Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lilacs and Desire in the Cruelest Month

It's not even a good line, that old "February is the cruelest month" bilge. In fact he was full of lines that were not even good, that gloomy old fraud--"Do I dare to eat a peach?" But nobody appealed to me the way T.S. Eliot did when I was in my late teens, when I was still a girl and trying things on, studying Camus and Calvin Klein with the same passionate concentration.

I drank coffee by the gallon and smoked almost as much as my father did and abandoned the white gloves that every lady was supposed to wear when she went shopping. I went off to college with my best friend and roommate who shared my belief that there was never any reason to be bored as long as we had functioning imaginations. Shirley made mobiles with our cosmetic and perfume boxes and I scrawled graffiti on our dorm room walls with sidewalk chalk. We shared clothes and after we discovered the joy of speed through diet pills we shared those too. We had our first babies several years later, within months of each other. Our lives diverged and then we lost contact.

I have always, in a deep corner of my heart and mind, missed her.

This month has been weighted. On my windowsill are three flowering jasmine, each in its own little cobalt blue pot, brought to me by a man who no longer lives in Bangkok but whose remembered presence fills my version of this city. One of my sons and his girlfriend will be here in two weeks for a visit that fills me with almost more happiness than I can hold. And the girl I used to be is in some way waking up with a renewed contact with my friend Shirley.

Good things come in threes, it used to be said. It's true that three is a number that holds magic--Macbeth's three witches, the Three Graces, the Trinity. Having these three parts of my life come to me in one month are making me look at the whole of it more closely. Once again, and what does this mean, T.S. Eliot is the one to pinpoint my feelings--We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.


amandaj said...

I have a Sarah, not a Shirley, but your friendship sounds very like our. I miss her everyday although we haven't seen each other for over 20 years, I miss her because I miss my 20 year old self.
Thanks for reminding me of this.

Kim said...

I've been reading Elizabeth Hardwick's New York Stories and thinking of you and anticipating the day when you will join EH and Mary Cantwell with your amazing stories of youth and big cities ... Love you!

Kristianne said...

I love it. Gorgeous.