Thursday, April 15, 2010

Expiation: Finale

Follows Expiation: Prologue, Part One, Part Two, Entr'acte, Part Three.

"I know this is late in coming but it's the only way I know,
hello it's me

-Lou Reed, from 'Songs for Drella' which has nothing to do with anything that's been discussed until now.

The last part plays out pretty quickly. The Elora/Hannah/Nancy incident was concluded without loss of blood. Especially mine. Life went back to normal and other no less adolescent scenarios played out with different people pretty much according to schedule. T'was ever thus, right? Plug in the cliche of your choice: youth is wasted on the young, life goes on, memories are made of this, if I knew then what I know now, and of course that's why it's called a 'crush' because... if it felt good they'd call it something else. The earth remained largely unshattered. Elora reminded me that "You missed the part where..." and a long list of details that a) aren't germane to this forum and b) aren't my story to tell in the first place. I didn't forget them, just didn't think it was my part to recount them.

But I had forgotten the white roses; they showed up at my front door late in the week where they decided they were going to speak to me after all. I actually found the card a decade ago, scanned it and sent it to Elora in an email. It was at the bottom of a voluminous box of letters and assorted trash dating back to the early 80's and stopping in the early 90's when I either stopped collecting letters or everything segued into email. At the time, I was amazed that Elora knew I liked white roses. In fact, I'm amazed that I ever told anyone that I liked white roses. No deep significance here, I just thought they looked cool.

I liked the idea of forgiveness. Being at the tail-end of a comic-book collecting stage at the time, I considered creating a graphic novel based on the whole affair, somehow ending it with somebody saying "You are redeemed!" in my direction after I'd done something, well, redeeming. But I couldn't figure out what and couldn't draw to save my life anyhow. I don't think the world has lost anything as a result.

That box of letters/programs/ill-advised literature remains in my basement- I can't bring myself to throw it away. Call it emotional archeology. From time to time I brave a peek, choose some stuff to keep and others to throw in my neighbour's bonfire to guarantee that they're rendered truly unreadable and irrelevant before drifting into the stratosphere as so many atoms. Entropy always wins.

A Facebook chat with Hannah:

I quoted you in my blog, you said I was allowed.

Yes, it was fine. Reading it made me feel like a human Moeibus strip. Your story - my story - her story...I am resisting the urge to dig up my diary and reread the MJD entries.

Oh Lord...RESIST!

I have often considered ceremonially burning that diary in the backyard. I can't think of a good reason I haven't except it would be fun to go to one of those nights where you read from your adolescent diary in public.

I keep letters for a scary long time. I probably have notes from you in a sealed box of high-school/early university correspondence and playbills in my basement. I'll leave it to the AGO when I die.

Nooooooo! Burn them! Burn them! But just so you know, the Elton John song "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" ALWAYS reminds me of you, me and a music practice room. In a sweet way. :)


And on the flipside of the entropy issue, I played a lot of Elton John/Billy Joel at the time, it was poppy and good practice and the kind of thing that makes sense when you're fifteen. I don't remember playing it for Hannah. Things get lost over time. I remember lots of other things in that sweet way she mentions; chats, tea on a rooftop garden, trading tapes - yes. Less prosaic than singing "Someone saved my life tonight, Sugar Bear" in G-major, but maybe the same kind of sweet.

And one last piece before the DH Lawrence reveal: my jacket. I had a heavy blue corduroy high school jacket with the word ARTS in capital letters on the back. And until a few months ago I was sure I loaned it to Elora in February so she could wear it on a class trip to Greece.

Call it cheap penance. I'd heard her complain that she was going to freeze to death on her trip, I offered my jacket. She said "Seriously?" and I handed it over. And I froze for around 2 weeks, layering sweaters over shirts. Chivalry wasn't entirely dead, as far as I thought. There was an implied message of I was a jerk, I'm sorry. Now you've got the double-lined warm jacket and I'm going to freeze for awhile. Mea Culpa. You don't have to like me but I know it's keeping you warm or something like that.

That's what I remembered, until recently. I didn't let a little fact that Greece is, for the most part, a fairly warm country most of the time dissuade me.

In a chat with Elora:

You could illustrate one thing for me - did my jacket enjoy Greece?

It had a better time in Holland.

I thought it went to senility is setting in?

I really liked having that jacket btw. I don't remember if I brought it to Greece. It was hot there. But I know for sure I brought it to Amsterdam over Christmas when I went to see my father.

It was Christmas? I thought it was February. I froze. I thought it might serve some karma. You probably could have kept it.

Heh, really? You didn't have a second jacket?

Nope. Sweaters and layers.

Why did I give it back? I don't remember.

So much for the inviolable truth of memory (mine, specifically). And I wish she had kept the coat. I think I said something like "It's probably yours by now" when she made it back from Holland (formerly Greece) and she said "Thanks, dude," with a l'il-sisterly chuck on my shoulder while giving it back. And life went on. Alice told me years later that Elora really did love having that jacket, but I thought she just told me to make me feel better. Maybe I was wrong. Not that anything matters now, but at the time it felt rather intense. Even (especially) the cheap music.

You gave me a tape of Don MacLean (with a little bit of Elton John, 'Empty Garden' thrown in to finish off the side). I played it over and over and over, had it for years, until it finally wore out. It was my second-most listened-to tape after the Kate Bush mix Ruby gave me.

I had quite the crush on you that night.

Funny old world. In hindsight, she could have kept the jacket and more.

Ladies and Gentleman, DH Lawrence.

I didn't encounter the poem until I was sixteen or so, in an otherwise generic 12th grade poetry textbook with the occasional bright spot of Nowlan or Roethke. I read it, got to the end and thought I get it. Unfortunately.

Shall we get up to speed? Having whipped a log at a snake and regretting it, Lawrence settles into a good long sulk:

I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.

And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.

For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.

Once he brings up the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner and that damn bird, I start to glaze over. And here I realize that any flesh-and-blood logic of the Lawrence fixation of times-gone-by falls to bits. I never promised that it made any sense. I didn't have a water trough to wait at, and Elora wouldn't like being compared to a lord of life or male snake at all. I didn't throw any clumsy logs (although muttering 'I can do better than all of you' under my breath on the way down a hallway is impolite at best and a karmic boomerang of epic proportions at worst). But I read that poem and was sure I had earned the last few lines in the way you earn a set of bruises for heading down the stairs too quickly, having chosen to damn the torpedoes and go full speed ahead. I encountered it in countless English/Writing/Poetry classes through University and it always reminded me of Elora.

I don't remember when I stopped twitching at it; there must be a breaking point where it became irrelevant. Let's call it 20yrs back or so. But if the first memory of that poem is that it reminds me of being reminded of a girl, well; attention must be paid. Teen antics combust in daylight. Impact upon literature deserves notice, right?

In absence of the portrait, you can still write about the frame.

And say what you want about the albatross and underworld kings and overwrought TB-ridden Lawrence, his last line still hurts when you're in your teens and feel like you own it.

And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
Of life.
And I have something to expiate:

A pettiness.

As Elora said about her old diaries, How embarrassingly emo. :-P


April 2010


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...


Mike D. said...

Once wouldn't have sufficed?

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