Friday, July 29, 2011

A story in three words



It doesn't take a paragraph for you to see the sorry road ahead. You can point to the moment when illusion triumphed over the clear knowledge of throwing it all away and seemed like a reasonable option. "Took up with..." guarantees folly. If one has a first step on the road to hell, these words are surely etched there. There is little chance that taking up with will end well. Once we hear that James Taylor's Millworker "...took up with a no-good millworking man from Massachusette..." we know not to hold our breath for triumph.

A snippet from Google: Interesting Facts about World Writers ... Catholic mother's death, James Joyce took up with a chambermaid, Nora Barnacle. ...


It may be that we only take up with someone during a fugue episode or a failure of self-esteem or a reckless lack of caring about the future, even as close as tomorrow. The whole noir genre is fueled by bad ideas which often involve being dazzled, seduced, misled, fast-talked or come-hithered into dangerous liaisons with persons of the opposite, though not exclusively, gender.

But I suspect - though it could be, by loose definition, a bewitching - some of us have been sent into the world with key mechanisms in less than good working order. There is no difference between having arrived on earth that way or having been substantially, almost fatally, altered by circumstances of abuse, neglect, trauma or loss. Bad experiences turn some of us cautious and others of us indifferent.

When I thought of the phrase as one which has not been replaced, let alone improved upon over possibly a few centuries, give or take, I wanted to throw my arms around it as a model of verbal shorthand. If I sat and pondered, and my pondering skills right now seem at low ebb, I could possibly list other examples as succinct as these three words, but possibly not.

We will leave it that it is not only as a student of fiction that I know the nuances of "took up with." Short term, longer term, being the taker or the, very seldom, one hopes, takee, this is life as an object lesson. When your parents, who played a significant part in the origins of such heedless behavior, point you out to younger siblings as the creature they do NOT want to grow up to be, the cycle of defeat is nearly concluded.

But what surprises life holds, what redemptive nets somehow appear beneath our most dizzying falls. That some of us survive our worst ideas, or complete absence of ideas, is surely miraculous. I am ever drawn to tales of rebirth and transformation, of what was lost being found, the missing restored, what was broken repaired. Whether I escaped through luck or providence, I know how close I came to being trapped by all those words foretell. When I read or hear them, I know to cross my fingers and wish for good sense or rescue to arrive in time.

8 comments:

grrl + dog said...

rebirth or transformation...
initiation may be another way to describe it,

and I believe those experiences define you, and make you stronger. Like an initiation.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - More and more, life seems to take on the aspects of fairy tales. There have been trials, spells to be broken, riddles to be solved, secrets into which we hope to be initiated. I give credit to those writers, those story-tellers, for their gifts of insight and cautionary tales. I agree completely, those are the experiences which shape and define us; we are either defeated or transformed. xo

Erin in Morro Bay said...

I may have "took up with" a bad one the first time around, but I sure did it right this time. Feel like I paid my dues and now, in this half of life I'm reaping huge rewards!
Erin

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - A richly-deserved reward. Some of us were more serial taker-uppers until we learned there were other choices. But isn't it a phrase that speaks volumes? xo

Kathleen said...

Loved this chance to ponder your words & ideas and to listen to this beautiful & melancholy song.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kathleen - Thank you. Since posting this,the song plays continually in my head. It is interesting, after this post I, for today at least, have more energy. Maybe some of those old "took up withs" were still hanging on.

Penelope said...

You've got me thinking, Marylinn. I wonder at what point we take up with . . . and whether by the time we do, we've been taken already so it's more or less inevitable. (Considering The Rat, among others.)

Marylinn Kelly said...

Penelope - This is a subject I have pondered over many years and I think in my case a severe predisposition to "take up with" made for predictable outcomes. Now Ratty, on the other hand, might be more from the "fell in with" category, which does not always refer to bad company. More like falling stars, you landed in each others' lives. xo