Every Gal Her Own Beatrice
It doesn’t feel like the common nostra vita, it feels like backing yourself into a wholly idiopathic corner from which no one else is in a position to extricate you. But the hemmed-in-ness, that’s real enough. The wild beasts appear in Dante’s way, he can’t get up the slope and doesn’t see any other road.
Twice now I’ve gone to the pharmacy and been told to come back tomorrow. By the logic of folktale, on the third visit either they will do something different or I will do something different, I’m not sure which. I dreamed that the pharmacist tried to switch out my prescription for something else and got angry when I objected: didn’t I trust him to know what was best for me? Didn’t I want the newest thing on offer? I tried to answer and my voice wouldn’t stay in the same octave for two syllables running.
I used to ask myself about the psych meds, am I deforming myself in order to better accommodate the world? And then the question stopped seeming relevant. Whatever form I might have been losing didn’t seem worth holding onto.
You can put on a skirt and the skirt feels like you, but there’s no way to do the aesthetically optimal thing, which would be to disappear inside the skirt entirely so that it would float ghostlike up the street on its own, invisibly sustained. As it is you have to ride BART in your own skin and take your best guess what people are staring at.
George Eliot, Adam Bede: “I am not at all sure that the majority of the human race have not been ugly, and even among those ‘lords of their kind,’ the British, squat figures, ill-shapen nostrils, and dingy complexions are not startling exceptions. Yet there is a great deal of family love amongst us. I have a friend or two whose class of features is such that the Apollo curl on the summit of their brows would be decidedly trying; yet to my certain knowledge tender hearts have beaten for them, and their miniatures—flattering, but still not lovely—are kissed in secret by motherly lips.“
Adam Bede himself isn’t ugly though. Neither is Dinah. They’re understood not to be in the same class as Arthur or Hetty, perhaps, but the narrative lens of Adam Bede never actually turns the soft focus on Arthur or Hetty to make your heart pound.
I’ve been told more than once that there’s too much Henry James in me, too much detachment and renunciation. But Lord help us, there are certain binds where there’s no way out except by renouncing something. Dante sets out for hell because the path that has opened to him is a new way of saying “I quit.”
You can’t both/and. You choose which inheritance will be returned to sender.
Such a long way round to be in the world at all.