A lot has happened since June 28 and the eighth wonder of the world, but at the same time not much of it has been very consequential.
I have not spoken to Matt. But that is okay. Fading away is not annihilating. Annihilating is annihilating. In case that confused anyone.
I have, however, talked A LOT to my darling best friend Hannah, who is away in California and finally found a way to get in touch with me. We spent yesterday afternoon Skype-messaging away about life and ex-boyfriends and the general muddle of forgiveness and love philosophy that we generally talk about. And we laughed a lot, and I felt healed, and I think she did too, a little bit. And we decided that we are now engaged in a race to see who can own all the Madeleine L’Engle books there are to own first, and she’s winning because she has a credit card. It’s okay. I’ll get on it. Plus, I have points because I have an AUTOGRAPHED copy of The Love Letters that Derek gave me for my birthday yesterday (my birthday is actually tomorrow but he left town again today, so that was that). So Derek also has points. Friend points.
Also, when Tanner came by yesterday for more record sorting, he brought his own old record player to give to me. And that was touching and wonderful. I am not impressed with a lot of Tanner’s more recent decisions. It has been a struggle for me to not take sides in his breakup with Hannah. Of course, he himself demonstrated a great example of that after my breakup with Matt. I wrote that in a final graduation thank-you note to him; something about “your selfless love for both of us is something admirable to see” or something like that. So that’s a funny little bit of irony. But once again we return to the fact that Tanner is as he is and what he is as much as Hannah is as she is and what she is. And I can love them both. There is room in the lotus.
(This blog is getting highly repetitive.)
Anyway, so the record player gave me hope (while also giving my room a scent reminiscent of Tanner’s house, but whatever).
As I was reading my AUTOGRAPHED copy of The Love Letters today, I remembered that I had that book from the library either not long before or while Matt broke up with me. (I keep typing his last name, because that’s what everyone calls him, and then my journalist conscience plagues me about consistency of reference so I have to go back.) And it was interesting, remembering how I read it then, through the blurry glass of my relationship goggles.
The Love Letters is about Charlotte Napier, the wife of a New York surgeon, Patrick Napier, and the daughter-in-law of a very famous harpsichordist, Violet Napier. And Charlotte flies from New York to Portugal where Violet lives after Patrick says “something unpardonable” and Charlotte decides to leave him. Kind of. She says she doesn’t remember the thought process.
Anyway, so while she is in Portugal she reads The Love Letters of Soror Mariana, who was a Portuguese nun, and she talks to Violet and to the doctor and a lot of people about everything that’s happened.
Throughout the book, last time I read it, I was seeing Patrick as Matt (or Matt as Patrick, however you’d see that). And while it is ridiculous to compare things because, as is somewhere in the book, no two things are ever the same, that was still not a very good comparison even as comparisons go. If Matt is anybody in that book he is Violet, which I will explain momentarily. But it bothers me less now that he can’t seem to love, to give the gift of himself, than it did before. Perhaps I have learned to love him with open hands. But that’s a big perhaps. There are smaller perhapses that indicate I’m only starting to.
Anyway, as I was reading through it today I found passages I must have missed the last time. (I also found in it a lot of things, a lot of instances and speeches which I see repeated in Certain Women.) I can’t think why; it was a thought, however small, in my brain even then that I had to love Matt, whoever he was. But I thought, then, that meant accepting the fact that he chugs Mtn. Dew like it’s going out of style, likes one of my least favorite football teams, et cetera. Attributes like those, though, may shape the person around the edges, but are not the content of anyone’s character. Their character is what you really have to accept – up to and including the kind that has trouble showing the kind of love you want to receive. You have to love them anyway. And such is the thrust of the passage I am going to copy here now. Violet and Charlotte are in Violet’s Portuguese villa, talking.
“You have no idea,” she [Violet] said, “you have absolutely no conception of what marriage is. And I find that I have to have more rather more wine than usual before I can bring myself to tell you. What are you looking for, Charlotte? What do you want?”
Charlotte replied in a low voice. “I suppose I think there should be love.”
“Love is a four-letter word. And you, having been wrapped in the cotton wool of those damn convent schools all your life, know nothing about four-letter words. Love is the wildest one of them all. We take it and we separate it and we are too cowardly to accept the violence of the union of all its parts. And a marriage that is a marriage has to accept this fusion. It has to be done, Charlotte. It cannot be evaded. I have been a coward all my life about love. You might as well face that about me. I do not like admitting it, but it is a fact. All I have been willing to accept in my relations with men is passion. Passion is part of a marriage, and a necessary part, but it does not endure unless it is sustained by a foundation of love that is – ”
“That is what?”
Violet sighed, deeply, sadly, took a long draught of wine. “Endurance, for one thing. Acceptance. All people are impossible to live with, don’t you know that? You are impossible – ”
“I know – “
“Hush. Patrick is impossible. So what a marriage is founded on is a commitment to this impossible. You make promises when you get married and you stand by them. You stand by them no matter what. You stand by them even if you have broken them. And you break them over and over again, in intention, if not in act. And it doesn’t matter. You still stand by them. I did not do this, Charlotte. Ever. I come closer to love now, with João [other character], who refuses me passion, than I ever have before. We are not in love, you know, Charlotte; not in the sense in which gossipers would understand it. So perhaps I will not short-change him as I have everybody else I have pretended to love. I have loved nobody but Violet Napier.”
“No – ” Charlotte started to protest.
But Violet cut her off with an imperious gesture. “Love me for what I am, Charlotte, not for what you would like me to be. That is how you must love Patrick. You must love him for what he is. And you must love him for no reason. You must love him simply because you love him. It is an act of commitment. You have committed yourself to it. And you can do it. Where I could not, where I refused.”
Whoever you love, he is as he is and what he is no matter how much you try to box him into what you want, categorize him under various labels. Superimpose she and her in that statement as necessary, or whatever pronouns you feel inclined to use.
Hannah and I have been Skype messaging again and sharing wisdom about morality and whatnot. I got very excited a while back about Madeleine L’Engle’s theory about pornography and self-gratification, how the artist who is fully immersed in his work, who has wholly thrown himself into it, cannot produce pornography. We philosophized further that the person who is fully immersed in living life and loving, who has wholly thrown herself into it, cannot do anyone wrong, cannot commit crime or hurt anyone’s feelings or sin, basically. Because that would be life-pornography, ha ha ha.
I was reading the newspaper while I was at my grandparents’ and read the police log and the court notes, and because I’m from a very sketchy town I see, often, people I know in the police log and the court notes. I saw today that a girl I went to middle school with and was actually quite good friends with, considering my emotional incapabilities of the time, had been charged with alcohol possession and consumption as a minor.
She dropped out of school with one semester to go; was living on her own; had some boyfriend who was older and didn’t seem very clean. I talked to her in Taco John’s once when she was there with him.
I remember her as a loving, spastic sort of girl, beautiful and funny, with the classic relationship insensibility that happens to a lot of girls, but with a big heart. I was fond of her. She was always kind to me. It saddened me to see her name in the court notes. I have notes in a file with that name written on it. “Love always,” she wrote.
But once again, you have to love the person for what they are, not what you’d like them to be. And, as I read on Hannah’s Pinterest board, if you can also love them as they ought to be, the ontological person, as Madeleine L’Engle might say, they will become all that they are capable of becoming.