Travels

Curriculum Vitae

Taking Stock

Fear of Flying

29 November 2007

Actually, we won't be talking about flying. We'll just take it as understood that my body dislikes turbulence very, very much. It can't believe that turbulence does not make planes crash. (Please don't write to advise me that, under certain circumstances, it does. Refrain!)

What I was really afraid of, aside from flying, as the trip to St Croix drew nearer, was that I would forget the details of my new everyday life. Let's set aside the "new" part for the moment. The prospect of leaving the apartment, even for just a weekend, always sounds the alarm of oblivion: I fear that I will lose the flow, the rhythm of the daily dance that, like a bee, I rely on in order to get things done. The steps of this metaphysical rumba are very intricate, and I know them half-consciously if at all. On the best days, there is an unbroken continuum between the most abstract cogitation and the most repetitive drudgery; sometimes, they preoccupy me at the same time. My house is a densely detailed ecosystem in which everything seems to depend on everything else. If I can't find a book, I won't know what to have for lunch, and the phone will ring at an inopportune moment. I'll be incapable of interesting thought (which for me, alas, is not a problem that's accompanied by writer's block). It is during the bad days that I tend to put down good books, never to pick them up again.

I hadn't had any bad days in quite a while. In fact, I hadn't had any at all since I came home from the hospital at the end of September, my neck in a brace 24/7. What ought to have been a time of dull convalescence was instead a time of incandescent renewal. For the first time really, ever I felt that I understood how to live in this apartment. In every sense, from what kind of notebooks to buy to what sort of friends to keep. It seemed that everything in my life everything except Kathleen, that is came up for some sort of subtle review. And if almost everything stayed pretty much the same, it was all somewhat clearer, as, more importantly, were the relations between things. In case all of this sounds rather too literally fabulous to be true, let me top it by explaining that life was new for a very simple reason: my head was no longer clouded by sluices of gin.

My fear of forgetting was not groundless. It had been realized over and over again for at least twenty years. I would return from a trip only to find that I hadn't a clue about where to begin the day, what to do next. It's great to be your own boss except when you draw a complete blank about what needs to be taken care of. Laboriously reconstructing a routine isn't something that you want to think about having to do.

But my routine never had the easy, euphoric grace of whatever it was that I was dancing in October and November. This really was new and I was heartbroken about losing it. The week before the trip saw me lugubriously bidding adieu to trivialities: "This is the last time that I will open the refrigerator..." I thought that I was afraid of dying in a plane crash, but what I was really, and more realistically, afraid of was losing my mind losing it to the extent, at least, of forgetting the new dance.

I was overlooking something, though. Those sluices of gin. Irrigated by nothing more disruptive than moderations of wine, my head proved itself to be a tougher, more reliable organ. From the moment when I walked through the front door with the sweet air of St Croix still in my nostrils and heaped my bags in the foyer, the rhythm asserted itself palpably. It was as though I had never left.

Except that the brief vacation had done what vacations are supposed to do. I was thoroughly refreshed.

So when I express a fear of flying in the future, that may really be all I'm talking about. (November 2007)

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