Saturday, December 12, 2009

#10 of Fleur's 10 Best

Approaching the beginning of Fleur Consultancy's third year, I'm excited to offer a selection of ten archived posts that represent the heart of the Consultancy. Would you like to have your own existential challenge touched with a story written just for you? I invite you to request a personal consultation. In the meantime, please enjoy this glimpse of our shared humanity:

#10 is a question of sibling jealousy from December, 2008.

Dear Fleur,
My brother is 29, yet complains more or less constantly that our parents aren’t doing enough to defray the cost of his very expensive graduate education and his upcoming wedding. What is the tactful way to tell him nobody owes him squat?
-Older Brother

O. Brother,
Have you ever heard those cries in the middle of the night in hotels where people dance with their cheeks against one another on the other sides of thin walls and things –water glasses, cheaply framed photographs- fall down in the dark? You listen to the life playing out in another room you cannot go into but are somehow unwittingly inside of anyway because you can hear those cries on the brief brink between anticipation and oblivion where it sounds as if something may in fact be wrong, as if some physical ailing or degradation is taking place. You'd like not to listen, but since you can't help it, you lie there with the edginess of the standard beige telephone and the prickly carpet and the slants of light from unidentifiable sources, and still unblocked by the gush of the air conditioner you can hear these scrambled cries. Somewhere in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera describes the traceless difference between a woman's expression in pain or ecstasy. (I highly recommend the paperback version on a morning Amtrack from Boston to the Cape in December 1989 in the company of someone you barely tolerate; it refreshes.)

The dilemma is, that brink is where we wrestle with an inclination to intervene— to bang on the wall, to slam something, if not to pad into the hallway and half-heartedly knock on the door that if opened would reveal the tired make-up slipping from the startled, childlike face of the woman you passed in the lobby, and behind her the huddle of a man on the bed waiting in anger for the locks to slide back into place. Why, I used to ask, why does that chapped voice reach out in the clotted dark across the overgrown garden behind my apartment house scratching and calling for a dog named Dolly as if the animal has been mistakenly let out- every single night? Who can help not wanting to peripherally partake of the repetitive search of a stranger, let alone a brother?

There is often a traceless difference, by the way, between a stranger and a brother, or between the one making the unquenchable cries in a motel bed and the one who listens from an adjacent room in the same town where she lives but where she is hiding from something. And the tactful response, as you may well imagine, is no response at all— the same you'd prefer to receive, rather than a knock on the door of your own dark moment.

1 comment:

Chris S. said...

Excellent! Loved the anticipation...kept me hooked as I read on drinking my Sunday morning coffee....