Ravishing Lol

A few nights ago I was reading “The Ravishing of Lol Stein” by Maguerite Duras before bed and came across the most poetic line (not so much in how it was written – as I’m rereading it now, it’s not very complicated or polished – but how it seemed to turn a little light bulb on in my storage closet and I knew I had to stash it away. I was half asleep. Drifting in and out of dreams which seems to be the best place for poetics anyway – the place where reality stops, inceptions begins. But Lol Stein, the main character, has returned to her hometown where 10 years earlier her first fiancĂ© abandoned her causing her a brief, but scarring emotional collapse. Now she is back with a new life – husband, children – and is in the process of reconnecting with an old friend who knew her during that period who is also married, but has a lover. Lol is becoming more and more drawn to recreating this past tragedy in her life. I could continue, but it’s taking too long and I’m losing my motivation for having started this in the first place, so here’s the line (narrator is speaking of Lol):

“She is telling about how a dwelling becomes empty when she moves in.”

That’s it. Simple, right? Not even much to read. Probably a lot lost in the translation (Duras is French). Millions of people would glance over this, not feel a thing. But I’ve been thinking about this line for 2 days and how moves are the transfer of items and possessions from one place to another. Rooms begin empty and finish full. We build them with more and more things – chairs, rugs, paintings, photographs in the hopes that a room will take on our personalities, make us feel comforted in our own characters and bodies and stations in life. A room is home, revealing more about us than we might think. Is it clean? Messy? Meticulous? Is it sparse? cluttered? Does it let the light in? Are the curtains always drawn?

What I love about this line is what is reveals. It’s so simple, but completely encompasses who Lol is and how she feels about herself. We are what we carry, what we move from place to place and it’s the same feeling of being so helplessly lonely in a city with millions of people. To feel so empty in a room full of your own things, your life. And no matter where Lol has gone, that blanket has followed her – that stench of emptiness.

On some level, I relate to that – having moved so many times, having felt homeless for the past 6 years of my life. There is sort of an emptiness that occurs at having to leave so many things and people behind and the long periods after of being in your new life without them. You begin to wonder where you belong, if anywhere. You put up your pictures again, arrange your couch, put away movies and plates and try to recreate the feelings you once had for all of your possessions and the feelings they absorbed from a certain time and place. Some things radiate Pennsylvania. Some Texas. Some Montana. California. I know where everything has come from. I can remember every light switch in my old house in California. In my mind, I can walk through the entire house turning them on and off, on and off.

But no matter the things I have lost or given up, my holes have yet to create an emptiness I can’t refill. There are times of great lows and great highs. There are times my body feels like a fridge – slowing the life span of fruit, trying to make it last, but purging what’s rotten to make room.

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