Tuesday, December 15, 2009

#7 of Fleur's 10 Best

Dear Fleur,
When I was in college I knew two women who referred to Vogue" and Elle as "books." They were a mother-daughter pair, summer people on the Vineyard, who made sure to buy a couple thick "books" before the Friday commute from Boston, to flip through in case of traffic jams or if they'd just missed the ferry. Since reading in the car makes me nauseous, once upon the boat I'd draw from my bag my own thick "book," such as Daniel Deronda or Ulysses, in paperback and well weathered, foraged in a basement shop in Harvard Square. Long ago I was intensely committed to black garments and serious thinking. I was vehemently opposed to any waste of time, and my every endeavour had to have an enriching purpose. Now, I like nothing more than to lie on the couch with the smooth, thin pages of the latest issue in my hands. An image of pink roses alongside one of bare toes set next to a precise block of black type delights me. I adore the promises of instant slimness, wrinkle decreasement, and perfect sex and sometimes believe in them, briefly. Gone are the porous, heavy duty pages margined with insightful comments by this engaged reader. And replacing those long lost volumes, are these bright, shiny "books." Has the seasoning of time left me shallow as a compact? Or is it that I've evolved a Zen ability to find wisdom anywhere? Please advise. ~Subscribed

Dear S., The best thing about those days on the Vineyard was the observance of sunset and the question one obviously asked another when meeting in the street, "Are you going to sunset?" as if it was a performance. Certainly you're familiar with the Edna St. Vincent Millay epigram:

"My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light."

Similarly, I'm wondering whether you remember how that little blond boy's hair, the one you were caring for that summer, lifted in the late afternoon light when he stood at the ferry railing, and somehow looked like a halo? And how, at the same time you noticed this, you looked back at the town of Woods Hole as the boat lumbered away, and remembered Craig shouting Keats into the January wind, high on port wine and hunger? And layered on top of that you thought tenderly of your parents' honeymoon in the cumbersome hotel there and how your mother appears in all the black and white photographs wearing enormous Jackie O. sunglasses so that, as a child, looking at those pictures you believed she was some sort of movie star?

Listen, I can't quote the whole song for you, but I think John Lennon answered your question a long time ago, when he said, "I just believe in me."

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