Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Yes Cecil, A Long Story Short, Part Fifty-Eight

Edward Seymour gently unscrewed his black fountain pen, the metal threads issuing a sound so familiar to him, it was like a Pavlovian stimulus to write. He smoothed the pages of his journal with the heel of his hand, and slowly swept the fine nib along the blank paper, indigo ink etchings connecting the past scribblings with the blank pages of tomorrow.

Monday October 29, 2012.

Isabelle Cloutier met me today. My letter from Friday was successful. After meeting in the park, she accompanied me back to the house for a quick cup of lemon ginger tea and we sat in my office and talked for a few minutes before she had to return to work. (Mary was on her way to a hair appointment and dropped Isabelle off.) It has been a few years since we last met. She looks well. Still strong-willed, ambitious, determined.

A photograph my old friend at Clark University sent me many years ago caught Isabelle's eye. Having lived with it for so long, it had become but another piece of furniture to me; I hadn't truly looked at it for years. She was fascinated by the gathering of the distinguished academics and psychologists standing on the Clark University steps for the photograph. It was taken during Freud's first and only visit to America, 1909. She of course recognized the Viennese cigar smoker in the centre front row, the eminence grise, but I pointed out Franz Boas, Edward Tichener, William James, G. Stanley Hall, Ernest Jones and a tall, stalwart looking fellow in a sharp modern-cut suit with modern tie and collar standing to Freud's left. She didn't recognize him. Carl Gustav Jung I said. She was taken aback not realizing he had been so big, so robust. She'd only seen images of him as an old man sitting in a chair with his pipe and reading glasses, one size down in his two-piece suit. It is a remarkable photograph. Jung is very relaxed in his pose: a wide stance, arms to his sides, his right shoulder ever so slightly leaning down towards Freud as if in deference. Jung stares at the photographer/viewer with seemingly bemused patience. (Body of a football player like Penfield or Ernest Rutherford). And William James in his old style clothes, with one foot projected in front of him seemingly in a demand for attention. Perhaps he thought the gathering could be traced back to his being the teacher of G. Stanley Hall, who became the first PhD in psychology and then president of Clark University and organizer of the event.. James's eyes look quite faded and almost blurry in the photograph. He only had a year to live. I wonder if he knew. And Franz Boas on the end of the first row, a twinkle in his eye, like a trickster. Perhaps he'd just been having a casual conversation concerning psychical research with James. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall. (A multi-lingual fly).

To think of Freud initiating a disturbance of the sexual forces underneath the staid uptight New England society of the day with its scientific bias, seems strangely akin to Nabokov's in the late 1950s—and yet Nabokov, I seem to remember, dismissed Freud as a . . . fraud. A twisted paradox for a literary scholar no doubt.

Isabelle's revelations concerning Ashemore plus this reanimated photograph stirred up a great deal in me. She informed me that Ashemore had been monitoring the abuses of scientific discoveries, methods of manipulation, and mind control, the abuse of biochemical and acoustic antagonists. All very reminiscent of the cold war efforts I lived through. I recalled my early work under William Sargeant at St. Thomas's in London, and later here at McGill, learning of Donald Ewen Cameron's work at the Allan, the electroconvulsive therapies and paralytic drugs . . . No wonder I decided to break away and start my own practice. It's disheartening to learn such experiments are still being pursued, but not unexpected. The other side of the moon. La face cachée. (I see from my journal calendar it is a full moon this very night).

Isabelle is very sharp and capable, and is rising in the organization—Marcel would be proud—but she senses there are glass ceilings ahead. Progress, regress. Subject, object. Those moments when the narrative of one's life reveals the seam lines, plot structures and weaknesses, the figure in the carpet fading, the disillusion in the dénouement.

She asked after Amelia. As I write in this diary I wonder what Amelia will make of so many years of these private journals with their private meanings and allusive references. My acquaintances, friends, and patients often listed with initials. Would she even risk reading them? I don't think I could destroy the volumes after so much spirit expended. Perhaps she will simply leave them on the shelves as decorative dust collectors. Or would she box and store them away? I may have to broach the subject or make a request attached to my will. Their ultimate fate . . . ? I could imagine Amelia reading these words many years from now. It might very well read like a Gothic novel. The professional cases, the personal life, the musings, the mundane. Perhaps she'll use them as sources for fictional endeavours.

Arthur Roquebrune will be bringing Thérèse to see her Mother this afternoon. I instructed him and her partner Jerome to be patient. I also mentioned that odours would be excellent triggers to stimulate episodic memories, suggesting to Arthur that a stop at a gas station might prove useful, the smell of gasoline being such a powerful odour. Fried onions, bacon, brewed coffee, pine scent, spices, vanilla , furniture polish . . . Perhaps they will arrive to the odours of Thérèse's favourite recipe baked or cooked by her Mother. The unique smell of her parent's home will be significant in itself.

I forgot to note that Thérèse's partner, the painter Jerome van Starke—an interesting young man who seems familiar— provided an estimate for the cleaning of the old portrait of my forbear hanging on the stairwell landing. He mentioned how my distant relative resembled a friend of his, a writer named Loveridge. We must all have our multiple doppelgangers roaming the world at one time or another. Our quantum doubles in different dimensions.

As Edward closed his diary and leaned back in his chair, relinquishing reason for the immaterial mysteries of his imagination, Mélisande Bramente stood on a library stool helping a student locate a copy of Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter by Kerényi, while trying not to cover herself in residual dust from the shelves. A humdrum Monday had been transformed by the half carat clarity of a diamond engagement ring into a day of restless thoughts and inattention. She couldn't concentrate. She couldn't settle down. When she had slipped that small platinum circle onto to her finger she'd felt like the still point of a labyrinth with the world spinning around her. Her co-worker, Manon, having found her staring off into the near distance oblivious to the questions of students, had suggested she go for a short walk to clear her thoughts, but she had resisted, Eleusis, she had said, required locating. As she approached the circulation desk with the mysteriously misshelved volume, Pavor Loveridge, safely in his own apartment, was positioning the stylus over the second song of a dark reflective record—his copy of Ultravox's Lament—ready to touch the slow release and watch it descend upon the subtle undulations of the vinyl like an enchanted snake. Adjusting his headphones, he leaned against the window frame and stared through the leafless branches and rested his eyes on the late autumn colour of the climbing ivy wrapped around one of the old towers of the Grand Séminaire de Montreal across the street. A camouflage embrace. Cars, trucks and bicyclists made their ways east and west in a seemingly endless stream of desire and necessity, and he wondered if he'd find the strength to return to Italy. Mélisande had accepted his proposal and now he wanted nothing more than to stay. The fact of having met Jerome and Thérèse at the airport only reinforced this desire, as if the two planes that had circled the airport with the three of them as passengers, had set in motion an indeterminate fate. The fact that Pascal Tessier (the art gallery owner) no longer required Pavor's apartment, having mended his wayward ways and returned to his wife, had also seemed fortuitous,  (An African violet—a gift—had been the only casualty.) He was relaxed, reluctant to travel.

What would he tell Fig at their meeting at Schwartz's on Wednesday? He could almost see him turn the colour of the smoked meat with the news. Perhaps he could arrange to return to Italy in January. Have Mélisande visit for three or four weeks in April or May.

As the music swept Pavor's thoughts off their feet, Arthur Roquebrune was in the process of driving Thérèse and Jerome towards Varennes to visit with her Mother. He'd been anticipating the meeting with apprehension. Like witnesses to an accident, they would have differing perspectives. Mrs. Laflamme would likely experience anger towards him, a milder reproach towards Jerome, and likely mixed feelings of guilt and frustration towards herself in her relationship with her daughter. Jerome would likely feel a sense of guilt and regret with a revived anger towards him. Roquebrune felt only too deserving of his daily self-reproach, so much so that it had beleaguered his dreams, a recurring nightmare of rowing a small boat from one shore to another, but frustrated by the weight of too many passengers aboard, Thérèse and Jerome among them. He was barely able to move the oars. Passengers in he way, walking from stern to bow, rocking the boat. He generally awoke with the sense of taking on water. Restless nights leading to unsettled days.

He wondered what Thérèse was thinking or feeling as she sat beside him looking out the window. He looked in the rear view mirror and noticed Jerome was transfixed by Thérèse's reflection in the side mirror. A triangulation of loss.

Edward Seymour had suggested a leisurely drive past areas she was familiar with, in silence, without questions or prodding. Let her do the work naturally he had said. Let her memory mend itself. So, Arthur had chosen to drive along Boulevard Saint-Joseph past the duplexes and triplexes with their exterior staircases reaching out like welcoming arms, then south on rue St. Denis past the older buildings with their retail establishments.

Thérèse raised her finger to the glass. “Ah, Le Rideau Vert,” she said, remembering images from a one woman play, Madame Louis 14, Jerome by her side. When they drove past the bookshops of Guerin, Renaud-Bray, and Ulysses, memories arose of browsing for travel guides, biographies and presents for her Mother. Passing the Theatre d'Aujourd'hui, the title of a play, La Liste, was roused, a play she had attended with her girlfriends (white wine at the intermission, long line to the bathroom). A blur of boutiques, restaurants, and dépanneurs lacked familiarity yet stirred a semblance of ones she must have visited. She nodded her head slowly towards Carré St. Louis, its park bench denizens diminished by the cooler temperatures. Down they drove and turned east onto Sherbrooke Street, coming to rest, due to a red light, in front of the Maison Arthur-Dubuc with its vibrant late Victorian eclectic architecture. She stared at the three story bay window topped by a Dutch gable, the Neo-Romanesque entrance porch with its polished columns the colour of burnt orange, and the corner turret with its pointed tower roof like a French Château and said “Dandurand, Monsieur Dandurand once lived there. The wealthy businessman, real estate developer. He named the area of Rosemont after his Mother, Rose Phillips.”

Roquebrune felt a warmth flow through him as he recognized the name as the wealthy businessman who owned the house for many years. “Yes, the first owner of an automobile in Montreal, 18 . . . ?”

Thérèse turned to him smiling, “1899,” she said. He smiled back. There was hope.

Jerome was smiling too. “Yes, I remember you wrote that article about the history of the Rosemont District for the local newspaper. Your Mother must have all your articles in a clipping file. They should help you remember.”

Thérèse turned to face him, smiling. “Yes she does. Her bragging file.”

Passing the original main branch of the Montreal Public Library across from Lafontaine Park brought up memories, thought images like old-fashioned slides upon a dining room wall: walking in the park, feeding the ducks, the squirrels and pigeons, listening to summer concerts, Saturday afternoon picnics, children with toy sailing ships, an adult manipulating a replica of the Bluenose by remote control; and the library, the silence, the calm, the shadowed light—a Neoclassical building that now housed a city arts administration centre named after the poet Gaston Miron, whose book L'homme rapaillé she remembered reading but not identifying with or completely understanding.

Duplexes, triplexes, restaurants, small apartment blocks, stores, gas stations passed without a thought until they came to rest at a red light beside the Chateau Dufresne.

“Do you remember our visits?” she asked Jerome.

He leaned forward as much as the seat belt would allow and touched her shoulder with his hand. “Yes, yes, the opulent interiors, yes, of course. We wanted to live there, sit in the chairs, at the desks, look out the windows, breath the air. Those stain-glass windows and frieze's by Guido Nincheri, the fine woodwork panels and floors, the furniture, the bronzes, that oriental style smoking room and its double in Gothic. What an extraordinary place. Two brothers living in a perfectly symmetrical double Beaux Arts home divided by a common wall. We have to visit again. We can relive it together.”

The light turned green and as they advanced, they each glimpsed the leaning concrete tower of the Olympic stadium in the near distance and Thérèse thought the observation windows above the large rectangle retractable roof storage space made it resemble a three eyed howling ghost, such a contrast with the turn of the century mirrored mansion they had just passed.

Low rise commercial buildings dominated as the neared the expansive Place Versailles shopping mall where Thérèse had worked as a sales clerk in a clothing store for many summers while a student. While she was remembering details of her time there, Arthur realized he would have to make a series of manoeuvres to gain access to the expressway that would take him south on the Trans-Canada Highway leading to the Louis-Hyppolite Fontaine tunnel under the St. Lawrence river to the south shore, manoeuvres that would make it appear to Thérèse and Jerome he was lost and making absurd choices, for he had to continue on Sherbrooke Street, cross over the highway, take the first right south and circle back north and make another circle and go back in the direction they came, only to make but another circle and finally come round to the access ramp to the highway, and at each turn, he would see the Loblaws on the far corner and the retirement home complex behind where an old friend of his had indeed retired, a pleasant apartment and well-placed near shopping venues, but an end-of-life dwelling he hoped he would never find himself having to surrender to, and here he was circling and facing it like a sign from the future, retirement home, retirement home, retirement home.

It was his desire to emulate Edward Seymour in his hold upon independence. He'd rather die at his desk in the home he'd lived in for thirty years than succumb to resignation. It was also his hope he would die first. His dear wife would be provided for and an upscale retirement home with excellent social activities and quality meals would suit her well. Freedom from a large house and its concerns.

As he took the final circle, Arthur noticed the anxious looks from his passengers. “Don't worry, I know where I'm going,” he said.

Jerome looked up towards the new buildings of the retirement home and realised they were located behind the old asylum where the poet Émile Nelligan had lived out the last years of his life, now the modern Institut Universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal. What had caused the poet's breakdown? Was it a family dynamic? A Dublin born father, David Nelligan and a French-Canadian Mother creating emotional stresses? Or was it the unromantic chemical imbalance? The expressways and highways hadn't scarred the landscape when he lived there. There must have been fields, trees, church steeples, views of the river and Ile Charron. The name of the small island always brought to mind the mythological character of Charon, the ferryman of the underworld. The thought that his childhood friend was drawn by the frigid currents of the river past this island towards Varennes seemed miraculous. Almost twenty years have passed since he leaped to his death. Pierre. Pierre Sable. Had he been in love with Thérèse as well?

As they entered the tunnel, Jerome eased himself back into the seat and closed his eyes, imagining Pierre's body floating above them, watching their progress, following their path.

© ralph patrick mackay

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