Tuesday, February 24, 2009

On Books

I have an unnaturally strong attachment to books.

To me, they are the things, aside from photographs, that if your house were burning, you might run back and try to save. There may be a million copies of 'Song of Solomon' but that is the one that made me shiver. That copy of 'Sula', with its "Circles and circles of sorrow" changed how I thought, how I feel, how I am. Who knew? Who knew there was a word for what I felt, and that someone else had taken those feelings, those exact same feelings, and put them more exquisitely than I could have fathomed... Until I read it.

And then I knew.

I knew those feelings. That sorrow. That spiral. That prayer/poem/hymn/cry.

They are things that can evoke in us spiritual responses. Feeling that touch us so deeply that we maybe sometimes make bad decisions.

To hold on to sentences. Phrases. Paragraphs. As objects on a page. As pages in a book. As a book that we have held. As a thing, we have touched, that has touched us.

Therein lies the mystery of books, of reading and of language.

We have created this system of symbols that mean our words. Our words are symbols themselves. We take collections of lines, put them together, and through the glorious invention of writing, you are reading this. You know what I wanted to tell you. You know. Because these symbols, these lines, mean something to us.

So these things on my shelves, these cumbersome, space-sucking books... these worlds, these ideas, these revelations... I will have to pare down. I don't live in a proper house, so I have just the few shelves I own now, and the space I might use to add a new one is very small. I am New-York-City-Maxed-Out.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Ego vs. Facebook

This may surprise some of you, I've realized, but I always feel painfully awkward when I discover that someone has remembered me. When someone does something for me that shows they were obviously thinking about me -- about what I like, what would be very nice for me to have, what would make me laugh -- it kind of breaks my heart.

That sentiment may be echoed in the last post's story about the ring, but Facebook, oddly enough, is forcing me to confront a character flaw of sorts. One that is a bit of an irony coming from someone vain enough to blog.

It really does surprise me that people find me -- significant. That I mattered or had any impact on their lives. I keep being delightfully surprised by contact from people I haven't heard from in 2, 5, 15 years...

I'm somewhat cursed with an ability to remember most things. Conversations. Lectures. Books. Articles. Shows. Probably most of the things you ever said to me. (Remember, Matt Jenkins and Vanessa when we were eating pizza on the stoop of 1426 and the cops came because we were blasting Tribe Called Quest out the window at 2 a.m.?)If my eyes caught it, I probably can't shake it. And I remember slights. Embarrassments. We all do. I still feel shame sometimes over things I did long, long ago.

Case in point: Sunshine Forest Pre-School. 1981? 1982? It's general play-time. I go up to Alyssa - and I tell her, very matter-of-factly, that this afternoon, I am going to Robin's house to play. And YOU, are not.

Even at 4 years old, there was this insecurity. This contest. The need to violently throw myself into the world and hope it noticed me. "Screw you four year old!"

That was also the first time I was publicly punished. Banned from snack time. No "Zesta" crackers and apple juice for me (another problem with the memory, remembering a forbidden snack from 27 years ago... great. I wish I knew where I'd put my checkbook...)

Returning to my point -- you can tell this is awkward because I'm storytelling instead -- I've heard from people who I would have thought I was too insignificant to be noticed by. I get Friend Requests (which I think should be a proper noun) from people who I am stunned remember who I was. Someone I always felt was too cool, too beautiful, too sophisticated...

Example -- at the New Jersey Governor's School of the Sciences in 1994 -- when I'd been nominated by my high school for being the person they thought could get in -- the girl I thought was the most beautiful, most fascinating, coolest person wound up being my best friend there. She seemed to like being with me as much as I did her, and I admired her so. She sang and played music. She's now a marine biologist, and I'm a little bit jealous of that. I felt so lucky.

I was even excited to be her friend on Facebook. We always worship those we once adored, I suppose. Not in the way we ardently throw ourselves into the blood and guts of family love, but in that "how does someone like you like someone like me" crazytown way.

Unfortunately for me, I have always fallen in love with men who fall into the second category. Only a few have been the blood and guts love kind. I miss them always.

My therapist in Boston once asked why I assumed I had been so insignificant to the men I'd loved -- why I was shocked when one of them would reach out to me after our usually catastrophic break-up. I'd been so convinced, somehow, that fleeing me was the only natural thing to do. That they were back because they felt sorry for me. Pitiful me. Sad, leave-able me.

I have no explanation.

A few faces have re-emerged lately, not my doing -- which means they found me somehow. Maybe through others. But still. For the young'uns, Facebook is a chronicle of everyone in college they ever spoke to. But when you've got a few years under your belt (not that many) there are faces that come back that surprise you.

This isn't meant as a litany to my insecurities. Because I'm very detatched writing it -- and it's something that was preoccupying me so much so I actually put down the third book in the 'Twilight' series to think, have a glass of wine and write.

It's more of a why and a how. How do we wind up like this?

I now sit in an office almost alone at night, News Editor for a Web site (note my AP style!) Yet with one, maybe two or three other people, which is kind of torture for someone who has thrown herself at the world with such force, because she always insists on being noticed and in the fray... Who thrives on having a partner at all times.

Who needs the maddening crowd. But who oddly doesn't think she will be remembered. How does this even make sense?

Weird, right? Mostly unexplicapable and irrational.

I would bet cash money that none of you would ever bet that I'd be shocked by a gift of lemons in a plastic cup -- left on my desk at work because someone cared enough about me to notice something about me -- something I enjoyed -- and wanted me to have that.

So much so that when I wasn't around, he remembered to do it.

You've had those days.

Even if it was the tiniest gesture, it was for you and about you.

I think it started on that train platform, listening to my father's music. And then I heard from someone I was flattered to be remembered by -- on the Facebook. Not even because we'd had some intense relationship. We had been neighbors for one year. He married. Had a daughter. I moved to New York. Someone for whom I assumed I wouldn't even register.

I first started writing a "maybe" sentence, but that would have been a lie.

I love without caution, but have always assumed I was somewhat invisible.

I delight in feeling like a fool. Maybe just this time. But I wanted to get it off my chest.

Something is about to happen.