Madison seems to much prefer the English drawing room. Would Lord Shelburne have ever expected part of his home to end up here; in Philly?––his dining room shipped off to the Met in New York. The autopsy performed; and the house on Barclay Square chopped-up & sold to these Americans.
In the ceremonial tea house, Madison tells me how she had wanted to spend time in a Buddhist ashram when she was a teenager; but we both know how those things go. So many projects abandoned; left like toys out on the drawing room floor. I almost trip over the new ukulele I’ve just purchased.
We descend a side staircase to have coffee & hot cider in the great hall, serenaded by loud, Cagey music. Should we have dinner somewhere (else)? We wander out into the night, which is cold but not unkind (a relief since I am wearing but a cardigan for comfort) and find ourselves outside the Eastern State Penitentiary, where Madison had her first date with the guy she’s seeing. There is a converted firehouse/restaurant across the way.
On the walk back to the car, I ask, “But you don’t regret the path your life has taken?” But we don’t regret: and what I have done, I would have to do again. We have made choices, at least, and that is to our credit. “And your new bangs!”––I remember to compliment. But me with my newly-cultivated beard; which seems to have accompanied a great sadness this month. I said to Devin and to Jessica: “Do you think the beard has effected such sadness or has my recent sadness only served to condition the beard?”
[Stray dialogue that doesn’t really seem to fit anywhere else.]
“Let us all live near (if not in) the museum.”
“Can we get a Xerox machine & make zines all day?”
“And if we can’t afford heat, we’ll just press ourselves up against the copier for warmth.”
[Let it be decided.]
Sunday I knot a bow tie, pull the jacket from my new three-piece suit & drive down to Cape May Point to meet Tyler for brunch. As I drive into the fog, I think, This is the end: of not only New Jersey but of all of what was/seemed to be. This is where we come to see what might be again; what we might imagine. A new world to amend for the inadequacies of the old one. (Oh, little ship!)
I order baked eggs, and immediately wonder if I will regret the baked eggs later. Tyler & I kibitz about life & what will be/why. Sometimes I wonder if we aren’t all just a bunch of awkward Harolds with our purple crayons, sketching out temporary shelters for ourselves as we move through life.
Good, then, that I bought all of those new crayons earlier in the semester…
The fog has begun to lift by the time Tyler & I leave The Red Store.
[The curtain rises on the final scene.]
Dani meets me at Target, where I am musing among the cards. I thought about opening a stationery store last week. A non-stationary, stationery store; just boxes of cards set up in the back of a van; to drive from town to town selling cards; sending them to anyone who will listen.
But I forget to tell her this. There is much I neglect to tell.
We go to Starbucks and, most uncharacteristically for me, I order a Peppermint Mocha. It is good going down, but later I will be left with an aftertaste. “I get depressed around Christmas,” I admit to Dani. “Everyone seems so set on consumption to fill up their otherwise empty lives/relationships; getting snippy at salespeople. When all I can think about are the little match girls…”
Huddling outside the Consumer Squares, striking a match––once, twice––then the light going out forever.
All of us, just these little matches; striking & striking ourselves; to set something on fire––finally. To finally get something that will burn in us. For warmth, as it were.