But e-mail got me up, the compulsion to see what the world had sent me in my sleep (gods, we have such strong urges towards community/communications -- how I'd survive on a desert island I will never know...). And then I did a little work, and made my tea, and lit a candle (I have a simple votive candle holder; just an upside-down pyramid of deep red glass, propped on a metal tripod, yet it is so beautiful, even with the chip in its side from when I knocked it over in my sleep one night, just lighting it brings me pleasure). And still, I felt grumpy. Grumpy and tired and considering going back to bed, and so I put on some music.
Mush Mix II. A tape a boyfriend (now ex) made for me over six years ago. Songs like Bill Morrissey's "She's That Kind of Mystery", David Roth's "Rising in Love", Sally Fingerett's "Wild Berries". This is the boyfriend who introduced me to Christine Lavin, and there's a lot of her on the tape. A lot of mushy songs from musicals, because I like them, including "Is It Okay if I Call You Mine?", from Fame, which breaks my heart every time I hear it 'cause I can't help remembering that scene in the movie. I'm listening to this tape now and I'm feeling better, much better. The point of all this is not that music has charms to soothe the savage breast -- I know you knew that.
The point is rather how glad I am that a tape made by a boyfriend with whom I had a horribly messy breakup (pretty much entirely my fault, too) can make me so happy. If it calls up memories, they're good ones. I've managed to stay on good terms with pretty much everyone I've dated seriously, and that's important to me. Even casual lovers share a part of you that your best non-carnal friends will never know; it seems important to me that that part remain in the safe-keeping of someone I like and trust. I know people who deliberately walk away from exes, who think they'll be happier if they cut themselves off from someone who caused them pain. Maybe they are. Maybe I've just been lucky that my exes have been people I can still care about, people I can trust. Or maybe I trust too easily -- my father always tells me that. David and Roshani do too. *smile* My friends worry too much.
I try to imagine sometimes what my life would have been like if my parents had stayed in Sri Lanka. I emigrated with them when I was two years old; what if I'd grown up in a village or town or even city in Sri Lanka? My grandfather was a school principal; my father wanted to be a journalist, not a doctor, though he let the family guide him and he's very happy in his work now. But certainly, I would have still read, most probably in three languages. My mother, who left high school to get married, speaks Tamil, Sinhalese and English. I've forgotten most of my Tamil, almost all of my grammar school Polish, and am well on my way to forgetting Spanish. *sigh*
So I would have read, but would I have read science fiction? Maybe a little -- Clarke did settle in Sri Lanka, after all. (If you want to know about it, he wrote beautiful books about the country: The Reefs of Taprobane, A View from Serendip). Science fiction and fantasy shaped so much of whom I am; my ideas about family structure and love came directly from Heinlein; my rather rigid code of honor came straight from King Arthur, and I can't even begin to assess the effects of Frodo and Menolly and L'Engle's Meg and Taran on my developing psyche.
Who I would have been if I'd grown up on that lovely island is probably impossible to determine, or even fairly imagine. Is this rebellious streak ingrained or learned? Would I be even now married, with two children, like my mother at this age? Sri Lankans place a high value on education, and I might well have become a doctor, like my cousin who grew up there; she practices in Canada now, with a husband from an arranged marriage (a very sweet man, who she seems very happy with).
Would I ever have fallen in love with literature? With the joys of deconstruction and new historicism and French feminist critical theory? If my mind had been tangled up in glands and diseases and such instead, would that have been a bad thing? I sometimes think, if I had had a better memory, that I might have been a good doctor. People generally seem to trust me, and I think that would help. Of course, the first time I forgot where the aorta was, I'd probably be in trouble...
Would I even know how to swim? People don't swim in Sri Lanka (a vast generalization, but largely true). That's true for many island cultures, though it seems odd. Perhaps it's because the sea is so clearly vast and powerful -- people are less willing to trifle with it? I don't know. They do wade out into it, and take salt water baths to soothe the mosquito bites.
I'd sleep with a mosquito net over my bed, perhaps with a man who was a stranger when I married him. I'd have a child or two running about. Or perhaps we would have emigrated by that point, like my cousin, but I'd still know how to cook the best curries...
A totally different life. You would never have known me, I think. Even if I had published a paper or two in some obscure medical journal, it seems unlikely that any of you would have run across it. And perhaps I would have flunked out of med school (the way I flunked Calculus my freshman year), and my spouse would be supporting me, and the aunties would shake their head over my fate (ah, what a bright girl she was. If only she'd studied...at least she has the children, but just look at how lazy she is with them...)
I would never have known you. Even if I hadn't stayed there as a child, if my mother had simply sent me to a convent school as she so often threatened to do when I was an unruly teen, would I ever have gotten on-line? That same boyfriend who made me the tape dragged me onto the net in '92, kicking and screaming. What a world I would have missed.
Choices. Paths and diversions. It is of course foolish to try and say that this world is better than that one; that life better than this one. It might have had more security, more money, fewer questions -- or it might not have. I suppose all I'm coming to say is that I'm glad of the life I have, despite the fact that the last few weeks have been overwhelmingly stressful. I've glad of my old lovers, my friends and you, even of that flunked Calculus class.
I may covet Stephen King's income, or Amy Tan's movie rights, or even occasionally that woman from Mississippi Masala's looks. I even admit that in the dark of night I occasionally covet masses of red hair and deep green eyes. And what I wouldn't give to be tall, gorgeous and rich, instead of short, cute and broke... Yet I don't actually want anybody else's life; nobody I can think of, at any rate. Not a bad thought for what started as a grumpy morning.
Thank you, Paul.