This was supposed to be about Kerouac. I was going to talk about reading On The Road while I was driving through Utah and Arizona, how the dust of the desert fit in perfectly with the book. I was going to talk about my favorite line in Book of Sketches, "the flesh gets numb, but the soul doesn't."
Instead, it's Thursday morning, and I'm pounding out these words as quickly as I can, taking a break every few lines to put on mascara or foundation. All I can think of is a poem I read once, and the first two lines are echoing over and over in my head: "Salinger, I'm sorry, but don't ever tell anyone anything..." and that's all I can remember, so I repeat it until finally I open up a new tab and google the rest of the poem.
It goes like this:
"Salinger, I'm sorry, but "don't ever tell
anyone anything" is a string of words
that I would like to wrap up in canvas and sink
to the bottom of the Hudson, or extract
by laser from the ribcage of all of us
who ever believed it, who felt afraid
to miss someone, to be the last one
standing. "Tell everyone everything" is
not exactly right, but I do believe that if
your mother looks radiant in violet
you should tell her, or when a juvenile
sparrow thrashes its wings in dustpiles
and reminds you of a lover's eyelashes,
you should say so. We are islands all of us,
but we are also boats, our secrets flares,
pyrotechnic devices by which we signal
there's someone in here we're still alive!
So maybe it's, "don't be afraid." Oliver Bendorf, Catch a Body
That poem contradicts one of my favorite quotes from Salinger. See, when I read the Catcher in the Rye, it had been exactly a year since I left for Jordan. All those memories were flooding back, and I started telling my family the stories that they had already heard millions of times. And I read that quote, right at the end of the book, where Holden Caulfield says, "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody," and I thought, that is so true. Holden gets it.
But then. I read this poem, and maybe Holden doesn't get it. Holden does understand that sharing the stories, telling people things, can make you miss them more. Holden doesn't understand, though, that sometimes it's worth it, that sometimes the best thing you can do is: "don't be afraid."