I have no intention of inflicting all my childhood memories on anyone. Far less do I want to excoriate my old teachers who, in their bungling, unforgettable way, exposed me to the natural world, a world covered in chitin, where implacable realities hold sway. The Polyphemus moth never made it to the past; it crawls in that crowded, pellucid pool at the lip of the great waterfall. It is as present as this blue desk and brazen lamp, as this blackened window before me in which I can no longer see even the white string that binds the egg case to the hedge, but only my own pale, astonished face.
Dillard doesn't want to talk about her childhood. Her agenda is not to uncover all of the mistakes and hurts of the past. Rather, she wants to be present to the present, fully engaging in the world around her. That means paying attention to things like an egg case of a Polyphemus moth hanging on a hedge outside her window. Of course, she does go on to tell the story of another moth cocoon her friend brought to school when Dillard was eleven years old. Can't always escape the past. It returns, reverberates, creates meaning in the present.
This morning, I had a root canal. Now, before my two Constant Readers start reeling in empathetic pain and anxiety, let me say that it wasn't too bad. Dentists and dental procedures have never bothered me. Sure, there was a little pain involved, tiny white-hot jolts that quickly evaporated, but, overall, it was like sitting in a recliner for an hour-and-a-half, listening to the Today show on the TV hovering above me.
The root canal is not the story, though. The story is my walk to the building where the dentist office was. It was early, a little past 7 a.m., in downtown Marquette. There wasn't a whole lot of traffic and very few pedestrians. I used to work at a bookstore in the downtown area over twenty years ago, so I frequently made this walk in the past.
It was overcast, and rain looked like it was rolling in off Lake Superior. The lake itself was the color of wet cement. As I came out of the parking structure onto Washington Street, I passed the bookstore where I used to work. It was dark inside. The windows were full of the latest bestsellers, advertisements for specialty tobacco, and Minecraft plush toys. I stopped and peered inside.
You see, my friend, Lee, who died this past weekend, had been the manager of this bookstore for many years. In fact, the last time I saw him was when I was shopping for a birthday present in the store. As always, he greeted me with a huge hug. Nothing had changed.
During my period of employment, I was in charge of organizing the porn section of the magazines. I used to laugh at the different titles. Hairy Heiny. Big Butt. Latin Inches. T&A. I could go on. Porn took up two full sections of the magazine wall. Nobody else wanted the job, so I took it.
During my last visit, I joked with Lee about the state of the porn. I always organized the section by fetish. Butt fetish. Breast fetish. Foot fetish. Age fetish. Asian fetish. You get the idea. I told Lee he needed to hire me for a day to put the porn into some semblance of order. Lee laughed like he always did--deep and loud and long.
That's what I thought about on my way to the dentist this morning. Books. Porn. My friend, Lee. When I got to my appointment, I was still smiling.
Saint Marty had a good root canal.