Monday, September 28, 2015

Sept Jours

Seven days is all she wrote, a kind of relationship eviction note. I looked on the paper for further instructions, but none were forthcoming. I carefully folded it, and placed it in my wallet just in case some brilliant inspiration or complete collapse of memory happened in the next seven days. I considered both to be very unlikely. Inspiration doesn't come at the wave of your outstretched hand like the garcon at the high dollar restaurant at which you can't afford to eat, nor does memory just erase itself like a blackboard after a particularly difficult lesson on Leibniz's calculus. Never understood the calculus, but I could do simple maths, and that simple calculation gave me the total of 168 hours. 168 hours to convince the woman I was in love with that I am the man she needs me to be, and her long search for a soul mate has come to an end.

Of course just in case the task itself wasn't difficult enough, she decided to leave town after writing the note. So much for my charming personality sweeping her off her feet in person. Climbing the tallest building in this burg, and pouring my heart out onto its rooftops sounds a lovely idea, but if she's not around to hear it, I would probably just be arrested for criminal trespass and disturbing the peace. I suppose the taller the mountain the more enjoyment one gets upon reaching the top, but I've never really been the outdoorsy type.  Therefore the task became how to convince her of all the benefits of being in a relationship with me, whilst she was over a thousand miles away from me. Flowers? Candy?  A Kate Spade purse? All of those things are both a) predictable, b) passe, c) need to be delivered, and in the case of the latter, bloody expensive, not that money was necessarily an object. I mean how much would you spend, if spending mattered, to convince the woman you love to make this decision? Also, addressing the card, always a tricky thing to do, would be difficult. Even if you got the "message" part dead on (unlikely), address unknown would make it very hard for the postman to perform his assigned duty. Rain, snow, and dark of night might not stop the mailman, but "she's about a thousand or so miles that way" might perturb him a bit.

 With the usual suspects in the art of wooing a woman being denied to me, and not being an expert in this field, I began to despair. How does one woo a woman that isn't around? How do you convince someone you're not a liar (which I am), a cheat (which I have been), and not going to get bored with her (which is impossible, she is too wildly, wonderfully unpredictable for boredom to ever be a problem)? To prove a negative is very, very hard, to prove three of them, why not ask me to change the colour of the moon? At least that, in theory could probably be done, though I would probably have to stage a hostile takeover of NASA, and then be sent to federal prison for a very, very long time, but at least the theory is sound, or as sound as any theory can be that involves taking over a major government agency for his personal benefit. These negatives, which I have, in the past, possessed in abundance, were going to be quite difficult to overcome. She had, rot her, some very valid concerns as to my veracity, loyalty, and ability to fight off ennui. All three had been, either singly, or in conjunction with each other, the death knell of various relationships of mine.

However, time is a wonderful thing, and as Da Vinci said experience is the queen of invention, and since I am fast approaching an age that I shudder to consider, and being a "man of the world" type, I figure that I do have a couple of things going for me. One hundred and sixty-eight hours might seem a long time, it really isn't. Take away the hours I will spend sleeping, and the hours I have to work, and the number of hours that I can devote to this thorny problem drops dramatically. The good news, if there is any good news, is that even while working I am allowed my own thoughts. They might be able to chain my body to a desk, but my thoughts can take flight whenever, and to where ever they choose.  That's the joy of an imagination, they (whomever they are) might have their knee in your balls, and their fist in your face, but they cannot stop the freedom of your thoughts.

I have been called (or rather accused) of being a large "R" romantic in the past, and she even referred to as a "persistent romantic asshole". Not exactly sure it was a compliment, but I chose to take it as a non-insult, beggars can't be choosers.  I determined that this romanticism was one of the few useful tools I possessed in the task before me, and while I might be an awkward sod in the wooing women sweepstakes, I know a lot of fellows who weren't. Granted most of them are as dead as dead can be, and none of their situations exactly matched mine, but again beggars can't be choosers. Armed with as much classical education as my student loans could buy, I began to search among the shadowy recesses of my memory for inspiration. It was in the theatre  of my imagination that I eventually found it. After all, being classically educated must have some benefit other than winning bar tabs at trivia contests right?

 My first stop along the inspiration highway was Peter Abelard and his great love Heloise, a well known love story from that cradle of romance, France. Parts of it are tragic, and parts of it are magic, but that is the nature of all enduring love stories. Regardless of all the tragic details the magic of their story is that a tradition still exists today were lovers or lovelorn singles leave notes on Peter and Heloise's shared grave in the tribute to the couple or the hope of finding true love. Of course that would require a trip to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, but that is not that difficult to do, and if it were to work it would be a trip worth taking.

Second is the Italian poet Petrarch and his love Laura. Another somewhat sad tale of unrequited love, but nevertheless a love that inspired some brilliant bloody poetry. Our lover boy was so smitten that he wrote one love poem a day for a year about his lady love. I have in the past written a blog post a day, and I can tell you it's a lot of work. They were simple, crude, and the opposite of poetry. To be so inspired by love to write lines such as this:

Oh blessed be the day, the month, the year,
the season and the time, the hour, the instant,
the gracious countryside, the place where I was
struck by those two lovely eyes that bound me;

and blessed be the first sweet agony
I felt when I found myself bound to Love,
the bow and all the arrows that have pierced me,
the wounds that reach the bottom of my heart.

And blessed be all of the poetry
I scattered, calling out my lady's name,
and all the sighs, and tears, and the desire;

blessed be all the paper upon which
I earn her fame, and every thought of mine,
only of her, and shared with no one else.

That, ladies and gentlemen is talent. It is talent, inspired by love and I couldn't come close to expressing that type of feeling to my lady friend even if I were to live to be a thousand years old. Again, as with Peter and Heloise, Petrarch's love story didn't end with the sun shining and the birds singing, but that does not diminish the talent or the love. I did say that the situations of all my inspirations were different than mine. I've no wish to be castrated like Abelard, nor to have my love be unrequited like Petrarch. I am merely using them, and their words/actions to attempt to woo a woman. A woman who inspires me just as much as Heloise did Abelard, and just as much Laura did Petrarch. They just have much more talent than I do with the written word.

Stage three on my trip through the land of the inspired is the Immortal Bard himself, William Shakespeare. He could provide me reams and reams of words with which to convince my lady of my love, but I chose to use the somewhat trite Romeo and Juliet, but not in the way most people would. I chose to quote Friar Laurence's speech to Romeo about his lady love prior to Juliet, the fair Rosaline. 

Is Rosaline, whom thou didst love so dear,

So soon forsaken? Young men’s love then lies

Not truly in their hearts, but in their eyes.

Jesu Maria, what a deal of brine

Hath washed thy sallow cheeks for Rosaline!

How much salt water thrown away in waste

To season love that of it doth not taste!

The sun not yet thy sighs from heaven clears,

Thy old groans ring yet in my ancient ears.

Lo, here upon thy cheek the stain doth sit

Of an old tear that is not washed off yet.

If e'er thou wast thyself and these woes thine,

Thou and these woes were all for Rosaline.

And art thou changed? Pronounce this sentence then:

Women may fall when there’s no strength in men.
Rightly calling Romeo to carpet for his previous mooning about over the fair Rosaline, and his subsequent shift to Juliet, our good priest questions how love could be so inconstant. Rightfully so, our Romeo is only a 16 year old boy. The love story that we all like to think of as a prime example of true love is merely an infatuation between two love struck teenagers. Certainly there are some wonderful lines in the play, and Mercuito's Queen Mab speech is one of the greatest speeches of all time, but let's not forget we are talking about the Middle Ages' version of Beverly Hills 90210.  

I have long since left my teenage years and my teenage angst behind. I am no longer the inconstant lover that is Romeo. There are no fair Rosaline's waiting off stage for me anymore, and that is the way I prefer it. The woman I have seven days to woo is my fair Juliet (though the bloom of teenage youth has also left her cheeks), and to answer Friar Laurence's query as to where the strength in men, it is right here. In these words that I am spilling out on to this (e) paper, explaining my desire to be the man she needs me to be. I have screwed my courage up to the sticking point (to again quote the Bard), and have decided to make the effort necessary.
Next we have another Englander, one Robert Herrick. M. Herrick was a life long bachelor, and his muse was named Julia. It appears that Julia is not one woman, but more of a symbol of love. Again not a perfect match with my situation, for I have the one woman in mind, and what she is a symbol for is not in doubt. But, Herrick could write lines like this about "Julia's" voice.

 So smooth, so sweet, so silv'ry is thy voice
As, could they hear, the damn'd would make no noise,
But listen to thee, walking in thy chamber,
Melting melodious words to lutes of amber. 
He wrote a string of poems addressed to his Julia, and each are quite breathtaking. Maybe for Herrick the ideal of Julia was what he needed an ideal woman to serve as his muse. Maybe there was a real life Julia, and my limited scholarship has yet to unearth her. It matters not, to be able to write those types of poems is again talent incarnate. I can only sit, admire, applaud, and steal his words to use upon my own Julia who is not an ideal, but who is all too real.

There are other points of inspiration too numerous to list, or this post would turn into an epic. Byron, Keats, Coleridge, Krudy, Roth, Zweig, and others have given me the framework for my large "R" romanticism. Each have the talent I wished I possessed in the art of stringing together words into phrases that take the breath away from the plodders of the written word such as myself. The last source of inspiration that I will quote is a fellow by the name of Tyler Farr, who wrote a song titled "A Guy Walks into a Bar".  I have walked into several bars in my life, and though it doesn't exactly happen this way, there was that one time.

A guy walks into a bar, orders a drink
Sees a girl that catches his eye
Asks her if she wants another
They fall for each other and end up lovers
They laugh, cry, hold on tight, make it work for a little while
Then one night her taillights fade out into the dark
And a guy walks into a bar
I'd laugh too if my heart would let me
Keeping it light will probably help to get me over you
I'm walking, talking, drinking proof
A cliché in a corner booth
Ain't nothing new

Again not the happiest of endings, but that minor detail need not detain us for very long. The feeling is still the same. Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walked into mine. I haven't exactly been the same since. I have yet to see her taillights fade out into the dark in the terminal way that M. Farr's character does, and I hope I never do.  I have been that cliche in the corner of the bar, (I don't sit in booths), and I know how it feels, and I know that drinking isn't going to solve, replace, or prove anything. There is no true answer in the bottom of a bottle, I know, I've looked. Truth be told, if in these seven days I don't step foot in a bar, and it is unlikely I will, I won't miss it one bit. She is worth giving up the bar scene for, she is worth giving up much more than that. The trick is, and it is a hard trick is making her believe I'm willing to do it.

And so, all these words that I've stolen from all those talents fellows using their wits and thoughts to convince the love of their respective lives that she is, in fact, the love of their life, are just that words. Words that are pretty, words that are sad, words that make people happy, words that make people mad. Words are but one (albeit important) part of the equation. "They" say (whoever they are) that actions speak louder than words. I don't know if that's true or not. Perhaps actions coupled with words are the way to go. To promise to do something is easy, a mere bagatelle, we all make promises some of them we even plan to keep. To follow that promise with the action it implies is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Any damn fool can say he will be there, that he will be there for the woman they love, that they will be the man she needs him to be, but it takes a special type of fool to follow those words by actually doing it. And I'd rather love and be loved for the fool that I am, than to not take this chance. This once in a lifetime woman deserves no less. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

William Sans-Amis Part II

University is a time to explore things, your mind, other students bodies, the limits of your ability to consume alcohol and still live, and numerous other things. You may, if you are so inclined, actually crack open a book, apply yourself to your chosen field, and come out of the experience with a fine education. That is if you apply yourself. William was the type to apply himself, and the benefits of his classical education, pursued with some vigor were soon to become apparent to a lot of people.  I suppose his lack of social graces brought on by the household in which he was raised, and the stutter combined to focus William on the important things about getting an education Or maybe, more likely, he just was a shade bit smarter than the rest of us, and while we were belting out the school's fight song, and stealing the rival university's mascot, he was reading and writing, writing and reading. Good on him.

He wasn't all a dull boy, and I did manage to get him out on the town a few times, when he could be torn away from his books and his pen. To both of our surprise, we found out that after a few pints his stutter got significantly better. It was still noticeable, but it became much less pronounced. At first we chalked it up to me being in my cups so badly that I wouldn't have noticed an elephant sitting on the bar stool next to me, much less his stutter, or lack thereof. However, a couple of more drinking sessions, in which we experimented with him talking to sober people, such as the barmaid, led us to determine that our first conclusion was true. Drunk William's stutter was much hardly to detect even if you were (sadly) sober. It was probably the most exciting, and tragic discovery William could have made. Beer helped him loosen the shackles of all the inhibitors, (like it does for all of us), in his life, and gave him the ability to express himself verbally for what was probably the first time, at least to other people. Granted beer has that affect upon a lot of us, but most of us weren't born with, or raised with the external inhibitors that William was, and beer became almost a curative for him.

To his credit, he was mostly moderate in his drinking, even after discovering that it helped his stammer. He told me once that even though it was liberating to be able to speak more clearly, the problem was "o-o-other ... p.p.people j.just aren't a l-lot of f-f-fun to t-talk to." I could have told him that and saved him several days of hangover, but on the whole I think finding out booze helped was a good thing for him. If I had possessed his brains and his way with words, and could talk to people as well as he could drunk, well I might have never sobered up, but William, drunk or sober, had a plan. Or at least, I found out later, after most of it was said and done that he had a plan. William was from the old school that believed telling someone your plan was a sure fire way to scupper it, therefore, he kept his plan to himself until it was about seventy five percent implemented.

The first part of William's plan was quite simply revenge. A childhood of being verbally abused by his class mates had given William reams of material, and an active imagination coupled with creative talent provided him an outlet to revenge himself upon those abusers.  William begin writing for the school paper, and a first it was your usual school paper fare, but his talent was obvious, and he eventually convinced the editor to begin to allow him to write short stories. It was in these short stories that William exacted his revenge. Characters, under different names, shared a more than passing resemblance  to school mates of his. These characters did not come off at all well in William's stories. He was a clever man, and clever enough to obfuscate the people he was skewering just enough to have plausible deniability.  I knew, most of the time, whom he was referring to, and a couple of times had to ask him if one of his less odious characters was a literary version of myself. He shook his head in denial, but the smirk on his face raised some doubts.

True be told, I probably deserved a skewering about as much as the rest of our mates, but that didn't mean I had to tell William that, though I suspect he knew. He was fond of saying that a good story, with a good character was one that could have each different reader pause and wonder if perhaps the story was about them. At least the readers that knew him. "I-If they-y can s-s-see them-m-mselves in my s-s-stories, then m-m-maybe they will w-w-want to r-r-read more of m-m-my s-s-stuff." he would say, and then refuse to identify anyone of his characters for certain. It was wildly frustrating at times, but overall it worked like a charm. A lot of people would read his stuff, and inquire as to whom he was referring to in the story. He would smile enigmatically, and say " I d-d-do have a-an imagination, y-y-y know." I did know he had an imagination, but I also knew that he was drawing on life experiences that he had lived through, and was sticking little needles into people who had treated him badly as a child.

Upon his graduation from university, William was, not surprisingly, offered immediate employment. His writing skills had not gone unnoticed and two provincial newspapers both wanted him to join their staff. At first, he was quite chuffed, the job market being what it was any employment offer was a good employment offer. To get two of them so suddenly was a clear indication of his talent. Though he, as humble as usual, just said "T-T_They m-m-must b-b-be desperate t-t-to f-f-fill blank pages."  Not being in the newspaper business, I didn't know if it was talent or desperation that got William his job offers, but I was eager to see which paper he would chose. His annual income that had been his parent's true legacy was nearly exhausted (university is not cheap), and William needed a job just like the rest of us.

The two papers (The Voice and The Eagle) weren't exactly The Times, but for a fellow starting out they offered a chance to express himself, and to keep the wolves from the door. The problem is that William had larger ambitions, and did not care for either offer. "T-T-There's n-n-nothing between t-t-them, they a-a-are too s-similar to r-r-really choose between, a-a-and t-t-they are i-in this b-b-backwater." Or at least that what he told me, as he was pondering which one, if either, paper to choose. The problem was,for William, quite simple he realized that everyone starts at the bottom, unless their uncle owns the place. And the bottom was not a place that William thought was for him.  Of course he was right, but that didn't mean that he was going to be the headline foreign correspondent for the leading paper of the capital on his first day. He wasn't exactly a step skipper, but William had a great deal of talent, and didn't mind showing it. He never really grasped the idea that talent is great, but you still have to "play the game." 

William was not adept at "playing the game" his isolated childhood had not prepared him for the office politics of a major (for the provinces) newspaper, and he didn't want any part of it. He was filled with horror of the idea of an office environment, seeing it as just a grown up version of grade school were people are just cruel to each other in more adult ways. He was not enthralled with the idea of writing about "ladies socials, and the local football club's poor form" for a few years, and moving up the editorial ladder in the conventional way. That's why he made the decision he made.

That decision was to say no to both of them, and cash in his annual earning to "see the world" and to attempt to live by his pen. It was a bold decision, and I must confess I was a be jealous that he had the ability and the balls to make it. That was around 4 years ago, and I haven't see William since. I have only recently heard that he may (or may not) be in a Turkish prison, and that we "may not be seeing him for a while, if ever again". That is why I felt compelled, and free to write the sad tale of Billy No-Mates. I hope for a good result for William, and as one of his few "mates" hope to someday hear that he is out of the Turkish prison (if that is, in fact, where he is), but for now not all stories have a happy ending, even Billy No-Mates would have told you that.