I spent more than three months overseas in 2012 trying to purge whatever demons or persistent memories that had lodged themselves inside my skull over the past couple of years. I went from a month in Italy, to a couple of weeks in Paris and Normandy, directly to California, back to New York, then to Egypt and back to Italy. In between were trips to other places, mostly for conferences and even a beach-side vacation in the Cape.
I recall flying back to the states a few months ago. The pilot flew directly over Cape Cod like a ship captain or pirate of yesteryear desperately seeking the Provincetown lighthouse. A much welcome beacon in the the heart of darkness.
I guess I'm always looking for that beacon in my heart of darkness. Memories are part of our business as writers. Even if some of them are somehow pleasant but unpleasant at the same time, we tend to romanticize them, and even do our best to conjur them up in our work. What were the sensations, feelings, emotions that went into something that sticks in our brain like silly putty on the wall? How can I tap the typewriter keys to recreate it so that it's more real than when it actually happened? How do we paint the canvas so that we walk away from it for the night convincing ourselves with absolute confidence: "There, I feel better now."
Regrets are easy to cling to because we are always asking ourselves, What if I had done something different? But then, what the fuck is the point of that? You can't change your senior page in your high school yearbook. It's still there gathering dust in the attic to send chills up your spine. Pimples and all.
Every evening in Florence, Italy, following work, I walk to a small bar located in the Santa Maria Novella. On the way I pass by a boutique shop that sells women's precious underthings. There's a woman who works the shop. She's an attractive brown-eyed, brunette and she always smiles at me as I walk by. On occasion we share a "Buono sera," or "Buono nochte" but always I keep walking and she keeps working. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I stopped to talk, but I never do. Maybe that's the beauty of it all. The art of loneliness.
Why, as writers and artists, do we crave it?
I will travel thousands of miles to be alone and hate being alone. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned here. Or maybe, I'm just doomed to always be searching for that beacon. But God help me if I ever find it.