What is perfect is directly before me. It is my entire life, inasmuch as my entire life can be captured, reviewed, revered, or processed now. And yet, this small room, with its heaving stacks of papers and leaning rows of books; its small daybed, brown with rust-colored and yellow flowers and reeds; its packed and unclosable cupboards — how does this unroomy, untidy room become my life? And what of the body in this room on a late June afternoon, typing, sweating, clad only in shorts, trim but for an extra fold around the middle? What of this body, not too tan though summer is already underway, this body in its late thirties, with thin blond hair gently loosening over the years at the topknot, till a pink rose of flesh peeks through the tufts? This trustworthy, frightening body, that can walk me ten miles, squirm with ecstasy, dance and swim — and yet fold shut at the throat with allergy, squeeze with unseen pincers its own nerves extending from vertebrae which may slip with a lift, or twist in innocent sleep? This demanding, demanding body that will sing and perk for sex with any pretty woman passing by, and that, once denied, will shout for superfluous suppers and desserts? Well, the body is in the room, too.
Here we all are, all the parts. Memory is housed safely in its skull studio, where it can play, replay, edit, splice, erase, make louder or softer anything not in this room. Memory is here to paint the room when I least notice it happening. One moment I am my June-perspiring body, my gently aching back, my shallow, hot breath, my blood-tingling groin. The next, I am a fat little boy reading comic books and eating candy bars in the city park. A bottle of pop is sweating, too, as I sit cross-legged in the shady grass beneath the trees by the Presbyterian church. I am undressing Lois Lane. I am exploring the red pubic hair of Lana Lang. I am feeling my fatness melt and harden into Superboy’s red-and-blue plumage. I am flying over the park, picking back on bullies who have picked on me, swinging like Tarzan through the elms, taking a bite of a Snickers bar, washing it down with strawberry fizz. I am wishing I had Batman with me. I am ten years old in this, my cluttered writing room, in the grass in the park.
So memory shows a filmstrip and I attend, through inattention. This little room disappears for a while, then fades back. I step out to make more coffee, come back to settle at the small rolltop desk with the reprehensible computer, the “word processor,” beneath its sliding top. I’m in the room again. One window shows me blackberry bushes and bees on the blossoms — no blue sky unless I duck my head down to tabletop level. These bushes are voracious, prodigious. They attack and grow the way I want my writing to attack and grow — fitting into every spare space, grabbing every tiny nourishing inch of earth while hogging the sunshine, and yielding an almost compensatory sweetness. See? I went out the window and left the room. My body was gone, my eyes saw nothing, not even the letters on the screen, just blackberry branches jungling my back yard. Imagination pulls me through the window and takes me traveling. I root and thrive in the hot Oregon breeze. I am in my season, my season is green, and the room is just a place where the blackberries can’t reach yet, but they’re trying.
So, this is my whole life, isn’t it? Isn’t everything here that is me? Things I don’t remember don’t count: they’re still inside the skull inside the body inside the room, even if I don’t know what they are, even if I never call them to mind again and they drift like phantasms in a drawer of unprocessed films. What isn’t memory is imagination, and it travels beyond the bushes, beyond the town, beyond the borders of state, nation, world, and physical dimension. Or it fights memory for a chance to show movies of its own. It’s so hard to stay here, so hard to be thirty-six, drinking coffee, tickling the hairs on my left arm, listening to the dry wind swoosh the trees — already, I’ve left the room, I’m in the trees.
I begin to doubt the reality of this room. Why is it so easy to leave? Why do I insist upon escaping the rug, the fan, the typewriter, the heat pouring off my arms and chest, the sixty-watt bulb beaming over my shoulder? Maybe this room is a vehicle, and I take voyages. Maybe this room is a fantasy, and I convert it into other fantasies. Maybe this room is real enough, but is so conscious that it agrees to become whatever I think about. Is this room more than just imagination and memory at play? When I’m not looking, does this body of mine sprout wings, fly to Venus, bathe in the heart of the sun? If my consciousness could pin my self into this box, like a dead and collected butterfly, so that I could be truly fixed in this room — who would do the pinning, and who would look upon the pinned?
I can find my way out of this writing just as I found my way in; the page is like another room or another body, and inside I am only as lost as I let myself be. You too. All I do, here, at the end, is tell the lie that a telephone is ringing. I answer the telephone, and it’s a friend, Batman. He says to me, “Hey, Superboy, whatcha been doin’?”
“I’ve been in my writing room, working on a story,” I lie.