his parents this weekend, which he does about once a month, in part out of familial obligation but in part because his mother loads up his car with groceries when he heads back to Bologna and, frankly, we’d be hard-pressed to make it without them. She can’t bear to hear my name mentioned, but she’s helping to keep us in spaghetti and sausage, and I can only be grateful. I’m feeling that (by now) familiar mixture of freedom and anxiety that comes upon me whenever he’s away: I love being alone, but the abrupt shift from the routines we’ve established is disorienting.
This morning I received an email from Jack B., one of my best friends when I was a student at Washington Intermediate School (now called Washington Middle School) in Honolulu. His name and those memories across thirty-five years were like a psychic slap … talk about a fold in time.
Washington Intermediate was (is) located on South King Street, near the T-intersection of King Street with Kalakaua Avenue, which goes all the way into Waikiki and finishes beyond the band shell and across the street from the Cinerama Theatre. This is the part that “was”: The Cinerama closed in 1999 (reportedly there’s an auto parts store on the site now).
I remember being on the PE field at Washington the day they put up the sign for the opening of Cabaret. “Life Is A Cabaret,” it said, but I was inexplicably convinced that a cabaret was a knight and, as a consequence, I misread “Life Of A Cabaret” … perhaps it was because I’d just seen Man of La Mancha for the first time at the community theatre down the street and was certain no one had every written anything more exciting…. I know I was crazy about those masks on the front of the Cinerama building, which seemed richly symbolic and arcane and even beautiful….
He had dreamed about me, he said, and so he “googled” me so he could tell me so.
I wonder: Is it the specific memory that brings so much sadness with it, or is it the act of remembering that agitates the waters, stirring up the silt and cinder? The late poet, Howard Moss, once wrote, “Memory is the key to everything, but it brings with it nostalgia, which must be outgrown.”
In the meantime, the chicken soup I’m making is bubbling gently on the stove, and the multicolored pinwheel on our little wedge of balcony is spinning in the wind. There’s a suspicion of spring in its mad turning. When I began writing this afternoon, I could see a weak sun and a gauzy rag of sky through the living-room window, but the day has eased away, and in the failing light the yellow walls are colorless and turbid again, and I am all at sea.