Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 5: Clarissa

From Michael Cunningham's The Hours:

There are still flowers to buy. Clarissa feigns exasperation (though she loves doing errands like this), leaves Sally cleaning the bathroom, and runs out, promising to be back in half an hour.

It is New York City. It is the end of the twentieth century.

The vestibule door opens onto a June morning so fine and scrubbed Clarissa pauses at the threshold as she would at the edge of a pool, watching the turquoise water lapping at the tiles, the liquid nets of sun wavering in the blue depths. As if standing at the edge of a pool she delays for a moment the plunge, the quick membrane of chill, the plain shock of immersion. New York in its racket and stern brown decrepitude, its bottomless decline, always produces a few summer mornings like this; mornings invaded everywhere by an assertion of new life so determined it is almost comic, like a cartoon character that endures endless, hideous punishments and always emerges unburnt, unscarred, ready for more. This June, again, the trees along West Tenth Street have produced perfect little leaves from the squares of dog dirt and discarded wrappers in which they stand. Again the window box of the old woman next door, filled as it always is with faded red plastic geraniums pushed into the dirt, has sprouted a rogue dandelion.

What a thrill, what a shock, to be alive on a morning in June, prosperous, almost scandalously privileged, with a simple errand to run.


Kathy Waller said...

From Katherine Paterson's The Great Gilly Hopkins. Disappointed in her newly-found mother, Gilly Hopkins phones her foster mother, asking to come home:

But Trotter seemed to ignore her. "Sometimes in this world things come easy, and you tend to lean back and say, 'Well, finally a happy ending. This is the way things is supposed to be.' Like life owed you good things."


"And there is lots of good things, baby. Like you coming to be here with us this fall. That was a mighty good thing for me and William Ernest. But you just fool yourself if you expect good things all the time. They ain't what's regular--don't nobody owe 'em to you."

"If life is so bad, how come you're so happy?"

"Did I say bad? I said it was tough. Nothing to make you happy like doing good on a tough job, now is there?"

"Trotter, stop preaching me. I want to come home."

"You're home, baby. Your grandma is home."

"I want to be with you and William Ernest and Mr. Randolph."

"And leave her all alone? Could you do that?"

"Dammit, Trotter, don't try to make a stinking Christian out of me."

"I wouldn't try to make nothing out of you." There was a quiet at the other end of the line. "Me and William Ernest and Mr. Randolph kinda like you the way you are."

"Go to hell, Trotter," Gilly said softly.

A sigh. "Well, I don't know about that. I had planned on settling permanently somewheres else."

"Trotter"--she couldn't push the word hard enough to keep the squeak out--"I love you."

"I know, baby. I love you, too."

Susan Woodring said...

Kathy, I've always loved this book. Used to nudge my students towards it back in my middle-school days. What a great book, and you've chosen such an important moment, joyful and sad and poignant and so very dear. Thank you.