My Night With Hemingway

When the doorbell rang I jumped up in a panic and threw on whatever I could grab right over my pajama bottoms. She was standing in my doorway with her signature smile from ear to ear and holding up a big bunch of gladiolas. They were white, with just a hint of purple lines around the center which matched her purple top. Maybe because I wasn’t completely awake yet, maybe because I felt embarrassed about practically being caught with my pants down at this late hour, with morning breath and all, I didn’t even think of inviting her in, assuming she had other places to go. We stood there for a good twenty or thirty minutes jumping from one conversation topic to another as we tend to do Zaza and I. Towards the end of our conversation, I mentioned to her about Beth and Jackie having come over for cake on the night of my birthday and as I said it, I wanted to kick myself. Of course I should have invited Zaza and her boyfriend but on the moment all I had thought about was finding a simple way to thank Jackie for her precious help. Never even occurred to me that I could do that AND invite Zaza as well. But then again that might have been awkward, with everybody sitting there in silence not knowing what to say and dabbing at their cake, or worse, forced conversation and laughter ensuing from the general malaise of people wondering how they ended up in the same room. Socializing isn’t my forte obviously.

What happened the rest of the day is of no consequence, but I do remember putting the flowers in a giant vase and having left it on the counter, the flowers almost reaching the ceiling. Also firing up my barbecue and throwing together yet another fuss-free yummy dinner. I had a bunch of birthday cake left over so had another slice for dessert and enjoyed the comfortable breeze and perfect weather from my balcony. My porch light had been out for a few years and I’d never seen the necessity of changing it till I got my BBQ, when suddenly the notion of getting stuck cooking in the dark pushed me into action. I hadn’t realized that I would create a new reading spot for myself when I put in a fresh bulb. So after dinner I picked up Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast* which I’d started reading earlier in the day. After three or four chapters, I just wasn’t that enthralled with it even though it was describing one of my favorite cities in the world (Paris) during a fascinating period (the 1920’s). I had to keep reminding myself that his style was completely modern at the time he was writing and that just about every writer that has come after him has tried to be the next Hemingway. When you go back to an original you somehow expect pyrotechnics and usually find instead a quiet voice just doing it’s own thing so very well that it looks like no effort was required at all. It was a very pleasant night and I didn’t feel like getting back into my stuffy apartment so I decided to keep reading for as long as I could. Things became really interesting when he started describing his relationship with Gertrude Stein, who’s character seemed very familiar to me, then Ezra Pound and then came F. Scott Fitzgerald, and here Hemingway described Fitzgerald shorty after The Great Gatsby was published and what a peculiar man he was. Made me really glad I’d read that book just a couple of weeks ago. I decided Fitz had probably modeled Daisy after himself, precious dear. But in truth by then it didn’t really matter what Hemingway was writing about because I’d gotten hooked on his rhythm. Some writers have none at all and the writing can still be quite fine. But a writer with rhythm always pulls me in and pretty soon I’m going on reading just to keep the thing going, the pull of it hard to resist, almost like a physical thing. I realized then it was probably a good thing that I was reading the whole thing in just one sitting because that way I wasn’t likely to miss a beat and really it was the flow and the accumulation of words upon sentences upon chapter after chapter which started an inner process of opening a special file in my memory called “My Night With Ernest Hemingway”and attributing a special place to it so I can have access to it at will. It’s all based on impressions, nothing as practical as facts or tangible references. By the time I’d gotten to the last page, it was late-ish, though not as late as I would have imagined. I just breezed through that book reading much faster than my usual pace and lost the concept of time. Blame it on Hemingway.

*Yes, that was my first experience with Hemingway. How I got to this ripe old age and hadn’t read him yet, I’m not quite sure, but it’s never to late to pick up a great classic, I say.

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