Friday, August 1, 2008

The Ogre

The Singing Valentino-gram my wife sent me on Feb 14th of our senior year (a fund raising item for one of our high school's choral groups) ensured I knew she was interested. It referred to me as the "Epitome of Arrogance" and said, "Everyone is looking at you." Since I received it while she was there to watch, in physics class, everyone was, indeed, looking at me. Then they looked at the physics teacher, who also received one. Then they looked at me again, as I received a second one (this did not please the physics teacher, who had, a moment ago, been delighted by the whole thing, and now seemed to treat it as a waste of valuable class time). (It also did not please my bride-to-be, who had no idea who sent it.)

We lived around the corner from each other, it turned out, and I came around the Saturday after the Valentine, in a rare NC snow fall, to take her for a walk. It was the first of hundreds of walks. From the beginning I felt like a bull in a china shop, because she was so quiet and shy, and I had no idea how to handle the silences, the subtle signals, and the short responses she gave my various flights of fancy. I grew up in a loud, Italian sort of family, and everything was all out on the surface most of the time. Here was someone much more interior, much harder to read. Eventually we came to think of me as the ogre (I'm not sure which of us came up with it) - and our relationship as something of a beauty and the beast affair. I was given to volume, hyperbole, bombast, bluster, and familiar teenage male posturing. The name fit well enough.

Later, when we were separated for most of a year and a half at different colleges (I at East Carolina University art school, in Greenville, NC and she at MIT, in Cambridge, MA) we wrote frequent letters, and I often signed mine Ogre, and she signed hers Wren. When I made a trip up to Boston to visit, her dorm in Cambridge had some tiny guest rooms, and I got one for the week. On the door was a slot for a name tag, and I drew one of letters made of bones, and inserted it. This got her some comments and remarks from roommates and friends in the dorm.

We still have that name tag somewhere - I've seen it in some box of memorabilia from our past, or in one of my journals. It feels like a million years ago - or the day before yesterday.

>>>> Appendix de Grenuoille #15 <<<<
Time, to Grenouille, is like a paper balloon. He can inflate it until a moment seems to last an hour, or he can collapse it so days go by in a flash, as time goes by when we sleep. Perhaps it's his hibernation instinct that allows this, but with sophistication and eduction Grenouille has learned to do this magic on demand, not just once a year like his wild cousins.

And so he can get inside time, and live in it's pocket. He can rearrange it so that Christmas can always be tomorrow, and he can sit among the colored lights and think of presents to open, and eggnog (imagine him drinking eggnog with his drinkin' buddy). This means that Grenouille is never without hope or courage or the calm certainty that tomorrow will bring a picnic on the lawn with champaign and caviar, because he can be whenever, and he has a rich life of memories for his imagination to craft into whatever he needs right now.

And now? Now can be prolonged if it's fine and sunny, or shrunk to smaller than a raisin if the weather is bad.

6 comments:

DCup said...

That is such a lovely post, Steve. How wonderful to have known each other so young and to have grown together like you have.

And as for M. Grenouille, I think I would like his ability to shift time to suit. That sounds like a really useful talent!

Steve Emery said...

DCup - We met in our Senior year - but I feel like we knew each other longer - as if we knew each other in Junior High or something. Our experiences there were similar and similarly painful - and both in the Poughkeepsie area of New York at that time (though we were about 30 miles apart and never met).

We are grateful we grew together instead of apart.

So when and how did you and Mathman meet? You also look very young in that photo you posted of the two of you (on your other blog, I think - the "icky" one). You both already look intense in that one.

linda said...

I think froggie needs to teach..don't you? I need to be his first student and I need a new teacher anyway, mine having died on me....so ask him, k?

xoxo - xo to f.

linda said...

oops forgot the other part of my comment which was:

I met my dh in high school too, in the summer of our senior year...weird world! he was and still is, MOST of the time, my best friend..

xo

DCup said...

I love how you felt some kind of parallel from before you met.

I put up a post that explains how MathMan and I met. It's at that icky relationship blog. Thanks for prompting it.

Steve Emery said...

Linda - Grenouille would be happy to teach time stretching by way of the Internet Frog Correspondence School. The first lesson is simple - move your eyes to the sides of your head (a little higher than where your ears are). When you've got that lesson down pat, post a self portrait on your blog, so Grenouille can adjust the position (this is the "over the Internet" part of the process). Once that lesson is done well enough to enable the time stretch, he'll help you with the next step, which is adjusting the number of teeth you have. It's essential to have the correct froggy number: two, on top only. Lesson three involves the tongue - it has to be connected at the front of the mouth...

DCup - I can't wait to scurry over to Unglued for that story of how you and Mathman met. But I'm going to wait until I get into that mellow mood I have after dinner. Something to do with carbs and wine (or maybe beer, if I cook out - a Red Stripe would be nice).