October 27, 2009

Bedtrick

Last week I reminded D. about Canada and he answered, Clive Owen. One of Owen’s movies we both love is entitled Duplicity. No one is who they seem to be.

When we were together we often spoke in code to one another. For days on end we couldn’t remember the name of the actress in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, a movie we both love because no one is who they seem. We’d come up with Lee Remick when it was Eva Marie Saint. From then on whenever either one of us couldn’t remember something, the other would say “Lee Remick,” as code for the problem and the movie we both loved and we’d laugh .

Neither of us is who we seem: separated and free to choose. Learning this has been a journey that seems a bit like The Wizard of Oz, the movie most of us grew up with where Dorothy wears ruby slippers, magical shoes that she does not learn until story’s end will send her home with a click of her heels.

We were two years separated when D. asked me to go to Canada with him: French Canada: Montreal, Quebec. We entered the elegant Hotel Nelligan on the old street near the water, 106, Saint-Paul West. French spoken everywhere.

We ate soft boiled eggs in the morning, croissants that we tried unsuccessfully to resist and drank good French wine, ate good bistro steak salads or Asian salmon in the evenings, sitting on their upper deck trying to remember Clive Owen’s name.

We slept in a double sheeted bed on 400 thread count linens. In the best hotels, your blanket lies inside a duvet with another flat sheet on top so that all you feel are the crisp clean sheets each night you climb into bed.

But I felt short-sheeted on this trip. Remember that prank? Short-sheeted because I waited for D. to make love to me: We were on vacation together. We were sleeping in the same bed. On day five of the trip, I asked, “Will we make love?” He answered, “I would like to.”

This makes me think of Wendy Doniger’s book The Bedtrick, where she begins this way, “You go to bed with someone you know, and when you wake up you discover that it was someone else—another man or another woman, or a woman instead of a man, or a god, or a snake or a foreigner or alien, or a complete stranger or your own wife or husband, or your mother or father. This is what Shakespearean scholars call ‘the bedtrick’—sex with a partner who pretends to be someone else.” In her prologue she refers us to plays we know where not knowing who is who intrigues and answers: In Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac and the film version Roxanne, a movie with Steve Martin and Darryl Hannah that I love. In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a play I often return to for Feste the jester’s words when accused by Maria, Olivia’s lady-in-waiting: My lady will hang thee for thy absence, and Feste answers, Let her hang me. He that is well-hanged in this world needs to fear no colors, with its proverbial dare and its double entendre and where the fool is anything but.

Let me embarrass D. further by telling you that he is indeed well-hung—thus, my despair in Canada.

We were a long way from Paris, my metaphor for the Rom-Com ending.

Let us now use Canada as the metaphor for marriage.

When we return, I assume that we are reconciling. But he tells me all must remain the same. He is not ready. I am inconsolable. I seek counseling. I seek an exit strategy: Emergency egress. Do not retract dead bolt.

I write him. It is a last ditch effort that speaks for its desperate self. Trust me: What follows does not speak well for me:

Dear D.,

I miss you. I’ve been missing you for a long time I now realize.

I know I am angry but I am still very much in love with you. You have hurt me so deeply that I fear I may never recover, may never be able to love another and may never be able to fully part from you. I sometimes think I am going to die from this heartbreak and what I perceive as your coolness towards me. You have been cool towards me for so long that I don’t think you even know how long. But I have waited. I was waiting. I am still waiting. I am quite mixed up and what I write will probably anger you. I fear that anger so profoundly that I hardly know where to start. But I cannot help the fact that I still must admit that I love you even if I can never have with you what I thought we once had and maybe did have.

I need to be loved again, desired again, fought for, if you will. I know that is too much to ask.

I am offering my hand to you. I know that I offer that hand with much trepidation and that I want some things to be made up to me, childish as that is.

I can no longer cry my way back to you. I have done too much of that over the years and have been deeply wounded by weeping in closets and on floors and in desperation to get you back. I can no longer have you that way. I don’t want anyone that way; I don’t ever again want to be humiliated the way I have been. But I still believe that we may have something that we built and that is worth saving. But I cannot keep trying to get you alone. I must know that you are trying to get me, too.

Eventually, I may wear out and move on, whether or not I can find love. I may move on out of loneliness. I may have to as I crave intimacy so, don’t really find life worth living without it. I don’t mean that as a threat. I mean it as E.M. Forster says in his epigraph to Howard’s End: ‘Only connect …’ He defines who I am in the world and who I must be. But you are inside me, and that will never change.

We will live apart. We must now. I finally understand that. But what I have written is worth saying, I think.

Mary

His reply: Of course I’ve saved it, for here is the bedtrick*:

M,

My reaction to this is anything but anger. I don’t react angrily to much anymore. On the contrary, what you write is so heartfelt, it is deeply touching. I know I have been cool, but it doesn’t mean I don’t have similar feelings for you. I could not have gotten so deep inside you without you getting just as deep inside me. My coolness is, I guess ironically, part of my healing, at least initially. I know you are frustrated by this and want to be ‘engaged’ and part of my healing. But I am afraid—afraid of doing the same things to you that I did before.

The potential for damage and setbacks is still great. I need get to some level of confidence about myself. I don’t know that I can explain better at this point, but I hope you can somehow accept that, for now. I do want to be engaged with you, but it may be less intimate right now than you would prefer. Please know that I am aware of that—I am beginning to understand what intimacy is. And while it is not yet what you want, please also know that I am trying to get there.

D.

I have come to understand that what I think I know, I don’t know.

Case in point: Did you know that Dorothy’s shoes in L. Frank Baum’s book were silver?**

We had been to Canada. Where is Paris? It is not on any map. That is the bedtrick.

To find Paris, ask this question: Who needs ruby slippers?

*When I told D. I wanted couples therapy not to get back together, but for an exit strategy, he said, “I don’t want an exit.” He sought his own therapist. We were then both with separate psychiatrists: Were we in a Woody Allen film? All together now, let us click our heels.

**You can follow the yellow brick road or listen to Nietzsche who says, He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.

26 comments:

  1. The image of the "bedtrick" is wonderful. From prank to sheer cruelty of refusal to engage. That coolness frezes hope and optimism.

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  2. Mary, Mary,

    There are men who would jump off a cliff to fly with you, reading you and looking at you. The more you write, the more incomprehensible D becomes to me. What does the narrator know that the reader does not?

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  3. Wrenching.
    I want to turn to the last pages of the book and find out what happens.

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  4. Yes, there is something in this particular piece of writing that has my curiosity standing on edge. The letter written to D. was mesmerizing and had to be read twice.

    If I had just read a chapter in a book I would quickly move on to the next chapter. So, this is blog anticipation...I anxiously await the next post...

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  5. What happened to the Paris you visited alone? The Paris where there were no lovers coming with you or meeting you? In recent postings there is reference to a hat trick and a bed trick, and a past reference to a Paris that was visited to meet daughter and child but not discussed.

    What happened to that real Paris that is not in a movie, that is not code for something else? Montreal is Montreal, not Paris, the movie Paris is a movie called Paris. Paris is only present in code here, or by mistake...Paris has become so important lately, where is the real Paris?

    (I feel as though there is an entry missing here. Perhaps it is yet to come...? Or perhaps the missing entry reflects absence...?)

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  6. Discovereuse,

    Paris is off the map.

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  7. One does not need a map to visit the real Paris.

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  8. Paris is where you end up when you click the heels of the ruby/silver slippers.
    Where do these wonderful metaphors keeps coming from--the "bedtrick" is perfect.

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  9. After reading from the beginning, perhaps the bedtrick was on D the whole time, not you? Perhaps it was happening to you both? By this I mean that it seems you are discovering yourself just as he tells you he is trying to discover himself.

    Can't wait for the denouement (the kind in Shakespeare's comedies, not tragedies, please).

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  10. Whew! There is so much raw emotion in this post. It is often difficult to be this painfully honest about one's feelings.

    I love a good duvet. Wish I had one.

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  11. I feel as though some of the metaphors have eluded me as I only slightly understand the connection of the "bedtrick" in this post. I have not read the book, however, I know Shakespeare and I think I can iterperet the general idea. What I am puzzeled over is the connection Canada has with marriage. In what sense? As for Paris, I am hoping you can eventually explain that one to me.

    I love the Nietzsche quote at the end...maybe my favorite.

    Next time you stumble over a movie question make sure to remember IMDB.

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  12. It occured to me that bedtricks have been going on for a very long time. In Biblical times, Jacob woke up the day after his wedding to find out Leah had been substituted under the veil for his beloved Rachel, for whose hand he would have to work another 7 years.

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  13. Discovereuse and Mary's fans,

    Be sure to go back and reread Mary's powerful account of her losses, sister, father, mother. Her losses would be beyond words for most of us, but Mary knows how to bind losses to language.

    Dorothy has lost all. She has found new companions, made them human, loving and lonely as she is. The scarecrow is stuffed, the lion scared, the tin man creaks. So what? Dorothy loves, wants to love. And they sing with her against the silence, and dance against death, along the yellow brick road.

    D's curtain failed, short sheeted. He has become a grandiose but pitiful man. Can Dorothy kick her heels and just fly back? Would it were so. Not yet,says Neitsche. Not yet, says Portnoy's therapist: Shall we now begin? To walk, to understand?

    Our Dorothy will sing and dance again, in the real Paris. Perhaps fly, though a dancing leap may serve. Of course be careful of lovable lions and tender tin men. Befriend them as you will, but follow your own true road.

    Anonymous I

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  14. P.S.To enrich your pleasure in reading Mary's memoir/blog read her lovely, painful, and yes, despite that, witty novel, The Woman Who Couldn't Cook.

    Anonymous I

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  15. Actually, Anonymous I, the title is The Woman Who Never Cooked. Thanks for the plug, whoever you are ... .

    Mary

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  16. It seems reassuring to me that in many of Shakespeare's comedies the bedtrick leads to a happy ending...

    I am not sure if we ever fully know another person--and in that way it is something of a "trick" whenever we go to bed with someone, because the import of the event thus inherently has more to do with the story we are telling ourselves about the event than the reality of the person we are sharing it with. This can be positive, in that there is always more to grow. We can learn more and approach if never quite reach reality, I suppose. We can see (through) the trick and embrace it as part of the experience, perhaps?

    The trick can become more fun (less un-fun?), because it is seen as such? But only when both people involved understand?

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  17. Mary,

    Sorry for wrong title. Also sorry for continuing anger about D. Who am I to question the love you two have for each other?. For now, I will give you and myself a sabbatical from my presumptuous and judgmental personal comments. I realize blogs are supposed to be two way streets, not tossing laurels or stones from behind smoked glass. And I know it's frustrating/annoying to have anonymous comments. I'm just an overly cautious admirer of your writing afraid to identify myself in any way on the net due to a bad experience. However, if I make comments later on, I shall change my name to Boswell.

    Anonymous I aka Boswell

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  18. Dear Boswell,

    Your comments have added to the interest here, as you can see. Do NOT hesitate to say what you think. You "jog" my narrative as it flows forward--so you are doing anything but harm. I am grateful for your participation here, not only for its candor, but for its role in my process.

    Mary

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  19. As I read over the entries of the blog, I think of the difficulties and rewards of realtionships.
    I think of the question on some n line dating sites asking people to describe their ideal relationship.
    Such a question is I think the height of foolishness.Relationships are demanding as well as providing enormous pleassure.
    I think of paraphrasing Winston Churchill's famous comment about democracy,when I think of relationships. They are the most difficult form of existing except for everything else.

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  20. Indeed, Discovereuse, and thank you, Discovereuse. --Mary

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  21. Mary: per a comment from Anonymous I, you HAVE felt much loss throughout your life. I, on the other hand, have felt very little loss. I do wonder how they are all similar, different, which one is more difficult?

    ...We're not in Kansas anymore (couldn't resist)

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  22. i started reading this blog last week and what a pleasure the reading has been. thank you, mary, for finding a way to tell your story with both stark honesty and rich, stimulating prose. it's a punch in the stomach and shot of smooth bourbon all at once.

    p.s. i remember sitting in the chef's kitchen many years ago thinking that this is what it must feel like to have arrived. how devastating to learn that even the built in cappuccino maker can't be counted on.

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  23. lol Mary the second part was superb, you did everything in your power to make that work and I think you did. Never been to Paris been to France but didnt like it, oh well, thats each to their own, very good, see u tommorow for part 3 xx

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  24. I think sarah has a terrific sense of the narrative and mary's unfolding journey. most of the other readers here are far too easy on mary, and far too hard on D.

    mary herself knows this, i think, because she is saying it here and there in her entries. i'm trying to listen to her...not to my own story about her...as there is so much here to learn and reflect upon.

    moving from an ideal of love as a thing in stories to real love as a process and act of relating intimately, which requires a paradoxical blend of selflessness and healthy boundaries. selflessness is something i think D. often demonstrates but gets confused about in his own relatedness and sense of self worth (poor boundaries).

    happy to be here and happy to challenge and be challenged...

    phil

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