Sunday, July 14, 2013


A few months after we stopped talking to each other, here is a glass tumbler with faded Art Nouveau style thistle flowers, one of a set we picked out at a tag sale in Hamtramck. Heavy glass, so his flamboyant nature won't break them as easily as he'd broken my more delicate glassware already. I see it, and I see the hair on his knuckles and forearm (I once made a map of his body with the directions of all his hairs indicated by arrows), the gold ring, the short-bitten nails. I hear the clink of ice and suddenly the whole scene is as vivid as yesterday; we're sitting with Raimondo at the round oak Mission table we eventually sold to Karen and Matt so we could take our disastrous move to Maine, joking, conspiring, dreaming aloud, eating big bowls of his cold zucchini soup and drinking spritz. It's summer and M's wearing faded blue cutoff shorts and a big soft green tshirt that shows off his beautiful strong dark brown shoulders. Raimondo's glass eye is off a bit,

he needs a haircut, he's describing his upcoming trip to South America where he hopes to make it big as an artist. We all speak half-English, half-Romanian, lots of gesticulations. The sun is still fierce and hot in the sky, almost eight at night. Tibs is sprawled in his majesty on the floor at M's feet, where he's getting his belly rubbed gently with M's bare foot, Lilu the calico kitten plays with my apron strings in my lap. M and I hold hands across the table, share the same glass of cheap white wine mixed with seltzer water, the ice cubes clinking, the laughter so loud and free. I have dirt under my fingernails, the boys stink of turpentine and oil paints, the world was right and we were right in it.

Someone asks me a question, and in a blink it is gone, gone like M is gone and our friendship and love with it. Raimondo was too alive to live, and no one knew we were saying goodbye when he left. Tibs rests under a statue of St. Anthony in Albin's back yard. Lilu has grown into a sleepy, toothless old girl. And now the tumbler is gone. Because I asked my current lover to take it to the Goodwill. Because even though the new boy has not got this kind of sentimentality (nor does anyone in my immediate, that is, hands-on group of current friends, for that matter) and we have no objects in common for me to center a snapshot of a memory around, I feel that in holding on to the things which bring M into the room is somehow disrespectful. Although the new love is good it is very different. It will never have his uniquely intense passion, the intensely artistic experience of being with M all day every day; and, thanks to my gift of association, many of the objects of my old life are imbued with the life of my old relationship and feel, well, kind of alive to me. M is still all around me, with me, even though he is forever gone. His presence prevents me from living wholly in the present. And so, though I loved the unique glasses, because they are suffused so intensely I have let them go - I have chosen a few objects from that part of my life I will keep and put them where I will smile when I see them, remember the good times, but not be held in place, not be distracted from the experience of the present or the future. I can't afford to have my future continue to be defined by a past love, good as it was. I need to be present, engaged, alive now. I, like Raimondo, intend to live until I am not alive any more. I will never forget those days, but I hope to add many more pages to the book of my life.

This is what it is like to have my writer's imagination. There's so much talk about how great it is to have one; to be creative, to have a knack for conjuring scenes without effort, the joy of it. People who don't have this gift don't realize it comes with a price. How lovely it is to pick up one of Grampa's tools or Grandma's bowl and see their smile, hear their words and feel them with me; yet, how much longer it takes to grieve when someone you love is gone forever while conjuring a ghost of them is effortless. Memory like mine does not dull easily, and even though I am conscious of its eccentricities, I have to exert effort to keep myself truthful and keep things in perspective. I know that effort. Writing and the content of homes are so connected for me I can't imagine one without the other. I shall always write of places as much as people, for this reason. I chose the career of helping people balance their possessions, for this reason. I don't know how to define myself properly if this action has no real value. I would have to define myself as a writer, then. What else could I be?
It is strange and uncomfortable to be with someone who is convinced that nothing in the present or future will be as happy, interesting, engaging, alive as their sentimental possessions or what they have already experienced, no new object, friend, or experience will compare to what they're holding on to or have already lost. It makes me feel like I'm talking to someone who isn't really with me, who is fading into the past, who will soon die, or in the case of dementia, cease to be: someone without a future. I wish I could tell them to live, to live with the past, not in it.

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