“What is luck when it comes right down to it? How exactly does it differ from fate? Are we really the stories we tell? This, Judge, is just the tip of my iceberg. Grace – I need it – I need it badly. But the thing is, I can’t find it. Is it enough to be a decent mother, a wife or do I need to do something big?” She tucked in, her lemony hot breath puffing in his face. “Answer me this: Do you believe today everyone has the goods to be a champion?”
“Ah,” chuckled Artie Green, “a liberal.”
Three Stages of Amazement, Carol Edgarian
In the aftermath of the heated battle which shall not be mentioned again, I doubted myself. I doubted my ability to champion a cause. I thought about abandoning it. There were a few heated discussions with Darcy, wherein he told me that he would prefer me to channel my creative energies elsewhere. Why, he wanted to know, am I so focused on what lies in my past?
There are creative energies that are being left behind. The unfinished novel. I look to Esperanza with naked envy: she has taken her literary aspirations and turned them into a real, living, breathing, wailing, colic-y book.
At the resort where we stayed, almost every morning I slept in. I knew this act would be disapproved of. I knew I was missing out on activities, sun, life. But I repeated to myself: “Fresh horses, Jessica. Fresh horses.”
I told my mom before we left, “Faces of ALI is the best thing I have ever written.”
She asked me: “Do you know what the favorite work of every writer is?”
“No,” I replied.
“Their current one.”
I read three good novels on vacation. Room, by Emma Donoghue (which I almost didn’t finish: it is that disturbing), Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, and Three Stages of Amazement, by Carol Edgarian. And also, a Sookie Stackhouse novel. After Room. I needed some light relief.
I hadn’t read a novel in over a year.
At the resort, a jovial happy place where smiling seemed de rigueur, cliques didn’t exist and everything was easy, I thought and thought. Why am I the lucky one who gets to enjoy such a place? Shouldn’t I be out in a fishing village volunteering my time? Is it never possible to quell my mind of guilt?
I hung out with native Mexicans and asked them what Mexico was like, now. How was the country holding up in the face of the drug wars?
Armando laid it out for me: “My brother graduated from a top college in engineering. He works at a kind of Bed Bath and Beyond. But he’s lucky. Some of his fellow graduates drive taxis. The economy, it is BAD.”
And the drug wars, I asked?
“Unless you are in a cartel, they don’t concern you. At least, here. In this province.”
Why are some lucky and not others? For the longest time, I thought I was unlucky. I blamed the status anxiety of where I live (where BMWs are called “Basic Marin Wheels”) and the fact that having children was not a given for me. That it took science, a lot of it, to make me a parent. I worried that I am such an anxious mom, compared to others. Compared to the lucky moms on the playground, who I see judging me in their narrowed eyes. Oh, she has twins, you see. Fraternal twins. And you know what THAT MEANS.
They worry that my circumstances will rub off on them. They are afraid. They are scared that life is but a sacred veil: an illusion, that we control nothing, that we are born into a set of parentheses. That nothing is guaranteed except death. That death will come for them, too. For none of us wears an invisibility cloak. Ignotus Peverall only fooled death for a while.
Like David Foster Wallace, vacations make me ponder death. Why, I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that the business of daily living doesn’t permit thoughts of death to enter into my head.
There was a water aerobics instructor who looked like Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise and each day he danced to a special routine to LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” He was in on the joke. He winked. He knew he was helping us bide our time here on this funny, strange, tragic, stunning blue and green ball (I know I’m paraphrasing Anne Lamont here) through his comeliness, his willingness to make himself ridiculous in front of us. To me, he was courageous. For cheerfully reminding us all how absurd life is.
This is sounding depressing. I don’t mean it to.
On the last full day of our trip, Darcy took me on a guided horseback riding trek on a deserted, unfathomably lovely beach. We walked our horses past a crocodile-filled lagoon. And our guide let me gallop down the long, U-shaped bay. As I spurred my horse onwards, I rushed past Darcy and the guide, and felt the salt-filled air fill my lungs and nostrils as I steamed across the beach, fully engaged, completely in control of my running mutt of a filly and we both charged into the distance: crazily, optimistically and at odds with our own skeptical natures. (For the horse stepped carefully and I knew her to be of my mindset.)
And that’s what life is: it’s a gambol. It’s a wild ride of a trek. We don’t control it, though we often think we do.
In the end, I choose to try to champion.
You may not need me, you may well be better off without me, but I need you. You have been my lighthouse in the fog, you have made me laugh, you have made me think, you have made me look.
“A woman could die from a lack of real talk. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it a hundred times. And it’s not the kind of thing that a man can or should provide. In fact, any fellow who doesn’t worship his wife’s girlfriends is a fool.”
Three Stages of Amazement, Carol Edgarian
Thank you, for the real talk. It means more to me than I can say.