Divided feelings

30 June 2013

I am drinking gin at a coffee bar when two Americans come in to discuss, in sign language, some hot dog sandwiches displayed in the window. I speak loud Italian and express in this way some of my divided feelings about my own country. We go to the villa for cocktails and see from the terrace the city like a painted backdrop; we hear the famous bells.

Cheever’s journals: this is a light touch, and funny, and you have done exactly this. In Jaén you’d avoid Americans in large groups except on major U.S. holidays. You have, in your life, concealed your ability to speak English. It’s a small thing: you want to show you’re better, you don’t like being on the outside. (Especially when being outside means being related to those drunk assholes, the ones in four-leaf-clover leis.)

All of these feelings—the shedding yourself, the conflicted sentiment towards your origins, the sense of doomed likeness, the constant straining to prove otherwise—were probably prefigured as soon as you left the Midwest for the coasts.

Maybe I like reading these journals because Cheever’s flaws are very close to my own, and because he’s so much more lucid, anatomizing them.

One Response to “Divided feelings”

  1. When I have moments like this, I feel like a child with a butterfly net encountering an expert lepidopterist.

    The shift between inside/outside is always fraught, isn’t it? My current project is set in a fantastical 19th century Ireland, a landscape that I wonder if I have any claim to, as a member of the diaspora. Among my American friends, I am the girl with the Irish passport, and among my Irish friends, I am the Yank. At the end of the day, you become both and neither.

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