Tuesday, December 22, 2009

First Day of Spring

From a letter from Belle to J dated 8 July 2008:
"I remember there were wonderful conversations at the dinner table. I remember your father exclaiming, on a cold winter's evening, table lit by candlelight, that he was so happy that tonight was the solstice, the happiest day of the year for him because it meant spring was coming. He said it with such unexpected exuberance that we all laughed."
"Glow in the dark plastic angel, it's the first day of spring..."-Nerissa Nields, March 23, 2003
I've been listening to the Nields album This Town is Wrong these days, popping it in the player when I go for a drive. I've owned the CD for several years, since around the time it first came out, but never got into it, probably because I was so enamored of Love & China that I resisted being distracted from it. Or maybe I just wasn't ready for the songs. But I am now. The album is speaking to me, it's uncanny. Nerissa Nields wrote it as a soundtrack of sorts to a book she wrote, but to me it intertwines with a coherent narrative of my own, relating to J and me.

"Glow in the Dark Plastic Angel," by Nerissa & Katryna Nields

Last Saturday, a cold overcast day, as I followed 9J north this song in particular, which I was hearing for maybe the second or third time, aroused in me a sudden, overpowering sense of déjà vu. Unbidden - I hadn't been reaching - came a memory, or maybe a vision, fully formed. I'm not sure if I am recalling something that actually happened, or if my imagination has invented a compelling simulacrum.

Anyway, I am left with the sense - can't shake it - that way back when, 1975 or early '76, I gave you a present of a little plastic angel. We were in your room. I don't know what the occasion was. Your birthday? Christmas? Winter solstice? The first day of spring? No occasion whatever? I don't know.

Where would I have obtained this red or white plastic object that fit neatly in one's palm? (I don't recall if it glowed in the dark or not. Maybe. But in my mind's eye I'm looking at it in daylight.) Caldor's, on Broad Street at the time? I don't think so. It takes me a couple of days to remember about the head shop on Hope Street in Springdale, near the movie theatre. At the time I didn't really understand what "head shop" meant (such an unsifted innocent was I, pathetic) but I liked the shop because it had lots of beads and batiky things and incense and an alluring, timeless air. I'm wondering if the proprietor, a young woman in bohemian dress behind the counter, might have suggested the angel to me and that I impulsively agreed - why not? - and bought it.

Because such an object - and further, to fetishize it - is not really my style. And so I remember you and I being in your room, your ascetic room where all your studying had been done, and nowadays (college done) other pursuits when safe, and me giving you the angel with a shrug and a laugh, saying, I don't know that I believe in them, but here you are, just in case, it can't hurt. You took it from my hands with puzzled bemusement, a smile and I hope a kiss, and placed it on your desk. And then - who knows what?*

I wonder if this really happened. I feel that it did.

"You came by when everything was broken
Bringing me this token of your love
You laughed and said, "It's only superstition
but I'm making it my mission to relieve you of
This tired broken world.
There's just no way to fight it
Sit down, and be quiet, I won't go
Here's an angel for your desk
It's only a reminder
I'm leaving her behind so you will always know I'm here."

Nerissa Nields

"You came by... in clothes that do not fit you anymore
You sat down in the corner of my bedroom..."
- Nerissa Nields
From a letter from J to Belle, 8 July 2008:
"Do you remember that the first bra I saw you wearing was still a teenage training bra--it was completely inadequate for your full breasts..."


Postscript. Thinking about all of this loosens another fragment of memory. Searching my computerized documents (skirt, panties, nothing else, room, dropped) doesn't yield what I'm after, not in month upon month (July-Dec.) of our 2008 emailed correspondence. Finally, I haul the decrepit cardboard box out from the closet one more time. It's falling apart at the seams, won't hold up much longer. Near the top, in the manila envelope that contains what remains of your old correspondence (5-1/2 letters & a postcard penned at an airport), I find what I was looking for, one more letter, your next to last, dated 15 July 2008, your even print setting forth a memory of me beneath the window on the east side of your room, dressed in a dark blue skirt ...

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