jeudi 5 novembre 2009

Water pouring in

Wisp, on the window sill

She has been there since the rain began to fall, sometime around noon. It's 2:30 pm. The Yankees played and won the final game of the world series, and she is still sitting there, watching the rain fall on a November afternoon. The dogs are asleep on their cushions, where I moved them after washing them yesterday, onto the living room carpet.

"Tu ne vas pas les laisser là?" I notice that I have heard that formulation quite a lot since I finally got married, late in life for all my childhood dreams of Prince Charming. I had to start a career first, since being Prince Charming's wife isn't a career these days. Wait. Yes it is. I thought it wasn't and got a degree and started working before moving to Greenwich to discover that I had gotten it all wrong. Or, my mother had. At least in my case.

"Pourquoi pas?"

"Ils sont dans le passage, et -- elles vont dégueulasser le tapis." He hadn't noticed what I see everyday? The carpet is already disgusting and covered with Black Lab fur all the time. I swear la femme du baron is the only one around here who notices when it is dirty, and when it is clean. I let it drop. He won't move the cushions, and I don't even want a passage there at all. I want a real living room, with furniture suitable for the life I lead.

Which it, unfortunately, is, broken down and hand-me-down and covered with Black Lab fur as it is.

What furniture do I need? Not much, for starters. The house is small. Another of my complaints, actually; another is that it has no storage space. I dream about that, you know. Audouin and Sam left this morning, while the sun shone directly into the room. Le baron kissed me good-bye and wished me a good day (he always asks if I had a good day when he comes home, even when there is no reason either of us can think of for it to have been that or anything else; they are days), and I drifted back to sleep. When I woke up again, I knew it was 9:15 am. The sun was at precisely the 9:15 am angle. I had been dreaming.

I was in a big house with two staircases. It was tall. One staircase had a window that looked over a long drive, bordered by trees in fall colors on one side, a drop into a forest on the other. I knew it had another staircase because this one felt like a discovery to me. It had been raining, rain flooding into the house through cracks between the window frames and the walls, the walls and the floors, the roof. Water was coming in everywhere. No one else seemed concerned. I told my mother-in-law, for she was there, and it must be her concern. She looked at me like a had just spoken in a foreign language of a concern that existed only for me. I headed back upstairs, maybe the first stair, which must look out over the lawn. It ought to, anyway. It would be the main stair of a large house filling with water.

I found myself in a room with a door that, when opened, led to passages and doors and doors with shelves everywhere, a huge walk-in closet, as big, it seemed, as the house. My nieces were there. I told them how wonderful this was (they didn't like the house), and they shrugged; I was in paradise, and they couldn't see it. I insisted. This is wonderful. Really.

The phone rang. In my dream, but it woke me.

Closets. I dream of closets and storage. I dream of closets and storage space in a house filling with water.

You can't have everything.

"Avant," I told my trainer in between series of abs, "j'étais heureuse et fière de ce que je faisais dans la maison, mais maintenant, je me dis que ce n'est pas pour moi de nettoyer les carreaux et lasurer les fenêtres; quelqu'un d'autre avait été payé pour le faire. Ce n'est qu'une maison. Ca ne suffit pas." I was lamenting finding myself doing the work we had contracted workers to do, finding no pride in doing it better anymore, only frustration and disgust. Working on the house is thankless. It is only one house. And, there is so little budget for it and my motivation went away with something. Something I can't put my finger on and say, "That's it. That is why I lost my motivation."

If I could, I would know what to do.

It's when I shrug and tell my husband that it doesn't matter that the carpet in the so-called living room gets all dégueulassé, and he answers, "Mais, pourquoi? Il est très bien."

Non, the carpet is not perfectly fine, "Il est trop petit. Je l'ai acheté pour qu'il serve provisoirement." I bought it at IKEA a couple of years ago thinking the entire house would be redone by now. In my fantasies, it alway looks like the houses in the ads on television, perfectly clean and healthy. There is some clutter, though, or I'd be uncomfortable. I would not walk up the stairs and see them covered with the sand from the bottom of people's shoes, people heading up to the bedrooms and the bathroom in their outdoor shoes. I haven't been able to impose Japanese standards here, but my husband does insist he does care if the house is clean or not.

How can he when he can't see the dirt?

I watch sports on television. I put it on in the background, and sometimes I sit and watch it. It's physical. The spirit is involved in the body, not fighting it. You don't think. A lull in introspection, which my father-in-law (and Anaïs Nin) deplores as destructive.

I read Anaïs Nin, and my spirit rebels. The doubts come pouring in, like the water in the house that must belong to my mother-in-law. The water that doesn't even bother her anymore. It's my time in my life to face them. What have I done? What would matter if I did, or if I didn't, do it? It mattered to carve my pumpkins and make Halloween, even if there were so few groups of children, running up the street, laughing, the noise muffled by the thick walls of the house. I know what matters when suddenly I have to get up and do it.

I have been sitting, more and more.

I read Anaïs Nin, and I think again, It's 1946 in her diary, and it is the same today. Any year in her diary, and it is the same today; It's 2009, and I thought that yesterday.

We discover more, only to know nothing more.

We communicate more, only to say nothing more.

We are told so much, only to hear the same lies and continue to believe them.

I am not laughing today. I am about to stop following politics for the same reason Nin refused to follow it: it makes no difference. The only way to effect change is to do your own work and touch the world immediately around you. Imagine the future, don't lose your present reading newspapers that provide nothing more than the daily interpretation of what is happening. Create rather than content yourself with this reality.

The fall might be too strong a parallel for me this year, when my son turned 18 and will live the consequences of the decisions he makes; the autumn of my life. I have made myself clear. I have given my speeches until he could look at his watch and know precisely when he would be able to say, "May I leave the table now?" My work, as they say, is done. Soon, I won't need to be here. I won't have a legitimate reason. My husband has given me the opportunity of which many dream, to have to do nothing but what I chose with my time. I became Sisyphe.

I could take an entire spring to sift the rock from the dirt for my lawn, and do it over and over again. I could dig holes, remove the chalk and pour liters and liters of planting soil around new plants I would regret before the year was out, results that would disappoint because I had to admit that I knew less for all my learning than I needed to know. I could plaster walls and sand them, paint them carefully, finishing only two rooms, the hardest before me still. I could spend months watching the workers when they were here, and worrying when they were and when they weren't. Seven years passed, and I can ask myself, "What have you done?"

I ask myself, "What will you do?"

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