On Wednesday in the afternoon I go to Christie Pits and read from The Road Past Altamont by Gabrielle Roy—a book I must have first read ten or perhaps eleven years ago (and now must read again, because I am teaching it). The long story “The Old Man and the Little Girl,” a story about visiting Winnipeg beach for a city dweller who never imagined she could see anything so grand. Tonight the story “The Move,” about the desire to pick up, to leave things behind, but to also get a kind of homesickness on the road. Whereas the first story is in part about the triumph of following unlikely desires, the second is about being sometimes confronted their sordidness, their disappointing vulgarity and mundaneity (as I have written here before, Marina Tsvetaeva confronts this too, in her essay “My Pushkin,” ironically disappointed by the sea that does not match the sea that she has learned, first, from Pushkin’s poetry). Yesterday I think afterwards, on my way back home, of how much I liked reading Roy’s story, even though it also brought a certain amount of pain (I will never know Roy’s Winnipeg, not through the eyes of an intimate). But I liked the pattern of thought that it seemed to produce in me, liked thinking not of Roy’s young protagonist exactly but in the voice of the retrospective narrator, yearning and dreamy and curious. It made it worth being confronted with so much loss—how strange that the names of even places you have never been can become embodied with so much pain!
I find something like a kind of shame that I still feel this way—find it, at the very least, annoying. I know that I am not being charitable to myself. But I would like, somehow, to speed past this moment (I am impatient for a kind of resolution, for closure, for new beginnings—impatient in a way that I know has caused harm). I feel like a character in a Murakami novel—I know I need to surrender, but I don’t know how. One day I will. But for the moment, I’m going in circles, looking up and down cramped alleys for my lost cat, my cat which may one day come back but only after I get as low as possible, in order to meet it on its level, or at least to try to understand.