I’m almost always tempted to say, I’ve written about this before, because I think I have, only with less detail. It starts with a dream, or I should say, I can locate a resonance in a dream. I was walking through a park in a European city, along a lake, trying to find a consul building. I asked a man, in French, for directions. He was very helpful, my seer, I suppose, as I found what I was supposed to. I had no idea what it meant, only that this dream in particular had the presentiment of vital knowledge. I jotted down the details of the dream and forgot about it.
My friend was getting married, in Brussels. I’d been preparing my first work for my graduate writing program; in the previous two months I’d been re-introduced to my past, via Samuel Beckett, a writer I’d almost forgotten and had stopped reading over the previous fifteen years. My friend suggested I fly out for the wedding. Seemed like a crazy idea--for less than a week?--why not. That would make it a special trip. I was in need of some inspiration before I began the two years of my intensive writing program, so I booked a flight and was off by the end of the week.
I leave a gap in details here to cut to the chase.
I was in Brussels, given directions over the phone by my friend’s (future) wife about how to get to the wedding ceremony. I set out on the subway, seriously jetlagged, and made it to Parc Malou. As soon as I wandered into the road that curved its way into the park, I was certain I was lost. Or that I had been there before. A man on the grounds was working and I asked him, to my own surprise, in nearly flawless French, how to get to the consul building. When I walked through a canopy of trees I remembered, I had been here.
I mention that anecdote because it seemed to presage a taste of the magic that was beginning to occur with my writing.
Over that visit I had a day to myself and decided to go to Paris on the 185 mile per hour Thalys. Just a day, morning to evening. My excitement at the arrival into Paris was both overawing (I never fail to feel an unparalleled thrill arriving in this city, especially by train. I had been there exactly eleven years earlier, and, another seven years before that. I make no apologies for my romanticizing of Paris, much to the disgruntlement of my grad advisors at that time--the literary baggage hauled through that city over the years is enough to satisfy my wanderlust.) The October air was summery, warm; the smell of the Metro--somehow like smoking rubber, I always think--was an intoxicating draught that told me, yes, I am here. I’ve arrived. Something about that dream had been providential, perhaps. (I’m not, or wasn’t, until very recently, a person who put a lot of stock in fate, or destiny; it’s hard not to view things this way now. I think it comes with age and a healthy interest in peculiar vision-quests). I knew that my graduate work was in the back of my mind, as well as in my backpack (Moby Dick). Being primed for inspiration, I set out for Boulevard du Montparnasse and Boulevard Raspail. I sat in a cafe and had a thimble of espresso and decided I’d go find Beckett’s grave in Montparnasse. Why? I’d really wanted to start my psyche fire, so to speak. I’d come to Paris for twelve hours and I was going to come away with a piece of it.
In that wandering around, I eventually found it, quietly. Almost hesitantly. It’s not a remarkable slab of granite. Just plain, minimalist even, nearly unadorned, simple. Here lies the man. I know this will sound, basically, as if I am, possibly, not normal. I suppose I’m not. I don’t care. I felt his presence, benevolent; I felt welcomed. I wanted to acknowledge a debt to him and the integrity of my work that I’d nurtured from back in the early days of my writing when Beckett was my guiding light. This light for the dispossessed. Was I that? I was happy to be. A lightness, a sense of purpose, a confidence, seemed to settle around and within me. I thanked Beckett. I’d like to think I was acknowledged.