Tuesday, January 28, 2014
The feral cats howling behind my building at night make me think of France, of Auvillar. The echo of cats hissing across the cobblestone square there, dusted with rain, where I would be alone in the phone booth, typing out an infinite string of numbers to finally connect with a human voice, speaking in English. "Where are you?" I asked. "I'm sorry if that's weird; I mean you sound American." The operator said yes, he worked at a call center in Kansas or Nebraska, I don't remember which.
I was alone so much in France. Not lonesome, but alone—a singular thing in a large landscape. Like looking in a mirror the size of the world wherein I could see clearly the size of myself. That perspective. And I had this room there—not mine, but no one else's either—to sit in alone and it was exactly the right size for the size of me. Empty but a desk, a chair, an old typewriter, cobwebs thick in the corners by the ceiling, and one big window with wooden shutters—no screen. Looking out at the main road into the town, and past that the river, a view of the bridge. Pounding the keys until the string of letters connected into something. Old ribbon, the ink faint and uneven. Cracks in the plaster of the walls and around the window frame like a geologic measurement of time in the space of solitude. That is a room of one's own, the way it's supposed to work at least. If you sit long enough and just listen, the howls of the cats fade, transforming from something visceral—the urge to throw something, to just shut them up however violently—to the sound of the world simply turning at its own pace, outside of you and always.
That, I can almost see now, is what the whole cherry tree was about it. What hurt about its missingness. How it could be inside me and outside me at once—and neither of them stable, not one of them real.
at 11:34 PM