Sunday, August 13, 2006

anamnesis in minor (canada, and memories of)

Who was she, then, sunbathing on that southern beach beneath a hungry, orange sun? Lying tummy down, top untied with bronze back glistening, hair piled up. Rousseau’s Reveries of a Solitary Walker lay open before her, nearly forgotten, pages absently flipping on the fingers of a warm breeze. And what was it the breeze searched for over her shoulder? Which Walk did it seek? Just as Rousseau was able to find a haven in nature from the fickle, if not outright nasty, human world, so, too, did she on that day. Fingers trailing in soft white sand, sun hot on the back of her neck, mind a mere 93 million miles away.

“We don’t have to leave, you know.”

I heard her, barely, but there was no response to be offered.

“We can stay right here,” she said, her words little more than a mumble lost in the crashing of the Great Lake’s waves.

I pressed my feet further into the hot sand, jaw clenching. NK could do that to me.

“No-one to bother us,” she continued, “no-one to get in our way.”

I opened my mouth to speak, only to close it again. Mind change. I pushed the sunglasses further up onto the bridge of my nose, just for something to do.

Who was she, then, walking across campus in the inspiring cool of autumn? Great, felt coat wrapped around her, plaid scarf warming neck, furry, black hat pulled down low onto ears. I carried her books for her, just like the boys did so long ago. That scarf, I thought. Nuzzled up to creamy white, strawberry scented skin. Embracing her. Protecting her. That lucky, lucky scarf. JE could do that to me. Drive me right out of mind, right out of my senses. We walked, warm shoes clicking on old cobblestones, past the engineering building, past the annex, past the library. Cool breeze nearly breaching the upturned collar of my loden coat.

“We could leave, you know.” I said this, knowing full well that she really couldn’t.

“Right now?” she laughed. “And where would we go?”

“We’ll dump these books and head north to T______. Find a little cafĂ© with a nice stone fireplace. Sit reading to each other from the new journals until they kick us out—”

“You’re being silly.”

“All right, then,” I said, wrapping my coat tighter around me. “We’ll take a little drive south until we find a suitable honky-tonk. Drink cheap draught until we’re walking all crooked. You can teach me how to two-step—”

“Really now, that’s even more ridiculous! I’ve a class in twenty minutes – my students are likely showing up already.”

“Keeners, eh? Just throwing some options out there,” I quipped. “How long have you been stuck on this campus, anyway? Between student life and—”

“A decade, at least. A lifetime? I don’t know,” she shrugged.

“What did Bacon say of studies?” I asked, arching an eyebrow with some dramatics.

“I don’t know – what?”

“To spend too much time in studies, is sloth.”

JE smirked. “I’d have to read the work to understand the context.”

I laughed. “You’re hopeless – but I love you anyway.”

Who were they, then, these women, these indefatigable memories? Little more than reminiscences cut from the satiny, star flecked cloth of experience. Pasted on the gossamer paper of mind. Bound between the worn covers of this illusory scrapbook. Strong women, obviously, for who else could so easily traverse the wilds of time? Independent women, apparently, for what other type could make such a deadly lonesome journey from past to present seem so effortless? And they would keep coming. Lying in my bed at night, I would often be visited by their spectral visages, their haunting, lingering voices.

“You could leave, you know.” Her voice, a whisper in the dark.

“I can’t,” I said. “I’ve responsibilities now – anchored, like.”

“No-one to bother us,” she continued, “no-one to get in our way—”

“Oh,” I interjected, “I can think of a few people who would get in our way.”

“We’ll take a little drive south until we find—”

“No!” I shouted angrily through the dark. “Responsibility aside, there’s accountability! Answerability! Liability, even!”

“Liability? Really?”

“Well,” I blushed, “it just sounded good.”

“You haven’t changed have you.”

“No,” I mumbled, rolling over and pulling my blankets up over my head. “I guess some things never do.”

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