Tuesday, February 12, 2019

My Secret Self

I went to the library on Friday to start reading one of the books assigned for the Literature/Discussion class I’m taking. The theme for this semester is “Haunted” because all five books assigned are stories about places or people that are haunted - by love, by the past, by a longing for something desired or for something lost.

The book I was reading, The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg, is a story about a widow of five weeks who travels to Havana, Cuba to attend a film festival. It’s a trip she was supposed to take with her late husband, a film studies professor who specialized in horror.

Speaking of horror, here’s a quote I found while reading. “She (the protagonist, Clare) had this second, secret self that she didn’t know how to share with anyone, and when alone, that self came out into the open.”

Those words resonated with me, I think, because I, too, have a secret self who thrives on being alone, even on going out alone, especially to restaurants where she can sit in a quiet corner booth and feel, not just as though she is alone, but as though she is hiding, hiding from everyone and everything that puts demands on her. 

Most of the time there are few problems between my selves. When problems do arise, it’s because my secret self is a lot like Mr. Hyde, except that she’s a lot less evil - but a lot more mischievous. She’s also a tattler who likes to tell the world all the dumb things my other self does. She likes to write them all down and put them on the Internet for the rest of the world to read. 

But, getting back to the book, our protagonist tells us that while in Havana she “felt like someone had carved her heart out of her chest and then turned her loose to stumble through a dark forest on a frigid night.” I recognize that feeling. It’s grief. Which brings me to the reason I tolerate my secret self. It’s because it is she who absorbs all the pain my other self can’t handle.

Dear Elvis, a memoir of love and grief, is available at amzn.to/2uPSFtE

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