Standing on the stairs, the grand stairs they call them in our art school, I exchanged favorite book titles with a colleague who I only recently and randomly learned loved to read fiction as much as I do. I was in the middle of Jonathan Franzen’s Purity, she’d just finished it. I told her I liked Freedom better than The Corrections, but I awkwardly stopped there as I noticed I was stuck. I couldn’t remember the plots, the characters, anything about these stories except that at some point with Freedom, which I read after The Corrections I decided I liked it more. I’ve just finished a Meg Worlitzer book I didn’t enjoy as much as The Interestings which I also don’t remember except it was a group of friends and a camp-something. How does this happen, forgetting the intimacy these stories invite us into? Am I a skimmer or is it because I don’t have to really deeply care?
If it’s true that memory just recalls last memories so then the original real-moment shifts and rearranges, stacks and edits to our advantage (or disadvantage), wouldn’t it be better to forget the plots and just remember the feelings? The facts suggest the emotions but still, wouldn’t it be a good idea to avoid thinking about the last time I pet the dog as the vet’s assistant too-quickly carried her body into their backdoor on Tuesday? I reach for that event in an effort to keep her close but I’d rather…not.
Today my senior students gave me flowers and an almond cupcake because they also knew Obi and several shared my loss of a family pet. Original textured fuzzy kind of greenery I can’t identify framed many kinds of flowers that remind me mostly that I’m not alone. Even without any of Obi’s footsteps in the house now, even though the few kibbles in her bowl remain untouched I’m framed by others who care about Obi, me, their own stories of loving pets. I sat up on the studio window ledge while they walked towards me, flowers in hand with a gesture bigger than the gigantic transparent plastic case that housed the cupcake.
Peripheral vision. This is familiar, my wanting to bring into focus those details that aren’t the names of the characters or the last this or that of the dog. Instead I’ll work to recall the sense of lingering in the backyard as dusk covers us unnoticed while she’d fetch infinite throws of the purple hippo.
There’s nothing left to say but thank you. For the flowers that have little to do with flowers, for today’s snow that covers the last pawprints, and for Obi’s presence that continues in unnamable side-long glances.
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