What is plain and open

July 27, 2009

At lunch, with T’s manuscript in one hand, and Friday’s leftovers, a stuffed squash made lovingly by L, in the other, I went to the park to read and eat. A few pages later I was distracted by the couple sitting across the communal table from me. The woman was large, her makeup garish, her hair dyed so blond the sun reflected off it like glass. I caught only a peripheral glance at the man: cargo shorts, thick calves, baseball cap, grunts. It was clear from their conversation—rather, the one-sided conversation, given the man’s diffidence—that both were married but not to each other, and that this lunchtime meeting was occurring during a comfortable lull in their relationship. I was witness to an average day in their affair.

“I only had three drinks from this,” she said, and handed him her bottle of water.

This distraction was, of course, merely a distraction. I could have moved away to the empty table behind me. If I’d brought my earphones with me, I would have used them. But the warm sun had made me lazy, and the woman’s voice was not unpleasant. And as happens when I read, becoming more aware of my surroundings rather than getting lost in them, I tend to listen and look out for the stories around me. I was interested, too, in her “three drinks” as opposed to “three sips,” and scribbled down a short passage in my notebook about my own laughable grasp of the English language. When I was done, the couple had gone.

During the act of reading, and reading well, there is also a compulsion to see whether the reality—rather, the fantasy—of what I am reading matches up with the reality of my environment. I fully expect to be jarred, surprised, every time I come up for air. With T’s book, the experience is slightly altered in two ways. The first involves a shift in the pace of the city, from guarded to open; a fellow observer, then, strolling through a parallel landscape. The second is that his narrator’s reality is matching up, just, with the reality of S, a narrator in a long project I’d all but abandoned some years ago. I am remembering her now. Her narrative is coming back to me. The reality in which I’d created S, during a time of willful depression, couldn’t be more different from the reality in which I’m now resurrecting her, one of remove, an emptiedness, a slight but effective peace. This is a surprise; this is jarring; this is plain, and this is open.


2 Responses to “What is plain and open”

  1. Parmanu Says:

    1. You have T’s manuscript. I envy you.

    2. “Willful depression” – delighted to see someone express this state of being.

    3. I hope we get to see S in these pages.

    • wmc Says:

      1. I begged so very shamelessly.
      2. Supremely delighted by your delight.
      3. This may just happen, starting in September. Thank you.

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