Sunday, February 21, 2010

Essay of the week - The Things I've Lost...

... in which the idea of loss as a "slow ascent that some might refer to as maturation" is explored by the writer Brian Arundel:


By Brian Arundel

Fleece hat and gloves: in the backseat of a Boston cab in 2002, before driving back to Maine. Round, purple sunglasses: in an Atlanta pool hall over drinks with Ashby, whose wife was determined to save their marriage by having a baby. A measurable dose of self-skepticism: at about 14, when I realized I was very good at both playing violin and baseball, while not necessarily everyone else was. A school-wide presidential election in sixth grade, after I was drafted to run by Mrs. Sticoiu, the most frightening teacher in the school, while I was out of town. A copy of The Little Prince, in Mrs. Sticoiu’s class the previous year. A floppy disk that contained my paper on ideological subversion in Wendell Berry, the first essay I’d written after returning to graduate school following a four-year respite. A black scarf from Pigalle: somewhere in Maine before moving west.

The chance to kiss Leslie Wertmann, and, later, that redhead in seventh grade with a smile that could buckle steel—Kim, Christine, or Kathleen maybe—and the blonde at the freshman dance because I couldn’t recognize flirtations, even when told that I looked like Bruce Springsteen. My virginity: in 1980, a couple weeks short of 16, in a ritual so brief, awkward and forgettable that I have, in fact, forgotten it. My heart, or so I thought, in 1985, when Susie dumped me; my naivete, three months later, when I learned that she’d slept with at least three other guys I knew while we’d been dating.

Belief that my mother was somehow more than human: in 1972, the first time I saw her fall down after getting drunk. Belief that my father was more than human: a few months beforehand, after learning that he’d had an affair and was being thrown out of the house... A ten-dollar bill on a DC subway in 1985, on my way home to my friend Tommy’s, where I was staying after leaving my father’s house—after he’d moved back in, once my mother remarried and moved south.

The chance, in 1986, to meet Raymond Carver: the only person invited to sit in on an interview, I instead drank all night with friends and overslept... My shit, figuratively, that same summer when Bob Weir sang “Looks Like Rain” just as my acid trip was peaking at a two-night Dead stand in Roanoke, Va. The Buick a friend had given me as a tax write-off in 1996, which I let someone take for a test drive without holding collateral.

The thought that officials were somehow more evolved than those who elect them: in 1972, listening to my father explain the Watergate burglary. Faith in politics—particularly a two-party system relegated to fundraising contests perpetuated by shallow sound bites, mudslinging and outright lies for the Mindless American Voter so that each party can pursue a majority with which to repress the other, with complete disregard for actually trying to improve the lives of citizens: gradually over time, culminating in 2000. Fundamental hope that Americans really would overcome their vacuity, fear and greed to evolve beyond sheep determined to re-elect George W. Bush: 2004.

The ability to drink until late at night and go to work the next day without feeling like I need to be zipped inside a body bag: sometime in my early thirties. General insecurity and inadequacy: during the past seven years, as I’ve tried to allow myself to be loved without guilt or judgment. Self-pity and -importance, at least most days, while striving to look beyond the borders of my own desires in a steady ascent that some might refer to as maturation... A black beret: in a Minneapolis bar, just a few days before relocating to Georgia in 1993. A taste for soy sausage patties: inexplicably, sometime in the past six months, leading up to a Saturday brunch three weeks ago.


Brian Arundel received an MFA in creative writing from Louisiana State University, and his fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals, including Mid-American Review, Under the Sun, The Strange Fruit and Bryant Literary Review. He works as an editor in Seattle, where he lives with his wife, Manuela.


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