19 April 2009

The Present and The Moment

Spent more time with Dominick today. We didn't do anything quite as stimulating as our visit to the Botanical Gardens the other day, but I came away happy that we were together yet a little sad that we both have to go back to our respective jobs and such tomorrow.

We went to one of those big-box "buying clubs," where each of us spent more than we'd planned on spending. I had legitimate reasons to buy everything I brought home with me, but I didn't need any of it immediately. Well, the English muffins and cheese are for immediate consumption. But I also bought a few things I won't need for a while, though I will eventually use them. I guess that's what they want customers to do in stores like that.

Then we went to his house, where he and his grandmother were trying to feed me more than I could possibly have eaten in a week. Having them in my life isn't going to help my waistline, but their particularly Italian desire to see me eating is familiar and comforting. After all, I grew up with it.

Dominick shares my belief that I am in the process of giving birth to myself. Though she wouldn't express it in similar words, I suspect his grandmother may think something like that, too. Maybe they know that new lives have to be nourished, and the one who is giving birth is responsible for the health of the one about to be born as well as her own well-being. In other words, she is not eating only for herself; she is eating for the life she is carrying within her.

That life, and the life I have lived. In the end, I don't have much else. For better or worse, Dominick still has a place to which he can return: He's lived there all of his life. Perhaps one day he will live somewhere else, but I suspect that unless his family sells that house, it will always be a kind of second home to him. On the other hand, I do not have such a place. Now I have a few people who have opened their homes to me; perhaps their hospitality will extend through the rest of my or their lives. However, I can't return to any place in which I've ever lived. It's not only that different people live in those places now; it's also a matter of how I've become a very different person from the one who left those places. When you stay in some place, you and it change with each other; after you leave, you and it change in different ways. The house in Brooklyn Dominick saw the other day is not the house in which I grew up; it ceased to be that the day my family and I moved out.

From a place like that, one carries what I like to call the Eternal Present: the moment in which everything is frozen in place. It is not yesterday, and it is certainly not tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow...I've been trying not to think about it. Back to work, back to school for me and him. If someone had asked me a few months ago, I would've expected tomorrow and the following days to be a sort of denouement, or even a time of "playing out the string." It may very well be. However, I am going to be very visible at the college during the next two weeks. I'm giving a guest lecture on Tuesday and another the following Tuesday. The day after my second lecture, I'm doing a poetry reading.

Perhaps only the students in the classes I'm visiting will hear my lectures, and only a few people will attend the reading. Or, the classes may have visitors, and perhaps the reading will be well-attended. Officials of the college may show up for one or all of those events. I'm not so worried about them: I don't think anything I do in the lectures or reading will affect my standing at the college. But the guest lectures may be the last ones I give, and the reading will probably be my final public performance before my surgery. For that reason, I want them to be wonderful.

As for the class I'm taking: I really wish I weren't. I suppose I should value the most important things I learned: I am not doing gender studies and it's very, very unlikely that I'll pursue a PhD. Actually, I pretty much knew those things already; the class simply confirmed them for me.

Back when I was working on my master's degree, one of my classmates wondered, "If literature is so beautiful, why do literature courses suck?" I may be able to answer that now: Literature courses suck because graduate programs destroy any creativity and love of literature a student may have had upon entering. In graduate school, you no longer read the actual literature; you read wordy essays that begin with some thought about a work of literature but get hijacked by all sorts of mental masturbation. A great poem or other piece of writing is no longer a jeu d'esprit. Instead, it's a manifestation of some theory or another. And it's all expressed in the most impenetrable prose imaginable. I suppose that it reinforces the sense of superiority the writer has over his or her readers: To ask, "What in the world does this mean?" is an invitation to condescenscion or outright ridicule.

Well, at least that class will soon be in the past. Then again, my surgery will be, too. And, hopefully, I will not merely be in "the future." Rather, I hope that the life to which I am giving birth is eternally present, not merely the Eternal Present.

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