Thursday, August 4, 2011
Edgemont Drive by E.L. Doctorow
With age, you see how much of it is invented. Not only what is invisible but what is everywhere visible.
I’m not sure I understand.
Well, you’re still quite young.
Thank you, I wish I felt young.
I’m not talking about one’s self-image. Or the way life can be too much of the same thing day in and day out. I’m not talking about mere unhappiness.
Am I merely unhappy?
I’m in no position to judge. But let’s say melancholy seems to suit the lady.
Oh dear – that it’s that obvious.
But, in any case, whatever our state of mind life seems for most of our lives an intense occupation – keeping busy, competing intellectually, physically, nationally, seeking justice, demanding love, perfecting our institutions. All the fashions of survival. Everything we do to make history, the archive of our inventiveness. As if there were no context.
But there is?
Yes. Some vast – what to call it? Indifference that slowly creeps up on you with age, that becomes more insistent with age. That’s what I am trying to explain. I’m afraid I’m not doing a very good job.
No, really, this is interesting.
I get very voluble on even one glass of sherry.
Thank you. But I am trying to explain the estrangement that comes over one after some years. For some earlier, for others later, but always inevitably.
And to you, now?
Yes, It’s a kind of wearing out, I suppose, As if life had become threadbare, with light peeking through. The estrangement begins in moments, in little sharp judgments that you instantly put out of your mind. You draw back, though you’re fascinated. Because it’s the truest feeling a person can have, and so it comes again and again, drifting through your defenses, and finally settles over you like some cold, very cold light. Maybe I should stop talking about this. It is almost to deny it, talking about it.
No, I appreciate your candor. Does this have something to do with why you’ve come back here – to see where you used to live?
This estrangement is maybe your word for depression.
I understand why you would say that. You see me as the image of some colossal failure – living on the road in a beat-up car, an obscure poet, a third-rate academic. And maybe I am all those things, but I’m not depressed. This isn’t a clinical issue I speak of. It’s a clear recognition of reality. Let me explain it this way: it’s much like I suppose what a chronic invalid feels, or someone on the verge of dying, where the estrangement is protective, a way of abating the sense of loss, the regret, and the desire to live is no longer important. But subtract those circumstances and there I am, healthy, self-sufficient, maybe not the most impressive fellow in the world but one who’s managed to take care of himself quite well and live in freedom doing what he wants to do and without any major regrets. Yet the estrangement is there, the truth has settled upon him, and he feels actually liberated because he’s outside now, in the context, where you can’t believe in life anymore.