Whenever I partake in the pleasure of recalling
my most shameful moments, I remember the novels
about obsessive love my lover, still obsessively
in love with his former lover, would loan me,
and how the passages he’d marked as reflecting
his feelings for her also reflected mine for him.
A fat fly might as well have flown in my husband’s mouth
the other day when I mentioned one of these, so
disgusted was he by its first sixty pages. My husband
blames human systems not individual humans for
our miseries, and so, to him, a whole book about
the miserable march back from a jilting can’t be done
well or poorly—it’s simply an embarrassment. Various
childhood motifs have contributed to this opinion—
I’m fond of listing them, though he deems that activity
of interest “once for about seven minutes.” Hence, those
sparring partners housed in our respective nightstands:
his Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football vs.
my Psychoanalysis:The Impossible Profession; his unfinished
Mason & Dixon vs. my The Waves. There is, however,
some overlap. Richard Ford, for example, whom I recently
learned has returned to his character Frank Bascombe
and that Frank still has those moments Steinbeck’s narrator
called “glories,” and by whose quality and quantity
he guessed “a man’s importance” could be measured.
“It’s enough. It’s enough. It’s enough,” Frank breathed
by the November 2000 shore of New Jersey, maybe
or maybe not aware of Virginia Woolf ’s description of
one of her own glories (“It is that the thing is in itself enough”)
seventy-four and a half years earlier in Russell Square.
The absence of such momentary adequacy is what I’m
lamenting whenever I hear myself say,“When I was young,
I never really saw the trees.” What I mean is I looked at trees
for years without experiencing “a great and astonishing
sense of something there” (Woolf ), “permitted by a kind but
impersonal life force” (Ford), such that “a man pours outward,
a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished” (Steinbeck).
Currently I’m with Steinbeck in defining a worthwhile year
as one that includes some of this enoughness, though it’s
never kept me from taunting my husband or pouring outward
toward someone incapable of experiencing that torrent as sufficient.
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