SQUIRE: Hey Mom.
S: What are you doing?
ME: I'm talking to you.
S: You sound sad. Are you sad?
ME: No, I'm okay. A little tired.
S: Well you can be honest with me if you are sad like you sound sad,
and I think you do really sound sad for real. I trust this phone's
transmitting capabilities to the full extent of... to the hilt.
ME: I... I'm fine, sweet. I'll see you soon.
S: Your laugh sounds good, now.
This one sits in the living room and coughs politely to get my
attention. Five a.m. and the polite cough is quite Jeeves so I decide
he's probably wearing a bowler hat or something. "You've been
cleaning," he observes. My people call this understatement. Fall
cleaning is thorough and involves windows. I tell him that I've got a
whole system now: start at the lamps. I wrote it out. The enthusiasm is
leaking out of my balloon already and it's not even daybreak. "You
didn't rearrange the furniture, though," and this tone is gentle
reprimand. I want it to be gentle humor but I'm not there yet. Listen:
I moved through three countries, more apartments. If I can't get away
from you then what's moving the couch going to do really. I moved the
dust because that's what bothers me, and in return I get a butler in
the finest rebuttal style. Yay. I want to go back to bed and get a
little sleep before the day really starts and that's so not going to
happen now. I bet he has a cane somewhere. Gloves. "It's no good," he
says, "No matter how much you move. No matter how much you clean.
Getting away from me is not the same as making what I observe go away."
Like I don't know, like I don't hear the echoes all the time of every
outwit I've pulled, like it's not louder in my head than anywhere in
the first place, and I was never in first place. I do wish he would go
but I feel like mainly what I have to work on is acknowledging and even
accepting that he's going to stay, that this is of more value than
spending the rest of my days putting chairs in the middle of the room
for him to trip over. Hoping he's as annoyed by me as I am by him;
until the next one. "I'm going back to bed now. The bed is a nest of clean blankets and that's where I want to be." He nods in the darkness.
"You won't sleep any more tonight, though. And you were never any
good," raising his voice so that it carries through the door I'm
closing on him.
Squire and I are being more than a little in love with the Englishman in New York these days. For lots of reasons: Squire
mostly admires his unapologetic style; I'm mostly intrigued by his
clarity about adherence to manners being separate from adherence to
convention, because I find that an interesting place to put my brain.
"The essence of happiness is
its absoluteness. It is automatically the state of being of those who
live in the continuous present all over their bodies. No effort is
required to define or even attain happiness, but enormous concentration
is needed to abandon everything else."
I don't know if happiness is the most important goal; I used to think it was because I believed it was impossible to be perfectly happy when another person suffered. I now think it is possible for many people to be happy while smack in the face of extraordinary
suffering and I've since modified my "most important goal" to "being
good" which is simultaneously very sticky and difficult to grasp, but
it keeps me busy doing and thinking and we like that much better than
brooding, not that I manage to entirely avoid that. In any case, I think Crisp was interested in being good more than in being happy, because I find
it too hard to believe that a self-aware human who wants to be happy
voluntarily picks up the phone whenever it rings. I think a person who
is AWESOME might do that, but I'm at babysteps right now: I'm working on not wanting to punch people. Abandoning the fear that people will be stupid or mean or whatever, and the resultant anger from that, is more concentration than I have; wanting to talk to them will clearly take a little more time.
It reminds me of the story about the man who falls into a hole and his friend jumps in after him and the fallen man berates the jumper and the jumper says no it's okay I've been here I know the way out. It reminds me also of an awkward conversation I had more than once in which somebody tried to spare me and I put my hands in the fire anyway, thinking the only way to overcome pain was to feel it.
The conflict creates a war in my head where both sides suffer including the victors; ABBA does a bouncy dance soundtrack for Napoleon but nobody sings about Rouen which anyway the lack of an adequate soundtrack is the least of my worries.
I know what has to happen and so we march off, my troops of moderately convinced selves and the fanatical devotion that comes with not knowing the whole story. We are determined and proud and along the way we compliment ourselves on our armor and we say my don't we look strong and determined. That shaved head is as free of nonsense as they come and we shush the voice at the back that mutters that people who need to look free of nonsense are full of it. We are warriors. We lay out the story with facts and supporting players and nothing to lose, then later we have insights and the fact that we won some battles before and aren't we ever victorious modestly advancing only where wanted to win and conceding the battles we couldn't win see how we are practical we say.
And so we won the hardest battles and emerged victorious with not so much lost really except a review of the troops has some of them longing for the home they never had and there were some hot tears in among the celebratory libations but I'm sure that's from the fire, from the smoke of what had to be burned. There were bridges. And a week after the campaign the allies say that in fact you did what you promised, the vision that only you saw, what your voices promised you, that in fact you have given back what was stolen, the missing piece restored where nobody saw what was missing but you, the righteous king returned to his throne.
The counterattact surprisingly comes not in the heat of battle but later. The current challengers, who are not what we are not ready to call the enemy though we admit a certain fathoming in that depth, would like to mention that defeat makes you stronger that iron is tempered with fire that after all you were not so happy at twelve, were you. I don't mean midnight or noon. Yes that's all very interesting but I am right and you must concede that it is the king alone for whom I have battled and battle still. I am not fighting to control this territory I am in fact no conqueror. Truly I am fighting for another's righteous place I swear it.
Then why are you telling the story again, clapping your hands for another retelling. Why do you point to the voices when you are unsure, and then point at yourself when it's time to be blamed. Not every story has to have you at the center. Let's tell it again from the dauphin's point of view. Or shall we stick with you as if we were in battle still, when you know perfectly well that when you say you are willing to die for a cause that is exactly what you will have to do. Well which story do you want to tell now.