“This small history, my life, is wrapped so completely in you and memories of you that I no longer know which is my skin, which is yours, and which is ours. The covering is so flawless and perfect that there really is no difference any longer, not even under love’s careful and precise examination.”—Jonathan Carroll
“Riding through Vienna on a bus yesterday, something dawned on me that I’d never thought of before: While moving along, I kept seeing places and sites that live vividly in my memory because of events that happened there: The faded Czech gasthaus where I often ate dinner during a bitter cold winter and where one evening before the food came, I finished writing my book THE WOODEN SEA. The outdoor restaurant next to the Danube Canal where A and I sat one glorious summer afternoon while the annual Viennese Gay/Love Parade was marching by a hundred feet away, trance music blasting. Memories like that. I realized everyone has their own, very personal and private map of where they live. If a million people populate a city, then there are one million different maps. Whether it’s a city or a small town, there are precise sites and ‘x marks these spots’ all over it that are important or sacred or yes, sometimes crushing— but only to you and occasionally the others who shared that experience with you. Although everyone has their own map, they rarely overlap because what matters to me, what I remember about the importance of those places in my life, usually means little to you and vice versa. Only after you’ve been with someone a long time are your maps similar. Even so, there remain places the people in our lives, even intimates, will never know the significance of to us: the park bench where you were kissed, a bar where he wept, the café with the huge windows that serves the great bagels, even those airport exit doors you watched so intensely while waiting for them to arrive that miraculous December night… The rest of the planet will pass these locations without a glance or a thought. But whenever *you* pass them you think there it is— that one is fixed forever on the map of me”—Jonathan Carroll
“Sometimes he thought of past love affairs as graffitti written across the story of his life. Most of it was easily wiped away with a rag and any kind of cleaning fluid. In contrast, there were a few scribbles that had been drawn with black permanent ink. These were tougher to remove. Sometimes no matter how much he rubbed and scrubbed, faint traces of them remained for a long time. Finally there was the graffitti that had been carved deep into his surface with a sharp knife and fierce determination. It was usually small because any carving *that* deep took time and real effort. But it was the most permanent. No way could he ever erase it unless layers of himself were sanded away and obviously that was impossible. The only thing to do was accept it as part of his being now, like a scar or a bad tattoo. As it aged in years to come, it became less visible but never disappeared.”— Jonathan Carroll
“In life there are only a small number of people who we choose to keep in our hearts. Over the years a lot come in and go out— lovers, friends, family… Some of them hang around for a while, and some want to stay even after we order them to leave. But only a handful, no more than two handfuls if you are very lucky, are welcome forever.”—Jonathan Carroll
Certain things must be here. Most importantly the pile of sticks in the fireplace. Every one of those pieces of wood is important. Written on each is a date and a reason. I have never counted, but would guess there are twenty now. Hugh’s collection was much larger, but he started his years before I did.
It was Hugh’s idea: when anything truly important happens in your life, wherever you happen to be, find a stick in the immediate vicinity and write the occasion and date on it. Keep them together, protect them. There shouldn’t be too many; sort through them every few years and separate the events that remain genuinely important from those that were but no longer are. You know the difference. Throw the rest out.
When you are very old, very sick, or sure there’s not much time left to live, put them together and burn them. The marriage of sticks.