Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Feather on the Breath of God

Image courtesy of www.tumel.wordpress.com
Excerpted from A Feather on the Breath of God, by Sigrid Nunez (1995)

But was it so terrible to be an old maid? I saw myself traveling in foreign cities. Bright sun, ancient stones, the endless noon of the streets and the eternal dusk of the churches. Straw hat, sandals, a white blouse, and a skirt flaring gracefully below the knee. Dinner alone: bread, cheese, fruit. Long train rides, rocking, dreaming. No one knows me. The unfamiliar peace of a hotel room. The narrow bed with its iron bedstead. Faded wallpaper, original paintings touching in their crudeness. No one knows you, you can make yourself up anew every day. This evening you have written two letters and finished the guidebook. You take a long walk, and when the stranger comes, you make love on the narrow bed, no English, speak with the body. And afterward the bed is too small, good night, my dear, never forget, goodbye, goodbye.

Are there really women like this or only women who write stories about women like this?

Someone has said: To be a woman is always to be hiding something.

A woman, a wife, a mother, sits in a cafe with me and talks about this man she calls the love of her life. Out of her life now, as he must be, for he was wrong for her in all ways but one. When she left him for good, she took one of his shirts; she wanted to have something with his smell in it. It was his smell, she says, that drove her beyond reason, drove her to risk everything that was most important to her. "I kept it in a plastic bag in the bottom drawer of my dresser, and from time to time when I cannot resist, I take it out and I bury my face in it.


Kato said...

I had a great aunt who called herself an "old maid", but always seemed perfectly content with her life as a well-traveled, independent single woman. She defied the expectations for her generation, and a shoebox of photos from the twenties of her with various suitors has always made me wonder what she hid... if there are no women like the one in your excerpt, at least there are women who write about such characters, and one day may inspire a young maid to become Her.. (Although the casual sex is pretty risky -- but it's a more satisfying fantasy than a smelly shirt)!

Anonymous said...

My word verification came up today as "split." How ironic. I had just been wondering if you had split from this scene.

Anonymous said...

Any thoughts on the election?

Anonymous said...

Remember the episode of Roseanne where Darlene, depressed, lies on the couch motionless so long at one point that her father, Dan, holds up a mirror to her face to see if she is still breathing?

It shows he cares.