Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Light


Things you once had and are now gone from you assume a perfection they never had when they were with you.  You enjoyed them then, and retain them now in memory with that lemony sting of having undervalued them because they were so easily come by.  Even though you may well have worked for them, it was summer light then.  All things seemed easy.  Even difficult things.

Sam, the cat who saw you through your first ten or twelve novels, became yours in that most abstract sense of the verb “to have,” when his “owner” came to you one afternoon and said, “Well. I guess he’s your cat now.  He spends most of his time with you.”

Part of that particular magic may have come when you gave him a name he liked better than the name he had.  Or perhaps he became your cat because of the pure accidental choice you made in buying cans of Kitty Queen Cat Kidney as opposed to some other brand.

You thought of Sam and his past perfection last night, when you returned from your walk, choosing to sit in the darkened patio, sipping ice water and cooling down.  A neighborhood cat who has been checking you out for over a year, appeared with a thump in front of you, springing from the slight wall at your back.  You first became aware of Sam’s visit when he appeared with a thump, no doubt from the outer porch that connected your apartment with Ray, your neighbor.

This cat, a trim and self-possessed shorthaired domestic, could well be someone’s perfect cat, and you in fact have taken a liking to him, but he is not Sam.  What was Sam is buried in the back yard of 4064 Woodman Avenue, Sherman Oaks, not far from the burial site of the cat of an author of yours from the days when you were both cat persons, in so many ways perfect in what you were doing then and in the perfection of your dreams for what you would do as life unfolded at the same time you strived to achieve your dreams. 

You were the editor in chief of a small, growing publishing house.  The author, in large measure through your support, was writing hardcover works of nonfiction after having written paperback originals for the pulp markets.  The author was being reviewed in The New York Times.  You were being mentioned in Publishers Weekly.  Sometimes, at parties held at the author’s home at 4064 Woodman Avenue, Sherman Oaks, the author would invite you into his work area with a wink to the other guests of editor-author secrecy about a work in progress.  There, he would pour you a hefty measure of Martell VSOP cognac and one for himself, the exact amount to push each of you over the edge of sobriety and into the mischief of solemnity.  “Fuck seriousness,” he would say, clinking glasses.  You of course responded in kind.  It was easy to be serious under such circumstances.  You needed reminders about illusions.

The author wanted to be writing novels that would be published by some of the Eastern publishers.  Your illusion was that you did, too.  Being editor was a step toward some unconnected wisdom or knowledge or access to the things that would bring you back to story after having written yourself ahead of your technique.  You were waiting for story to catch up with you, to present you with memories.

The things you strive for now are shimmering, numinous platforms and concepts for which you reach, sometimes during walks, sometimes after them, where, instead, neighboring cats appear, or sometimes in dreams that cause you to lurch awake in your bed, to find yourself sitting, hand out in a reaching gesture.  These platforms and concepts are gone before you have them as you “had” Sam, but you have had that slight touch of a passing handclasp, the charged, static-electricity touch of a lover with whom you “had” a relationship wherein a brief touch of a hand, perhaps held in a theater, or escorting from a car, or merely a touch of a momentary parting is more tender and resonant in memory than a night of lovemaking then.

And yet you reach, both for the platforms and concepts and for the memory of the brushing of hands, and the brief exchange of a glance, her cobalt eyes sending and receiving understanding, connection.

Some days, good days, you see as many as two or three cosmic truths, tangible as the brush of lover’s hands and the meeting of the eyes.  These truths are as accessible to you as the peaches depending from the tree of the yard next door.

Now, all you have to do is find a way to use them—to get at those peaches before they become gravid, before they fall to the ground or attract marauding birds.

Life is filled with the imagery of imperfect things, waiting for you to put your fingerprints on their patina, waiting for you to use them, inviting use. This is the noir in which you live, the sad understanding that you can never get them quite as you would have them, but trying, reaching to get them before they fall or the birds come.

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