LESLEY GORE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE
“You would cry too – if it happened to you…”
I am in bed. I should be at work but, as I am not, I will listen to Lesley Gore on the end-table radio.
I admire how “It’s My Party” is occupied by the interpreter until she is virtually the author of its defiant sorrw. It is a rare skill; Ella Fitzgerald had it, perhaps – or Ann…
Without it, I might not have awakened, though I set my alarm for 6:30 and was given “Satisfaction”, which I would normally like – yet I pillowed my head, only to receive “Walk Away Renee”, “For No-One” and “She’s Leaving Home”. Irony is alive and well in radio programming.
It is over. I should rise to face the day, as my class depends on my, and pays for my questionable assistance/collaboration, for regular, meaningless lives and chances to mock the conventions of Renaissance verse, said derision being filtered through their laughably simplistic assumptions – but that is too easy an irony to use outside a sitcom.
Sometimes I agreed with them, though I tried to concentrate on the art involved. Today, the required distance for that is far away, as is: the floor; the bathroom; the kitchen; the university and…
“Her name is – her name is – her name is – her name is – G…L…O...R…I…A…Gloooooooriaaaaaa…”
With a deft snap of the button and a disturbing snap of the knees, I am up.
I am clean in the semi-fogged bathroom mirror. As life is not a stock comedy, I am bald, beardless, fifty, fat and arguably fatuous, rather than wild-haired, stubbled, thin, adolescent and terrified, like the child I imagine I should be feeling like inside. Still, somehow, I cannot bear the dissonance.
Silence. A voice should be in the kitchen, telling me to hurry. I paid there, puddling the floor, and turn the radio to another station, for cross-talk.
“…seeing things we used to do – they think of you – I sit and watch as tears go bye-uh-I-uh-I…”
This tie does not go with the chosen shirt (how taut to pull?); also, the knot is too tight (dismiss that thought…). I struggle with the noose until it is loose enough for me to breathe. (It does not do to embrace random despair. It is cheating on Life with Death.)
Looking among my clean clothes for a better shirt, I find a pocketed note.
“My” pastel garment – not personally purchased – nearly another’s – needing absence’s permission to put on?
Therefore, it is impossible to wear – anymore? I cannot throw out the message, so I place it on the dresser, near an outdated “family” photograph.
“Because – every time I see your picture I cry – and I learn – to get over you – one more time…”
My stations rarely play Canadian Content or the recent past. I have not heard properly – or someone has made a terrible mistake.
Badly ironic – poetic. Like a frustrated English teacher/author. On which point, Leonard Cohen’s narrator bemoaned not comparing Anne’s eyes to the sun until her departure.
The parallel fails. I did compose odes to my Ann’s body.
Bathroom. “…come on…TAKE IT! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby…”
To work, where colleagues take up torment’s duties.
Kitchen. “Do you know how to pony – like Bony Marony? Do you know how to twist? It goes like this – goes like this…”
These musical strains cruelly invoke a dancing/sex partner. Out!
I must have grabbed the note before leaving the house, as it is on the dashboard – a smoking gun/raven/Deathly figure/device of Plot.
I will not dwell on Ann. I must make mind as Homeless as body.
I roll down a window to admit air. The paper drifts to my lap and tries to open, but I toss it near the brake.
Coincidence is fine, but it must know who is boss.
“You better stop – look around. Here it comes – here it comes – here it comes – here it comes – here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown…”
Obvious, and not unexpected.
Common sense says I should be able to deal with grief and being left by women. My course deals with such things, and my early life was touched by them.
Rationality whispers: PULL TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD! I cannot see for moisture from the wind in my eyes.
The person who conceived logic invented its comrade, suicide.
I am not presently aware of how the note returned upwards. Did I pick it up? Has the breeze of Fate struck? Am I an unreliable narrator who never dropped it?
Coincidence has climbed the corporate ladder in leaps.
As I am not going anywhere, I will look at the message. Even for the hanging victim, suspense must end.
The note must have been shirted a long time ago; it has been laundered nearly illegible. Had Ann typed it, this might have been avoided or reduced. I tried to tell her so in the past, but she informed me she was not my student anymore.
To my knowledge, learning never stops.
I wanted to speak, but you ‘lost’ me in ‘profundity’. I do not need lectures, James – I attended yours, and could not be heard even then.
I am not presently aware (your phrase – implies resources available but temporarily inaccessible – denies fallibility) why I (illegible)d you – if I did. You despise clichés, but we started as ‘young woman – older professor’. This game continues, so it may be mutual distortion.
You do not (live? love?) me, but an idea of me. For and to myself, I am a human being. Am I a plot device to you – with no (rule? role?) – who projects at cocktail parties that you are (illegible – suggest ‘loved’) – who fixes you up before events I am not invited to? Do I (extend? exist?) outside that to you?
I will not be Muse or whore. I must be complicated – infuriating – reassuring – loving – raging – or not Be at all. It is clear you want a selection, but are not sure which. In the case and in ‘your’ stead, though it is not a matter in which you have a choice, I choose none and all.
We want appeal to our divinely profane bodies as well as to our souls and minds.
You have no passion, James – even for learning. I have tried to teach you. I do not wish to face my failure’s consequences.
Mine at last,
I would fail an undergraduate who attempted to pass such drivel off!
I start the car and go forward in the required direction.
THIS is why I found an early empty house yesterday? I was angry enough at THAT betrayal, but…rejected with self-indulgence and intellectualized hatred or pity?
She should have been dramatic or crass. I might have listened to her complaints then.
I cannot notice everything. Existence is no heavy-handed book with clearly marked conflict. Denouement is not much easier to spot, except with sick dread as gravity and inertia take their toll.
Static, then… “I cover my ears – I close my eyes – I still hear your voice – and it’s telling me – l-i-i-uh-I’s…”
I have crossed a reception barrier. I listen to country briefly, then spin the dial.
I do not believe/feel I am guilty of the accused things.
…but I am an unreliable narrator, and truth is endangered in my care.
And what of Ann’s care? Was it correct to suffer me in silence? I had no mirror – what good was one warped or broken by design – meant to break as though struck by a shotgun blast, leaving shards in my heart?
Plainness is needed, before ornamental turns become nooses.
Turns. I have missed mine.
The road less travelled stretches long, one-way, unswerving.
No homes. (No-one to see…)
No vehicles. (No-one to hit and create ambiguous intentions, but no-one to stop me either…)
IT IS JUST EMPTY HIGHWAY! IT IS NO SYMBOL OF ANYTHING, JAMES!
The part of my mind which does not believe in portents tells me so, contradicting the portion which feels doomed and open to consciously chosen leitmotifs. WE write the story of our lives, even if society’s blue pencil hovers nearby to frustrate in aid’s name.
Ann might be impressed. This grief does not feel stylized to me, though qualifiers must be born(e) in mind.
I pull over. I must not be accosted by concern, law or order.
“…You don’t own me. I’m not just one of your many toys…”
Coincidence and conspiracy have come to Lesley Gore’s least successful hit. Until recently, I thought it her most admirable.
I never claimed to own Ann, but a portion of a relationship. I thought termination would have been difficult, but given effort, it might have seemed beneficial in the end.
Conceded. I thought I owned her. By distancing myself from those boorish bastards who beat, belittle and banish their wives, I neglected to notice I was treating Ann as my intellect’s exclusive property.
The glove compartment is stuffed overfull and pops open, Fate’s fickle finger working into me.
Well. Ann has left something behind to remember her by – to leave an impression deep in my head.
She never felt safe alone in the care. Now, neither do I.
I hid(e) behind irony, sarcasm and Fate – an author/man/coward.
I view(ed) the world as myself extended – an author/coward.
I believe(d) others accept(ed) this premise and (w)a(s)m reluctant to conceive rejection – a man/coward.
I cannot live, having been told where to place these truisms. I am a coward.
Suicide is noble and required. I am a(n) (author) (man) (coward).
Here, on this route to the future (though it may end abruptly at a field meant and designed to be enlivened by waste and death) with no evidence anyone shall follow it to eventuality, I shall, from my point of view, put an end to events.
I hope you suffer me once more, Ann, if you hear of this.
Spite is something of which I did not think myself capable. One is constantly surprised by what one can do.
So to speak. Constancy is not in the cards for me.
The gun is virtually invisible in my huge, grasping hand. No art, high or low, be it novel, painting, song or even film, has prepared me for its intrusive, icy, snub nose against my suddenly damp temple-skin.
“…he blew his mind out in a car. He didn’t notice that the lights had changed…”
At this late date, I would like to change my mind – not that I am not about to, if I may be permitted gallows/morgue humour. Pop music is today’s literature – barren and humble at first, swelling to a pregnancy of meaning and an arrogance in its knowledge of the ‘soul’.
It is a moment of waking into joy from a nightmare before one realizes that the dream of desertion was real, blurring the purpose and the existence of rising at all.
It is a spiritual ode to a wife lusting for a physical touch.
It is a drive on a deserted road, a gun in the glove compartment, when one hopes for/needs company/a map to fulfillment and/or/through emptiness.
It is Fate’s heavy hands around the blood-burdened heart.