My Tragic Pose

As I wait for things to proceed with my recently finished memoir, I have begun to feel a second one bubbling around in me. This story, I see, is going to be about my wife and me, in particular the year I met her, which was 1983. I mentioned this to her and added, “It’s hard to remember exactly what I was like back then. I do seem to remember complaining a lot.” “Yes,” she said. “You complained a lot.”

It would have been nice if she had couched this even a little, but I suppose I needed to hear the unpolished truth. Though now that I think about it, I believe it is entirely possible that I complained more to her than to anyone else. It was my soul, you see. It needed unburdening. Music and literature, the twin cathedrals of my youth, seemed full of lovely and poignant complaint. How heroic, how honest, how necessary was this aesthetic bemoaning of life as it was. Let us reject all that is false and flat and hollow and live in the beautiful remains of this destruction.

That was the plan, anyway. Yet one of my most vivid memories of that time was of Jen and me sitting at her kitchen table, and Jen, a budding thespian, offering her imitation of Bill as she had come to know him:

“Oh, track!” she moaned. “Oh, writing!”

It was quite comical. She was the funniest girl I had ever met, and so I forgave her this clowning around with my suffering. Perhaps I hadn’t complained loudly enough. “No,” I thought as I walked home. “That can’t be it either. Oh, what is it? There is something that needs to be said, and I am certain it needs to be said to her.”

Life felt so different that evening. Life had felt different since I first saw Jen on stage three months before. Some door had opened, but what if it closed again? Hadn’t she already told me she would be leaving in June? Would the door close with her when she left? And if it closed, shouldn’t I pound on it and demand it open again? Wouldn’t that be the heroic and honest and necessary thing to do?

I arrived home, though I was still seeing Jen at her kitchen table moaning about track and writing. She hadn’t been mean about it, really. That’s a neat trick. But what was it I needed her to hear? I felt as if I had been waiting my whole life to say it to someone. I closed the door to my room so that I might meditate on such questions.

No answer that could satisfy would come that night. This was how I preferred it in those days. How romantic was life while I felt perched on the edge of really living it. How delicious was this tragic pose, swooning over what life might have been and then collapsing safely into the arms of what it already was.

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