Monday, September 24, 2012


I've loved this since I first saw it: it's a late Roman sarcophagus with Dionysus, unfortunately now faceless, gloriously sprawling in the center, leaning on one of his followers, and Ariadne, splayed out, asleep at his feet.  She is going to wake up to HIM.  And since this is a sarcophagus, her sleep has to be read as death, and that awakening as a final one, to - as I always say to students when I teach it - an ecstatic erotic encounter with the god.  And so, suddenly, death doesn't seem so bad.

Right now, though, I'm thinking about it a little bit differently.  Because I'm thinking about how sleep is different from death.  Because sleep, and waking from it, repeat - over and over and over again.  Day after day after day.  Where death happens once (and I don't know what if anything happens afterwards).   So as asleep, Ariadne isn't going to awake just once to her encounter with the god, but is going to do so daily, over and over and over again.  To me, that's even better.

Because I love repetition.  I'll read the same books, watch the same movies and tv shows, over and over again.    I make habits easily: to do something for the first time can be very hard for me, but do the same thing twice and it's already a habit.  I will go on to do it over and over again.   I like days to repeat: all Mondays to be the same, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc.  I think that is why I've always liked school, because it sets a pattern for the day and the week and the year, that happen over and over again.  The hardest times in my life have been times without that structure: summers as a child, the year I was out of school between high school and college, the period in graduate school when I had finished coursework and was supposed to be writing my dissertation.  The only way I finally did that was by learning to create patterns for myself; mornings are for writing, afternoons for reading or teaching, repeat over and over and over again.  I still use that pattern in the summers.  And it's one of the things I loved about ballet.  Class is always different, but there is a pattern to the exercises (plie, tendu, second tendu, and so one) and exercises contain patterns that repeat (in fours or eights, en croise, en dehors then en dedans, right and then left) over and over again.  My teacher, Barbara, used to set these crazy exercise that began on the right, repeated about half way through on the left, then had a different ending, and then started all over again from the beginning on the left and ended with the partial repeat on the right.  You had to mark those constantly to drill them into your mind.

And not only do I love repetition, but to me repetition feels like love.  I read this passage from Peggy Phelan years ago and it has stuck with me ever since: "love is, among other things, the performance of belief in repetition - that the beloved with return, that each of you will come again."  (Mourning Sex, p. 150)

The relationship I was in for the past few years was never regular and predictable like the rest of my life - the parts that are in my control.  I never knew when he was going to come.  I would get an email or a text and few hours later he would be here.  But, surprisingly, I didn't mind.  Not knowing when it would happen meant that it could happen at any time, on any day.  It was possible every day.   And if I didn't know when he was going to come, I could count on the fact that was going to come again.  Over and over and over again.

But he is not going to come again this time.  And that is very hard for me to accept.  The idea of getting back together with someone is always very attractive to me, more so than meeting someone new.  But he and I have already done that once and it is not going to happen again -  I struggled just to write that down.  I still want to believe that there is some chance, even though I know better.  To have to let go of any hope of his return feels like a death to me.  Total.  Sudden.  Inexplicable.  Unredeemable.