On the Longest Sunday of the Year

01Jan08

That cloud overhead — you really don’t recognize it? That hovering and inescapable dread, which makes New Year’s the longest Sunday of the year, particularly now that we no longer have to endure the last day in August before returning to school? No, it’s not so much the prospect — or let’s be honest, the reality — of our aging bodies, but the knowledge that, starting tomorrow, we must once again give ourselves completely over to unlimited productivity and change (together the essence and bane of our existence).

Still, now that we’ve recognized this fate for what it is, we feel that much calmer, more able to reflect on the flurry of activity that marked these past several weeks, the parties we wanted to both host and attend, the long stretches of anticipation and preparation interrupted by the events themselves, compressed hours in which (like our youth) time flew by in a second. We gossiped with friends and acquaintances, all of whom (and here, unlike our youth) expressed dismay at the direction of our country and all of whom — except for a few brittle, shiny exceptions — expressed the same (albeit with much more resignation) about their lives. We recollect from these conversations a general admiration expressed for (and in some cases, jealousy of) dogs and cats — and even trees — who are not tormented by the need to understand exactly who or what contrived to bring them to this point in their lives; whereas we — except for the very moment that has just passed and the one that is about to follow — remain so uncertain about not only what lies farther ahead, but also what has already occurred; more often than not, it seems that to find any clue, we must force ourselves to walk through the expanding desert of our dreams and memories.

But then again, who are we to deny the value of this search? Even now, we think about the beautiful table you set a few weeks ago, and how each fork and spoon, each glass and pitcher, was truly a work of art. And the food! The breads and cheeses, the meats and smoked fish, the olives and cucumbers, even the pickled herring and cream sauce (which for once was appreciated by all present, even the Englishman who to everyone’s squeamish delight poured it all over his bagel); all of it seemed lifted from a 19th-century urbane portrait we have long admired, and which was suddenly — miraculously — brought within our grasp.

For us, it was an extreme (by which we mean rarefied) experience that makes other elements of our past — the squalid apartment in Brooklyn, the longstanding mediocrity of the band, our closeted longings — somehow more palatable, as if it (i.e., the past) were a prism instead of a black box; just to acknowledge this potential spectrum of color is to allow a certain forgiveness for the lives we’ve both led and not (and — it must be admitted — never will); most of all, as we consider the death of one year and the birth of another, we feel more alive than not, certain that these same memories will predict the future.

When the meeting brought us outside
No one seemed to have the patience to begin
Falling back into the river of a dream
Waking up to hear the screams

Even when the room was empty
Distant sirens rang out softly through the night
The coat was hanging in the corner all alone
No one thought about the cold!

Floors are wooden by the bedroom
Numbers hanging like some last shot at the cards
It’s a painting of life, which
Hangs flat on the wall
It’s a silence the brings us at all

When the room is gone forever
Red’s the color of your eyes in the night
I don’t need to find the name of forgiveness
I just need a place to start

Music: “Painting of Life,” courtesy of Saturnine, Mid the Green Fields (VictoriaLandRecords 1998).

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