Diary

Terry Castle

Thinking about the three things I learned yesterday, courtesy of Levine Breaking News – a mysterious right-wing, LA-based, showbiz-obsessed website that sends me, unsolicited, ‘breaking story’ email updates several times a day. The first: Odontophobia is the fear of teeth. Good to know, but surely raises some questions. Whose teeth? What about that lady on the catafalque in the Poe story? Berenice: I think that was her name. Everyone seemed to love her teeth. And what exactly is a catafalque, by the way? I’m an English professor, but I have to admit, I’m not sure. Or was it Ligeia?

And then there’s the philosophical issue: is it possible to be afraid of one’s own teeth? Hard not to conclude that if that were the case, one’s teeth would chatter constantly – out of sheer self-reflexive existential fear and trembling. (Subtext in these opening paragraphs: having inordinate if not Martin Amis-like dental bills of late – on top of all the moving expenses – have decided to come out as auto-odontophobe.) Life really would be simpler without them. Just gum everybody to death. One’s own, one gathers, are going to outlast one. Obviously somebody’s idea of a joke. Hilarious! that some crumbling bone-pegs and a bunch of grotty fillings get to trump the warm, lovely, soft pulsating flesh!

Second new fact: In the average lifetime, a person will walk the equivalent of five times around the equator. Merely flag this one for now: subtly foreshadows, of course, sombre overarching Diary theme. Distract reader with Pooterish footwork. Oh, yes, that eczema on one’s feet – latest horror of middle age – has abated somewhat now. Thank you for asking. Stress-related. I think it’s mostly gone because at last I’m now moved into the new house – albeit into one paint-fume-filled room only; still sleeping on the air mattress. Javier, Raul and jolly crew of mariachi-loving daubers still working away in the others. Yesterday they brought in a tiny television and watched telenovelas all day long while patching and priming. Bathroom as yet unavailable; knowing looks going between them when they see me peeking in wistfully at the window. One has to slink away into tall bush at back of the yard, then somehow freshen up with the garden hose. Reminds me, like so many things, of my sad childhood – one much worse than Sonia Sotomayor’s.

And yes, it’s undeniable: packing up several decades’ worth of precious tat at the old place last month was hugely stressful, a Major Life Passage and all that. One’s pale, vine-withered, all-too-sensitive skin took notice. Nor did Blakey help matters when she said: Well, that’s how it started with my father. (We’re still legally married, btw; the ban on same-sex marriage voted in in the November election did not affect those of us who got married last summer.) B. my junior by 13 years. Which means when I’m 90 she’ll only be 77. Cracks in his heels that wouldn’t heal. Jungle rot. Then he never left his chair again.

Third new fact, speaking of rot: According to suicide statistics, Monday is the favoured day for self-destruction. Today is a Thursday, so does this mean that the strange new backyard in which I’m now sitting and noodling away on my laptop is in fact a simulacrum – some sort of bizarre posthumous reality? One is in Limbo, perhaps, with the Unbaptised Ancients? (That white wrought iron patio furniture – nice but also slightly funereal – might suggest as much.) But wait – isn’t that a barbecue pit over there? Oh, no: it’s far worse; I’ve ended up in – Hah! Just kidding!

Missing Blakey and dogs horribly, though. B.’s in Boston on some complex family business; Wally and Charlie in the kennel in Novato till the furniture comes out of storage and everything gets moved in. One struggles to keep oneself from phoning Gloria – W. and C.’s hirsute but kindly kennel-mistress – to ask yet again how they are doing. If only they could text me. Or maybe leave a little message on my Facebook Wall. Self-destructive thoughts when forced to admit they can’t. Like Susan Boyle, all one wants is to have one’s little life back.

B., thank god, seems fine. Calls frequently from Cambridge on the Crackberry; thinks I’m making an insane fuss about moving five houses up the street. Full of kind spousal forbearance when I tell her we desperately need expensive vintage-salvaged-wood kitchen ‘eco-hutch’ – I’ve just seen it on the Sundance Catalog website – with special digitally temperature-controlled rack for wine bottles. But she’s also taken to reading me bits of The Wisdom of Schopenhauer over the cell phone:

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