Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Proustian and disposable, part 1

Here is a Stump moment. Was recently interviewed for a job (cah!) in an office aboutt 50 yards from where my first girlfriend used to live. It's about half a mile from Belle Vue Park in Newport, where we used to meet and cuddle and generally carry on like drivelling imbeciles. And of course, I walked past her house four or five times, and went to Belle Vue and found pretty much the exact spot where I once saw her walking towards me, vanilla teeth and simpering gratitude (what for?), backlit by the sun, summer-frocked (she had neo-Grecian hair, Timotei hair, cliche hair). We didn't run towards each other in slow motion - pre-arranged not to. I tried to find the bench where she dumped me (sorrysorrysorry) a few weeks later, but I think it's gone. 23 years ago. Twice that again in years and I will be gone (I am a very morbid mathematician).

She was the nearest thing the distaff side in my year had to me, but infinitely lovelier. Slender, very very clever, pouty, spirited, independent, eccentric, few pairs of eyes have ever laughed as much. She was going through a Tory phase - which should prove just how compelling the rest of her was. I tend to live in the past. I did so then. So little changes. Or does it? She married, had kids, separated. I have no idea where she is now. But I did bump into someone in Ponthir who might be her. Kids in tow, but the pout, the bearing - and the hair, the buttery sheen, was recognisable. Imagine it was her (such thoughts well up) - what would the film of my life be compared to hers? And what's changed for me? Not much. Does she lingeringly revisit past joys and agonies? No. Why should she? I am a prisoner of my past. That is why I write about the past, bad imitator of A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Paradise Lost, indeed most of western art full stop. Not long before she dumped me I remember listening over and over to the Prelude to Act 1 of Lohengrin, which I am listening to now. We once made out - and I am sorry to have to tell you this -to the Prelude and Liebestod of Tristan und Isolde. I know. Sorry, but I *was* only 18. On a less insufferably pompous level, probably our song was - though we both disliked it - The First Picture of You by the Lotus Eaters [sic] or the only slightly preferable Moonlight Shadow by Mike Oldfield, both of which were inescapable in July 83. Even more so than Every Breath You Take, Baby Jane and KC and the Sunshine Band's rather good Give It Up, which were the No.1s. I think more in literary and textual terms these days - would this work, would that?

If life doesn't fit literature, even the corniest narrative, it doesn't work, either way. All lives are narratives, all writers are storytellers; in both cases some are better and more credible than others, and if the story doesn't hold water, there's no point. CAN I WRITE IT? WILL IT SELL? When you can't think in any other than either of these two ways, you're a writer. Of course if the writer doesn't hold water he or she needs the lav, and quickly. One never forgets one's first love, and, pessimist that I am, I believe that is because for the vast majority of us, we never forget the sheer audacity of the hurt that comes at the end. We may well have had major crushes before; but never, or rarely, mental pain to compare with the first that seems requited. It's like someone walking up and casually breaking a bottle across one's face, for no reason. It's everyone's little Fermat - a problem most of us try and work out, fruitlessly, for the rest of our lives. How comes before why. It is outside extant experience.

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