It is always hard to declare what you love most, because there will always be people who do not love it, or worse, hate it, and look at you with eyes that say, Really? But I thought I knew you. I thought we were the same.
Recently, I coerced my friend Michelle into reading The Time Traveler's Wife, which, I have come to know now, is my very favorite book. From the time it first passed into my hands (loaned to me by my sister), I have owned 5 copies, as I cannot stop pressing it on other people. Read this, I want to say. Inside you will find the contents of my heart.
After Michelle told me that she had begun it, I picked up my copy, half-knowing what I was about to do to myself, but unable to deny myself the pleasure of reading it along with her.
The other night we walked, slicing through the cold air along the river, feet clomping on the boardwalk, all the lights dancing on the water. Once we saw a rat, a river rat, I guess, and we clutched each other and danced away, screeching and laughing. And while we walked, we talked about this book.
Finally, we came to talking about the epigraph, a poem by Derek Walcott, and Michelle told me about reading it, and what it made her feel. "It's funny," I said, "I have a story about that poem, too." And I told her that when I first started at UNCW, and I was meeting with my new advisor, I blurted out what I had not yet managed to tell anyone, that I was divorcing, that I found myself in Wilmington without friends or acquaintances, that I couldn't drive a car, that I was living in a hotel, holding on to the writing program like the victim of a sinking ship, clinging to a piece of sodden driftwood.
A week later, this poem was in my mailbox. I took it home and thumbtacked it to the wall in my first apartment, right above the computer. The place where I finally typed enough words to make myself a boat.
This is not my favorite poem, but it reminds me of so many things, not the least of which, now, is reading my favorite book with my dear friend.
Love After Love by Derek Walcott
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.