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Buena Vista Park

Dissolution is not describable; I think that might be part of its definition. The taking of an element, or a contract, or a branch of government, or a brain or a body or a relationship, and creating something else: liquid, breakage, chaos, malaise, ending. One might observe what was once there, and the ensuing result, but who can adequately describe the process that leads from one step to the next? We skip the lines that matter, the ones in-between, the ones that set the stage for the dissolution to occur in the first place. We live in patterns invisible to the eye and mind, like a spider so ambitious in her architecture she gets lost in her own threaded palace.

I am in San Francisco. This afternoon I walked for hours after visiting with my very dear (wonderfully dissolute, actually) oldest friend. She is a mad-hatter of a woman: bohemian and wild and part of the old San Francisco landscape, before it was ruined by the garish and unrefined wealth of the boys with all those absurd computers.

The fog never left today, the streets were crowded and the smells strong. The city seems so delicate to me, and is always lit like a pearl. Soft is the sunlight, embracing is the fog, the damp defining the air that defines the light. It’s as if one sees the softness first here, the light second. Nothing is blinding, except the beauty of the water and the fecund greenery of the parks.

After leaving my friend I listened to music, which had the doubly beneficial effect of separating me from the river of people around me and also of opening the utterly repressed channels of grief that are woven throughout my life at the moment. One reason I think we love tapestries so much is that they almost always tell a story, and the tapestry of my life has reached a point of…. well, of dissolution.

I sat at dusk in Buena Vista park, tears streaming down my face. I took out a pen, and I was thinking about Morocco, thinking about Paul Bowles, and the disrobing of the self. And how necessary it is, how vital: the abandoning of hope is not, as Dante would have us believe (if we only read half the story, that is), a terrible thing. To leave behind – a brave act, as long as the vulnerable, the innocent (Archer, Delphine, Isadora, there I have named them) are not left in the refuse as one hurries out the door.

Write it. It was a dare. An aesthetic and moral dare. Write it down, the impatient urging came from the depths of me. I could not. I tried. I am trying. I cannot. The disrobing, how I have always been drawn to it, as if the nakedness and then the subsequent morphing to something else is an act of temporal salvation.

When I was 17 I lost my heart to a beautiful red haired boy. A brilliant boy, filled with anger and sarcasm and lust and ambition. I became very very thin. My sister was dead, the rest of my family half dead from her absence. One drunken night a friend put her hand on my tiny knee. “Too small, my friend. Too much.” She loved me a great deal. And I turned to her, cigarette smoke trailing from my mouth. “Spare,” I said. “I need to be spare, nothing but the necessary. No extra.” She smiled, a half smile. A wise smile, too wise for our age. “I understand that,” she said. “From you, I understand that.”

Many years have passed. She is still my sweet friend. And I still cannot write it, the naked and stark beauty that lies in dissolution. It is a desert dreamed by Paul Bowles. It is the aching pause, heavy with death and threat, in the Shostakovich String Quartets.

The disrobing of all surplus: I imagine gathering the children. I imagine boarding a plane. I imagine finding a house with a glass roof that opens to an empty sky. And then I cannot write it, cannot even imagine it, fully. Because here I am, in a park at dusk. And two days from now I will be home. And the children – a baby, a child barely past toddler years, and a brilliant son now in the full tumult of boyhood – must be protected from dissolution as much as I am drawn to it.
Buena Vista Park