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挖掘Excavating Rachael’s Room  

2012-03-07 18:41:52|  分类: English |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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挖掘Excavating Rachael’s Room
 
...With her eighteenth birthday near, Rachael has moved to Boston, leaving
her room and the cleaning of it to us....

We take a few days off, just to get used to the idea of there being only two of us again. Then, tentatively试探性的, we push open the door to her room.

The dogs peer凝视 into the darkness from around our legs and look up at us. The room—well—undulates波动. It stands as a shrine圣地 to questionable taste, a paean赞歌 to the worst of American consumerism.消费主义 The last few echoes of Def Leppard and
Twisted反常的 Sister are barely audible.. 听得见的  Georgia sighs.

I suggest flame throwers coupled链接 with a 前端的front-end loader and caution the  cleanup crew, which now includes the two cats, about a presence over in one of  the corners. Faintly, I can hear it rustle and snarl嗥叫. It is, I propose, 提议some furry 皮毛的
guardian of teenage values, and it senses, correctly, that we are enemies. 敌人

Trash bags in hand, we start at the door and work inward, tough-minded.坚强的,实际的

“My god, look at this stuff; let’s toss扔 it all.”

The first few hours are easy. Half-empty shampoo bottles go into the bags, along with three dozen hair curlers发夹, four dozen dried-up干缩的 ball-point 圆珠笔pens and
uncountable pictures of bare-chested young men with contorted扭曲的 faces clawing抓 at
strange-looking guitars.

Farther into the room salvage appears: the hammer that disappeared years
ago; about six bucks in change; fifty percent of the family’s towel 毛巾and drinking-
glass stock; five sets of keys to the Toyota. More. Good stuff. We work with a  vengeance报仇.

Moving down through the layers, though, we begin to undergo经历 a
transformation.

Slowly, we change from rough-and-tumble scavengers乱七八糟的清洁工食腐动物 to gentle archaeologists考古家. Perhaps it started when we reached the level of the dolls玩偶 and stuffed animals. Maybe it was when I found “The Man Who Never Washed His Dishes,” a morality play in a dozen or so pages, with her childhood scribblings涂鸦 in it. In any case, tough-mindedness has turned to drippy潮湿的 sentimentality 多愁善感by the time we find the tack大头针 and one shoe from Bill, her horse.

I had demanded想知道 that Bill be sold when he was left unridden after the five years of an intense love affair with him were over. That was hard on her, I know.
I begin to understand just how hard when Georgia discovers a bottle of horsefly repellent区虻剂 that [Rachael] kept for her memories.
We hold up treasures and call to each other. “Look at this, do you
remember...?”
And there’s Barbie烤肉架. And Barbie’s clothes. And Barbie’s camper露营者 in which the young female cat was given grand tours壮丽的旅游 of the house, even though she would have preferred not to travel at all, thank you.

My ravings疯语 about the sexist glorification赞颂 of middle-class values personified by Barbie seem stupid and hollow in retrospect空洞的回顾
, as I devilishly厉害地 look at the cat and wonder if she still fits in the camper. “Here kitty, kitty....” Ken is not in sight. Off
working out on the Nautilus equipment, I suppose. Or studying tax shelters.

*Ah, the long-handled net with which Iowa nearly was cleared of fireflies for a time. “I know they look pretty in the bottle, Sweetheart, but they will die if you keep them there all night.”

Twister—The Game That Ties You Up in Knots. The ball glove. She was
pretty decent at first base. And the violin小提琴. Jim Welch’s school 管弦orchestra was one of the best parts of her growing years.

She smiles out at us from a homecoming picture, the night of her first real date. Thousands of rocks and seashells贝壳. The little weaving 织布机loom on which she fashioned pot holders for entire neighborhoods. My resolve is completely gone as I rescue Snoopy’s pennant from the flapping jaws of a trash bag and set it to one side for keeping.
We are down to small keepsakes and jewelry. Georgia takes over, not trusting my eye for value, and sorts the precious宝贵的from the junk破烂物, while I shuffle乱堆 through old algebra papers.

Night after night, for a year, I sat with her at the kitchen table, failing to convince使相信 her of the beauty to be found in quadratic 二次的equations and other abstractions. I goaded 刺激her with Waller’s Conjecture猜想: “Life is a word problem.”
Blank stare.
Finally, trying to wave hope in the face of defeat挫败, I paraphrased Fran Lebowitz: “In the real world, there is no algebra.”

She nodded, smiling, and laughed when I admitted that not once, in all my travels, had I ever calculated how long Smith would need to overtake Brown if Brown left three hours before Smith on a slower train. I told her I’d sit in the bar and wait for Smith’s faster train.
That confirmed证明 what she had heretofore only suspected可疑—algebra is not needed for the abundant大量的 life, only fast trains and good whiskey. And, she was right, of course.
The job is nearly finished. All that remains is a bit of archiving存档. I have strange feelings, though. Have we sorted carefully enough? Probably.
Georgia is thorough彻底的 about that kind of thing. Still, I walk to the road again and look at the pile. The tailings残渣 of one quarter of a life stacked up in three dozen bags. It seems like there ought to be more.

When I hear the garbage truck, I peer 仔细看out of an upstairs window in her room. The garbage guys have seen lives strung out along road edges before and are not moved. The cruncher on the truck grinds hair curlers and Twister and junk jewelry and broken stuffed animals—and some small part of me.

She calls from Boston. A job. Clerking 办事人员in a store, and she loves it. We are pleased and proud of her. She’s under way.
The weeks go by. Letters. “I am learning to budget my money. I hate it. I want to be rich.”
She starts her search for the Dream in a rooming house downtown and finds a Portuguese boyfriend, Tommy, who drums in a rock band and cooks Chinese for her. Ella Fitzgerald sings a free concert音乐会 in the park. The cop 警察on the beat knows her, and the store is crowded with returning college kids late in a Boston summer. Here in the woods, it’s quieter now.

Her room has been turned into a den兽穴. A computer replaces curling irons电卷发器 and other clutter杂物 on her desk. My pinstripes 西装look cheerless in her closet壁橱 where pink fish-net tops and leather pants once hung.

Order has replaced life. I sit quietly there and hear the laughter, the crying,the reverberation回响 of a million phone calls. The angst烦恼 of her early-teen existential crisis危机 lingers逗留, drifting in a small cloud near the high ceiling.

And you know what I miss? Coming home and hearing her say, “Looking pretty good, Bob! Got your suspenders on?” She could make a whirring sound just like the motor drive on a fine camera. Those few moments of irreverent不敬的 hassle麻烦事 every day are what I miss most of all.

Regrets? A few. I wish I had walked in the woods more with her. I wish I had gotten mad less and laughed longer. Maybe we could have kept the horse another year.

Victories? A few. She loves the music and the animals. She understands romance and knows how to live a romantic life. She also has the rudimentary 基本的skills of a great blackjack dealer. I sent her off with that instead of luggage行李....

And I know I’ll sit on the porch门廊 as autumn comes this year and other years, in some old sweater with some old dreams, and wonder where she goes and how she goes.
I hope she goes where there’s laughter and romance, and walks the streets of Bombay and leans out of Paris windows to touch falling January snow and swims in the seas off Bora Bora and makes love in Bangkok曼谷 in the Montien Hotel....

Go well, Rachael Elizabeth, my daughter. And, go knowing that your ball glove hangs on the wall beside mine, that Snoopy’s pennant flies bravely in the old airs of your room, that the violin is safe, and that the little cat now sleeps with us at night but still sits on the porch railing in the late afternoon and looks for you.

— Robert James Waller
from Just Beyond the Firelight, 1988
Iowa State University Press

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