"I want to live only for ecstasy. Small doses, moderate loves, all half-shades, leave me cold. I like extravagance. Letters which give the postman a stiff back to carry, books which overflow from their covers, sexuality which bursts the thermometers."
This paragraph struck me; I found myself repeating it over and over while walking to class, attempting to cement it in my mind. I remembered that a professor at Virginia Intermont College had once said, "When you memorize something, it becomes a part of you." I wanted to take this statement of Anaïs's and instill it in my mind such that we would never part.
I have been longing, as I walk, to blather French, on and on, not caring what it might mean as long as it meant something. I needed something to memorize. But that was not my main motive in visiting the French Dept. Rather, it was only an excuse. The real reason was that I knew that my accent was extraordinary for someone who had never learned hardly the least bit of French, beyond doing Pimsleur's first 30-minute session of French months ago, and I wanted to show it off.
I found several teachers in the loungeroom and asked them to translate Anaïs's phrase for me (the diary was written originally in English).
"Je ne veux vivre que pour l'extase. Petites doses. Amours modérés. Les demies hombres me laisse froide. J'aime l'extravagance. Les lettres qui donnent au postier un mal de des, des livres qui débordent de leurs couvertures, une sexualitée qui fait exploser les thermométres."
After they had puzzled this out for me, I tried reading it aloud and they helped me through. I nodded, looking at it satisfactorily, then thanked them and stood.
"You have...quite a good accent for only having started studying French the last couple days!" the man said.
"Yes, you should take a class," said the woman.
I explained about my twenty credits.
"Next term," she smiled.
Thus praised, given my phrase to repeat and repeat and turn into une incantation, I headed off to Biology of the Sea, paging through my recently-rented "Pastries from La Brea Bakery" to find something to make for them in gratitude.
Anaïs is my guide. I love her for her gentleness and vibrancy. She will carry me. It is the proper time.
Brown Butter and Fruit Picnic Tarts
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Scant 1/2 cup unbleached pastry flour or all-purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 sticks (6 oz) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean
1 1/2 cups (3/4 lb) strawberries, sliced in half vertically, or raspberries, blueberries, or 1/4-inch pear chunks
Adjust the oven rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Stir in the flour and whisk until combined.
In a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, begin to melt the butter. Using a small paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise. With the back of the knife, scrape out the pulp and the seeds and add the scrapings and the pod to the butter. Swirl the pan to ensure the butter cooks evenly and doesn't burn. It will bubble somewhat vigorously as it browns. Continue cooking 3 to 5 more minutes, until the bubbles subside and liquid is dark brown with a nutty, toasty aroma. Remove the vanilla bean.
Slowly, pour the browned butter and dark flecks in a steady stream into the egg mixture, whisking continuously.
Place half a strawberry, or 3 to 5 raspberries, or 5 blueberries, or 3 chunks of pear into each tart shell and pour 2 tablespoons of filling into each shell. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar over each, place the molds on 1-2 baking sheets, spaced 1/2 inch apart, and bake for 25 minutes until the crust is nicely browned. Halfway through, rotate the baking sheets to ensure even baking.
Yield: 24 tartlets
Why did Anaïs's phrase touch me so deeply? The time is right. The phrase was there, the wisdom, the key, the unlocking of my desires, my passions, my aims to live fully, freely. I did not understand. I thought I had little desire for parties, for the sea, for many things considered "fun."
This is not true. I love life. I love living. But I love it so much that I am like Anaïs. I must have extremes. I must have Whitney sucking my nipple over my shirt pretending to be a man, hoping my mother does not happen to open the door as my back is to the deepwood dresser. I must be coaxed by Brandon across a fallen metal "bridge" to enter an old factory, or driven at 90 miles per hour, or led to hide on the side of train tracks over a hundred feet above rushing water, my insides quivering with the rush of the midnight train and its glaring lights; touching one another, being scratched when the train stops and holding the cry in. I must fall in love with a married man with one child and another on the way, who writes poetry and songs and speaks from a generation before my own. I must have Maggie discover she is a lesbian by falling in love with me, the tension, the moment, sitting on the hill, when she said, after a long build-up, "...愛してる," and respond, "...わかるよ." I must ride a train to stay with a man I've never met in a city I've never been to to model for an anime con Gothic Lolita stand and let him take me because he took me for wonderful seafood and my first club dancing experience and I was so full of adrenaline, so horny and exhausted. I must be caught by Alexander Sawyer, pressed onto his erect cock and love the way he forced me, swallow, accept all. Drive to stay with a man I've never met in Mississippi. Follow him to a city I've scarcely ever heard of. Be stolen by a boy I've known and secretly, not even fully known to myself, loved for years, dramatically, passionately, be carried to the kitchen counter without prélude. Be captured by a sadist on the street. Propel the awkwardness with a friend into sex and romance. Fly to Hawai'i, plan for Japan.
My everydays, and my transitions through life, have been plain, confusticated, forced. Because it was not enough for me to visit the sea, to ride a bike. I must have it all. I must have life. When I read "leave me cold" I knew my problem and I had become whole in mind. Perhaps old habits die hard. Perhaps they do not. This part of me is so powerful that all the peer pressure and shyness in the world did not disarm it. It flares up, brightly. I have chosen a good path: travel, a fantastic boy to love deeply, an intense interest in art, music, literature, the world. As I hoped against hope, Hawai'i has been my sauveur. I must needs seek extremes. I must live "only for ecstasy." I will not be daunted for long by trivial matters, by disputes, by 宿題 or finances.
"Je ne veux vivre que pour l'extase. Small doses, moderate loves, all half-shades, leave me cold. J'aime l'extravagance. Letters which give the postman a stiff back to carry, books which overflow from their covers, une sexualitée qui fait exploser les thermométres."
Now, how will I manage this without my classic downfall, the moment when my passion decreases and I cool, am depressed?
That is the key. That is the important question. And I have discovered the solution:
Like a gun, I need ammunition; I need stimulation as un tigre needs the sun on its back and the taste of blood. I must have ecstasy to carry me forward. I need it constantly, refreshing me, filling me. Anaïs's diary is a good source of it. I have already begun reading it like fuel. What else can I find? Delicate tiny pastries, sliding down a stairway rail, tasting a drop of hazelnut extract, brushing my feet in the sea.
I now know, finally, finally, finally, gods, finally, yes, how, why, what.
I am 23, almost, and it has happened at once and at last.
My savior, Anaïs. And Barry, my love. This college. Stavrogin. Most of all, my own self.
I love you, whomever; I do not care; I shall become like Peter, not Pan nor Petyr, but my Peter, the character Peter, the shaker of animal-cages.
I became unsure earlier when I slid down a rail despite many people going up and down the stairs. I tumbled off halfway and nearly collided with a girl. I laughed and went on, and behind me another girl said, "Jesus!" and a boy with her laughed scornfully. I tried to keep steady but my mind was a tumult. Was this what was meant? Was that OK? Was I only being stupid, rude? I did not know how to tell. Her cry, and the expression on the girl's face, echoed after me.
Then I knew my second rock: Peter, a creation of mine. What would Peter do? Yes, Peter would do that, gentle, wild Peter. He would not mind. He follows his whims, his heart, without a flicker of doubt. I knew then that I knew Peter well enough to know his actions, and if I knew that I could do anything and be sure of myself. He understands the difference between non-propriety and true injury. He brushes off life's gnats and dives into it, arms like an arrow.
Je ne veux vivre que pour l'extase...