Saturday, October 30, 2010

Back in my room at the Slaviansky Bazaar Hotel. Wintry sun gleams through pewter atmosphere like the bulblight of a film projector on an empty screen. The cats are on the porch outside, each on a cushioned chair around the table, arranged like residents of a posh retirement home. I am upstairs, dressed in layers, cashmere, mock turtleneck, fleece, and crocheted flapper cloche. I went for a walk at the conservation area this morning and thought about how I don't have a dog, and I started playing with the phrases, Lady With a Dog, Lady Without a Dog, Gentleman with a Dog - in other words, I was thinking about the Chekhov short story which I haven't read in a while. Two strangers circling a park, with or without pets - it is a romantic setting to be sure, one hopes something might happen. I don't mean in an unseemly way, I just mean - oh what do I mean? I am tired, despite a nap. Another memory comes to me that I haven't set down - I saw you not so long ago, for I guess the last time, perhaps a month ago or a bit more. I was returning to my car and you were at yours, and I was pulling out of the lot and you seemed to stop and stare - you weren't indifferent - and I as usual continued to bolt but as I pulled out of my space I rolled my window down and when I passed you I waved. I don't remember if you waved too but imagine you must have. I must have noticed your car before I even got in mine, and perhaps you were standing there already, but that's not what I remember - I remember being in my car pulling away and you standing there and me waving. It was a beautiful late morning, maybe around 10:30 or 11. And I was glad to see you but - well that was that, it wasn't more than that. Just that (maybe), oh he's still around, he hasn't disappeared, that's nice, there's a bit of continuity, and friendly recognition, there aren't so very many of us. And another small memory comes to me, crossing paths earlier this spring, it must have been a chilly day because I remember you in your jacket and maybe a cap, and we smiled at each other and said hi and went on our ways. This was - where? - so hard to describe spots in that park - I have to resort to almost plannerly descriptions. Let's see, perhaps about 100 yards north of the parking area, right around the place where the east/west shortcut path bisects the park. God I was always terrible at those technical descriptions. Well, if it was you then you remember - you know, that place on that path, past the muddy stretch, and before you get to the woods! Or perhaps you're reading this thinking, no that wasn't me at all who is she going on about? No I met you at an LWRP meeting, or behind the fish counter at the supermarket, or -- well, all that's doubtful and if I seem downright psychic about who I imagine you might be it's a testament to how incredibly few people I come into any contact with whatsoever!

So I am babbling away here in the lovely private space of the Slaviansky Bazaar Hotel, my dear Dmitri. Because I went and googled Chekhov Lady Dog text and read the short story online, and then a wonderful essay about it by the poet Dana Gioia, which helped bring it into instant focus.

It is nice to have this little private space to commune. I hadn't thought of my blog in precisely that way before, but now I do, and what a lovely gift. I'm glad I can have a double life, a room of my own, in this sense. I'm glad you come to visit, I really am.
And Anna Sergeyevna began coming to see him in Moscow. Once in two or three months she left S----, telling her husband that she was going to consult a doctor about an internal complaint -- and her husband believed her, and did not believe her. In Moscow she stayed at the Slaviansky Bazaar hotel, and at once sent a man in a red cap to Gurov. Gurov went to see her, and no one in Moscow knew of it.

Once he was going to see her in this way on a winter morning (the messenger had come the evening before when he was out). With him walked his daughter, whom he wanted to take to school: it was on the way. Snow was falling in big wet flakes.

"It's three degrees above freezing-point, and yet it is snowing," said Gurov to his daughter. "The thaw is only on the surface of the earth; there is quite a different temperature at a greater height in the atmosphere."

"And why are there no thunderstorms in the winter, father?"

He explained that, too. He talked, thinking all the while that he was going to see her, and no living soul knew of it, and probably never would know. He had two lives: one, open, seen and known by all who cared to know, full of relative truth and of relative falsehood, exactly like the lives of his friends and acquaintances; and another life running its course in secret. And through some strange, perhaps accidental, conjunction of circumstances, everything that was essential, of interest and of value to him, everything in which he was sincere and did not deceive himself, everything that made the kernel of his life, was hidden from other people; and all that was false in him, the sheath in which he hid himself to conceal the truth -- such, for instance, as his work in the bank, his discussions at the club, his "lower race," his presence with his wife at anniversary festivities -- all that was open. And he judged of others by himself, not believing in what he saw, and always believing that every man had his real, most interesting life under the cover of secrecy and under the cover of night. All personal life rested on secrecy, and possibly it was partly on that account that civilised man was so nervously anxious that personal privacy should be respected.

After leaving his daughter at school, Gurov went on to the Slaviansky Bazaar. He took off his fur coat below, went upstairs, and softly knocked at the door.
Actually, I find the Anna character more than a little tedious with all her weeping and handwringing. I relate more to Dmitri Gurov. Though I've always been faithful - well, emotionally, in the last two years, not always. What I mean is that I like having this private little space where I can be myself and express myself. It's not the same at all as writing in a journal or burying notes in a box. I am glad that you like to come by and listen.

Must go see about tiny new potatoes - 9 of them with dinner tonight - and a salad - and two little steaks, though no shallots.

I am quite sure you're a better character overall than Dmitri Gurov - all the same - XOXO

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