So much remains unsaid in Cynthia Ozick’s novel Foreign Bodies. No need for spelling out the name of the one great ghost Bea Nightingale cannot and won’t be rid of?
Much of Bea Nightingale makes a single woman my age uncomfortable. The good nurse Nightingale aspect of the name: unmistakable in the woman’s job as English teacher to a class of rowdy young men in a low-rent district. The ambivalence raised by the chance at playing god in her nephew’s life. The stifled yearning for physical and sexual contact. The commodious aspects of the roles devolved on single aunts, grannies or hired figures used in their stead. The yawning, gaping emptiness called: love passed you by, kiddo.
Tough reading on the verge of the seventieth decade, and the evidence around me of so many other women of a certain age making do or falling into crankiness. I was glad to pick up Garcia Marquez last night.
Back to school i.e. in my case, back to dealing with the lives of children with more than their share of… challenges? Abuse, neglect, indifference – take your pick – and now, quick fix, and please do your homework. In the meantime, setting up my living space to be as livable and pleasant as possible.
There’s no accepting the fact you’ve used up all your chances at those dreams that matter most to you. There’s no accepting of substitutes either. So what else can you do but keep on conjuring up… something, someone, a place, moments that aren’t about nastiness and misunderstandings. Although, sad to say, even in the conjuring, the rapturous times are few and far between.
Allez. Must empty the bedroom. Someone laying down some flooring in there today. Meaning no more piles of dog hair embedded in ancient carpeting. Hopefully, I’ll also manage to pull one of the characters up onto her feet and willing to face the day. After all, she’s only in her mid-fifties. Lots of living ahead of her still. And love too? Who knows. Only one way to find out.
Rapture, ah yes. From natural chemicals produced naturally. No substitutes for.