Friday, October 31, 2008
I tried to keep it arms’ length – this possible being in love thing – this being in love again thing – I tried to keep it at arms’ length. This was what I said to myself with some confidence – or was I just saying this to increase the tension and thus the enjoyment, as in delayed ejaculation/gratification. As I drove in my seventh decade – carrying little volumes of Keats and Wordsworth with me – driving the 70 miles back from her place one of those first times.
We lived an hour and half away from each other – I in a Catskills town that was in large part, though not totally, in the spirit of being a colony of the arts, my house beneath a mountain that was the opposite of the harsh granite mountains of my dangerous childhood further north – this house where the workshops had now begun – and her town was all boarded stores and shuttered cottage colonies and other depressing rural poverty more extreme even than the ordinary people’s poverty in the New Hampshire towns of my youth.
She had been coming to Woodstock for two years and we had been writing together and I had been sneaking looks at her – so lithe and smooth, and with high cheekbones too – trying not to be caught at it, keeping to the business at hand, which was writing and not mating – trying so diligently to be professional about it.
And I would drive back from where she live elated – saying to myself, trying it out aloud – I do not want to fall in love – I will not fall in love.
When I was in my early teens and moving fast though imprisoned in an old line Anglophile New Hampshire boarding school, not in the White Mountains but in New Hampshire’s far more gentle lake country – still the far north – reading Keats and Wordsworth and watching the seasons change – and ferociously overcoming the cruel boy’s boarding school culture by triumphing in near bullying competitive debating – filling up the school’s trophy case with woods and brass and plastic idols, each topped by a not very representational brass, apparently nude, young woman holding a brass laurel wreath high above her head and even higher above the pitiful little sports trophies down below her.
All of this mixed up with learning to kiss with tongues with a nicely plump girl named Dilly from our distant sister boarding school, and then my true love Kitty of the summers, who seemed a real and also symbolic confirmation of the life I had wanted to enter.
All tied up with Keats and Wordsworth.
And now after so much passing time. Because we lived an hour and half apart, much of the courtship was by this new e-mail – and so it was just like Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning who wrote each other in London at a time there were half a dozen mail deliveries in a day – so you could send a letter to your beloved in the morning knowing she would read it and probably write back before the day was over.
Just like the Brownings – this e-mail., this time, this woman – so different from all the women – including two to whom I had been married – and I drove, happier than I had ever been before, finally maybe where I wanted to be – saying out loud I will not fall in love, I will not fall in love – saying it still well after I had fallen in love – as clear as the Catskill skies, it seemed. In love – a line I had always wanted to use – in love for the last time.