Last week, Pam (rummaging, as, rumly, we age) found letters
we exchanged 21 years ago. Mine were long, and,
rereading them, I could taste my certainty (21-year-old
certainty -- beyond its shelf life, likely to be rancid,
or, a better metaphor, since such certainty
is a heady vintage, gone to vinegar) -- my certainty
that I was writing brilliantly. I could even see
the brilliance, the subtleties, rolling sentences,
twisty logic anchored in common sense, with bits
of apt examples and many clever asides.
I read a long letter, most brilliant of the batch -- and also
an asinine letter, saying things that didn't need saying
(brilliantly, though). It was a long letter to my wife-to-be
about what I then found fascinating in my previous wife --
Oh, brilliant! Pam sent back a sharp retort -- opportunity
for more brilliance from me, agreeing, qualifying, seeing
how it is and isn't that way) -- in short, I wrote dumb letters
that upset someone I loved (made her think -- rightly? --
that the one I loved must be the only person I could
possibly be talking to, myself), and knew as clearly as ever
I've known it, that I was writing brilliantly.
Well, I think I had an inkling even then that I was being
an otiose ass. But I knew that somehow my brilliance
justified that. (I was a golden ass.) And, reading it now,
I gag slightly at all that smarmy brilliance.
It reminds me of someone dear to me, whose cleverness
always seems "off" to me, and it is hard to stomach
the possibility that I have been that person.
How could I have so misheard myself?
And here, now, I love my brilliance, but what do I know?
May there be an ounce of wisdom in this ocean.
May I (and you) still be friends in the morning.
Note: "As, rumly, we age" a play on rummaging,
with a nod to the British, for whom "rum" can mean "odd"
and "poorly done" and a few other things that sort of
fit (as, rummaging, we sort through clothes and voices that no longer