My Once and Future Life

The trip to the house on the coast, to rebuild it into something glorious? Well, it was a bit depressing to me.  Not only the rockers and the happy face meth sign at the pulp mill hotel/bar/liquor store down the way, and the somewhat gloomy May weather, but also because of this: This is the wall of books that was left behind. The old woman who lived alone in this house until she died a few years ago was an avid reader.  When her family cleared out her belongings, for some reason, they chose to leave her library behind.  The problem is that I am also an avid reader.  The other problem is that since we are/were both avid readers it becomes fairly easy for my brain to fold my life into the remains of her life and quickly imagine that I too will die alone, surrounded by books.  Likewise, I hasten to imagine some future woman will one day come to pack up my mouldy offerings and herself create some cockamamie narrative about my vulnerability and loneliness.  My books would be on a nicer shelf, and would not tend towards epic love sagas from the early 1980s, but as evidence of a life lived, those things are of almost no consequence. The old lady was showing me that things outlast their persons, that life passes and if you leave behind a passel of books, some romantically inclined person is going to go all sad, imagining you sitting there with your dusty candies, throwing your beleaguered mind into bawdy literature whose purpose is either to keep company with your fading memories or enable you to ignore the day’s passing .


Imagining someone else’s sad life is not for the weak.


12 thoughts on “My Once and Future Life

  1. As is Where is: In short, my favorite quicky read these days. It is is perfect blend of Virgo-nian (I share this fortune with the author) neurosis and a fetish for creating orderliness and beauty out of muck. It also makes me ponder that perhaps everybody needs “a Man”. Consider this an opportune want ad.

    1. Dear Michael,
      Virgo neurosis is no gift (as you know). However, if you are offering to come here and be a man in the new hovel, you would be welcomed with open arms. I know what you are capable of and I give two thumbs up. If, however, you yourself are advertising for a handy man, you’d best go elsewhere. Only about four people read this blog, one of which might be my Mom.

    1. Yes, it could easily be the opposite. But in my fetid imagination (remember the pulp mill aesthetic, remember the rockers) she was alone and sad. However, since the posting of my story of her sadness, news has come to me that the old lady was actually kind of crotchety. So she was either sad and displayed it as crotchetiness (is that even a word?) or she was crotchety because, all in all, she read some quite bad books. Although to do her justice, I did notice some contemporary Booker Prize nominees amidst the 80s trash. Maybe she, like almost all of us, is just more complicated than a single swipe of blue.

      1. All old ladies are crotchey 🙂 They deserve to be! Maybe she wasn’t a reader at all, maybe they were gifts, and she displayed them for her family to see. You should do an installation with them…
        But true, we are all more complicated.

      2. Watch out Miss D – you miss a T and look what happens – Crotchey (here defined by something called the Urban Dictionary) is “a term of endearment used by sexy hunnies to describe their beautiful manfriends.” In which case I would agree, because when we become old ladies there’s a good chance that we will start to look like manfriends. At least, I most certainly will. On another note, I can’t possibly keep these books around. They remind me of her passing AND they are mould-littered. They make me sneeze and sneeze and sneeze… you get the picture.

  2. Here’s Cavafy on the topic:

    Once here, by the door, stood a sofa,
    And before it a little Turkish carpet,
    Exactly here. Then the shelf with the two
    Yellow vases, and on the right of them:
    No. Wait. Opposite them (how time passes)
    The shabby wardrobe and the little mirror.
    And here in the middle the table
    Where he always used to sit and write,
    And round it the three cane chairs.
    How many years…and by the window over there
    The bed we made love on so very often.

    Somewhere all these old sticks of furniture
    Must still be knocking about…

    And beside the window, yes, that bed.
    The afternoon sun climbed half way up it.
    We parted at four o’clock one afternoon,
    Just for a week, on just such an afternoon.
    I would have never
    Believed those seven days could last forever.

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