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First Romantic Feelings, like Proust’s Pink Hawthorns; Tragic Death of a Babysitter (Tuesday, July 21, 2020)

Apparently, not this last night, but the night before I yelled in my sleep but neither Ashley nor I remembered what I yelled out. Usually when I yell in my sleep, it’s political.  

(Do you ever get a bout of paranoia, particularly when you’re writing, whether an email or anything anyone else is going to read that is not exceptionally informal, that you’re botching your grammar without realizing it? Even when I write in my private diary, with the thought that one day in the distant, distant future, people will read it, I worry that I’ve committed a mortifying gaffe. But…so be it. From time to time these things are going to happen. Just like a typo or a “slip of the tongue.” Anyway, I was fussing over the sentence “Usually when I yell in my sleep, it’s political” as I kept wondering: “wait…do I want a comma after “SLEEP”—? So I spent a good fifteen minutes or so reviewing rules and jargon from The Grammar Bible by Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas and as I was reading I was like… “oh yea…PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE!…come on coffee, I guess one of you just isn’t enough. I need more?”).

Sometime between a year and a half and two years ago, while in my sleep, I yelled: “THAT’S BLATANT BRIBERY!” and I was at Capitol Hill. (Not “capit-Al Hill). (I double checked. Better safe than sorry. I often look up words even when I know what they mean because it just helps intensify the force of the meaning’s radiance and permeation and saturation into my mind.

Yesterday, between 6:50 pm and 7:00pm I had a panic attack. First one since the Pandemic started getting really bad and the social distancing began. And before THAT I hadn’t had a panic attack in just short of two years. My guess is that it had something to do with my esophoria because it was in and around my eyes— the muscles—that bothered me most, and I felt a dizziness which, because I hadn’t felt in long time, was jarring. It could be something else or there could be a mix of issues but that will be among my discussions with my new therapist on Wednesday morning. (Also I should mention—the last couple of days I did inject some darker and actually most upsetting memories from early childhood. Stirring up such emotions would, I believe, play a connection in anxiety, or at least it’s a credible factor to connect to the panic attack considering there may also be a connection between my panic disorder and being afraid of my father, et cetera? But two additional questions: 1) what are my serotonin levels? 2) is my current regiment of Wellbutrin and Effexor still effective or must I revisit readjusting dosages et cetera?)  

Senator Elizabeth Warren is talking to Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC this morning; I see it as I walked from the bathroom back to my laptop. But I don’t hear it now as the music is back on.

I’ve been writing here to you about commitment and I want to persist with that until I can note at the very least a more clarified perspective on my history of so many failed commitments or…sometimes things grow, with reason, more interesting in one’s mind.

Acting, and the dream of acting in movies, becoming famous, winning Oscars for Best Actor, being compared to Marlon Brando, et cetera—I held onto this dream for 6-7 years, though by the final two or so it was waning and fizzling out.

The most vivid scene I can recall concerning the emergence of my interest in movie acting is the summer of 1995. I attended a summer camp called “Camp College” which the Mercer County Community College campus hosted every summer. I registered for an acting class. Why? I don’t know. At some point, earlier, in my elementary school days, at an After Care program I participated in a little “play.” I remember singing “Tradition” from Fiddler On the Roof. Maybe someone remarked that I should keep up with that kind of thing or explore it? Maybe my mom made a random choice? (I think she registered for the camp courses at that point)

One day in the acting class the teacher showed us the movie Grease and for reasons I can’t fully explain…as if touched in a most mystical way (the way it might be when two really good friends meet for the first time or someone discovers an interest, passion, that kind of special reaction)… the movie resonated with me. My theory (because I can’t test it and thus can’t have a hypothesis) is that John Travolta’s character, Danny Zuko, represented for me, how I wished I could see myself: widely liked (by almost everyone except for the small gang that had an ongoing feud with Danny and his fellow “T-Bird” group), in love with a girl who loved him….

That’s an important point because I’ve been obsessed with theoretical conceptions of love for as long as I can remember almost anything about myself.

(Earliest memory? I have a string of very early memories. The first…it’s the most ROMANTIC and POETIC first memory I believe a child can have and it likely explains my obsession with the beach 1)even though lately, due to elevating sea level, fear of tsunamis, observing how hurricanes do such damage to beach property… I’m maybe 2…MAYBE 3 but for some reason I doubt it because by 3 I recall a more active and knowledgeable consciousness. That is to say, I could experience, in thought, a sense of consciousness of more than mere sight and feeling. I believe THIS first memory may be before I knew how to talk? I don’t know but possibly.

In this memory, my mom and dad (not yet separated or divorced—one more reason why I can guess with confidence I was most likely younger than 4)—my mon and dad are holding my hands…I’m in between them, and we’re walking in the ocean. Though I wouldn’t have known the way to describe it then, as I remember it, it seemed as though the tide was far, far out because it seemed as if we’d been walking very far into the ocean. It was surprising enough a perception that I call nothing immediately before or after.

The FEELING is the most distinct aspect of this memory. What did it feel like? Pleasure…a pleasure I connected to the sense of open space….the vastness of the ocean and the horizon so far away, as if for the first time I’ve gained a metaphysical image representative of how massive the Earth is. I felt as though I could fly almost. Or that I could even become the vast openness. I felt as though FREE! Liberated.)

In the small cluster of earliest memories a bit after the aforementioned, an awareness of deep spiritual fascination with the female sex emerged as a theme. I mean, the unsexual part of my heterosexuality (I was not getting erections and associating them with my lust at this point however I was clearly able to experience, in a very young form, some sort of “beauty consciousness”)…

I can see this one girl…a former baby sitter…she’s 9 at the time…I’m 3 or 4…we’re at my dad’s house and walking up the hill to his in ground swimming pool, and this girl is wearing this pink, glittery slip on shoes and there seems to me something so…feminine…about their glimmer. It excited me. I felt desire. I felt a wish to I think embrace her and fawn over her beauty.

“Suddenly I stopped, I could not move, as happens when something we see does not merely address our eyes, but requires a deeper kind of perception and possesses our entire being” (Proust, page 143 of Swann’s Way in the Lydia Davis translation published by Penguin Classics 2)the Deluxe Edition 2002) – the protagonist is describing a young girl named Gilberte and how her beauty strikes him when he is just a little boy.

 This girl I speak of … she was one of my babysitters. We shall call her… Pink for the pink shoes.  

Funny enough, again from Proust:

“And already the charm with which the incense of her name had imbued that place under the pink hawthorns where it had been heard by her and by me together, was beginning to reach, to overlay, to perfume everything that came near it…” (pages 145 to 146). (emphasis mine)

By 4 years old I’ve fallen in love (I mean…in a manner of speaking) with several girls, at least two of which are babysitters.  Pink and… I shall call the second baby sitter Spring. By the way, Spring came to me as just a sort of figurative name…like the first bloom of a flower in spring so too did my lust first bloom…but I remember Pink first so it would in some perspectives make sense if her nae had been Spring but because the pink color of her summer water shoes or whatever they were are so etched into my memories and with wonderful feeling, Pink she is! What amuses me is that I dismissed my immediate idea to name babysitter two “Spring” and decided to look up female names that might sound somehow like spring and the name Spring came up! I shall call her “Spring.”

Also interesting…poetic in a way… Pink is a blonde and Spring a brunette.

Spring did not babysit my siblings and I as much as Pink did so I remember less about her. The most vivid memory that comes to mind is…another summer memory…my shirt was off…and she said something about how skinny I was, that I needed to grow some muscles. Spring had an older (?) brother and a younger sister, both also sometimes babysat us. They both died far too young. The death of Spring’s younger sister was…it was shocking, scary, and depressing. And the way I learned of her death was not how I would have expected it which made it all the more shocking. You see, Spring’s family was relatively close with my family. I assumed they were close enough that my mother would have told me of Spring’s sister’s death. And what shall we call her?

Raya.

Goodness… Googling her name online trying to find a news article about the fatal car accident…the feelings it opens up…I feel almost terrified to see a picture of her face…she died so young…I think 16 years old. I can find no mention of this accident. That surprises me because I can find records of other accidents.   

Raya’s brother, let us call him Joel I believe…committed suicide. The father of the family also died within a short span of years. I believe Spring is still alive. I don’t know about the mother. I think she died too but I don’t remember.

My god, it was so shocking when Raya died.

Raya was in a car with a few others. They cut class and hadn’t driven too far from the high school they attended when the car lost control for one reason or another (I don’t remember if there was drunk driving or any sort of intoxication related factors) and Raya didn’t have her seatbelt on and as it was described, the force from the impact of the crash more or less slung her out the front window.

Raya was a babysitter too. She babysat maybe more than Pink.

She used to like to play “court” with my siblings and I. Someone would be the defendant, another the attorney, another the prosecutor, and I think she played the judge.

So it was, I believe, the winter of 1997…January or February…? I was in fifth grade and that morning the principle or someone made an announcement that Raya had died in a car accident and if anyone needed to speak to the guidance counselor they could. Did I? I don’t know. But I was in shock.

To see a picture of her after she died was forever haunting as if one could feel the chagrin and despair of her ghost who so missed her family and felt robbed of a life she intended to live so fully. To date it may be the eeriest of my experiences with losing to people to death.

Okay…that’s a tough topic and for now I’d like to stop thinking about it.

Isn’t it something, the way free association of memories stream…from commitment issues to acting to John Travolta to girls to babysitters to death.

References   [ + ]

1. even though lately, due to elevating sea level, fear of tsunamis, observing how hurricanes do such damage to beach property
2. the Deluxe Edition

By Sean O'Connor

Hi, I'm Sean O'Connor, a poet and writer pursuing my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at William Paterson University, where I also work as a learning generalist and where I received my BA in Liberal Studies.

Currently. I also work as a writing tutor at Raritan Valley Community College and Mercer County Community College.

One reply on “First Romantic Feelings, like Proust’s Pink Hawthorns; Tragic Death of a Babysitter (Tuesday, July 21, 2020)”

Wanting to act as a writer you may not feel part of what you describe so is it feeling that acting out a part can leave you feeling the the emotion , but not having to live the life in the script now my subject players audience and the crowd ,refer to my earlier works YouCan be players the one around you are the audience and you can be in a crowd where the audience is only those who are looking . So where do we find this phenomenon one of our most famous directors who appears in his own films ? Has this affliction so wanting to act may show that you want to be and do but not wanting to in that life and walk away or act , or would it be to feel the emotional response but face no consiquenses ? I can debate this with myself as having been my own player

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