My friend Holly and I watched a horror film last week and it didn't altogether suck, which is more than I can say for our usual luck (hey, that rhymed). It was called "The Attic" (gee, aren't they all?) and it was about -- well -- yes, you guessed it, a family moving into a new house, a teenage daughter seeing her doppelganger pop up in odd places and of course, no one believing her (except the handsome cop who may or may not exist), parents who might be "in on it," and the discovery of an actual twin. But, like I said, it wasn't bad; we jumped a few times, and the gore was kept at a minimum. I thought about a book then that I'd read a long, long time ago involving a twin character, and remembered it as one of the creepiest stories I'd ever read with a horrendous, jarring denouement. It was by Thomas Tryon and it was called "The Other." I'm thinking the 70's -- in fact I'm thinking the early 70's. I thought I'd like to try reading it again.
When I think about times in my life, I do think about books that've gone for the ride. Not always horror stories, of course. Pick a person, place or thing for me to recall and I'll tell you the book, or more often books, plural, that went along with it. "The Clan of the Cave Bear," "Gone With The Wind" and "The Thornbirds" would be my Aunt Bella. "Watership Down" would be a hospitalization in 1976. "The Poisonwood Bible" is two months in an adobe and straw bale house in southern California. "The Other" was 1972 according to Wikipedia, so I got it right. And it was spring. How could I possibly remember that it was spring? Because in those days, it always was.
Gravity hadn't become the bad joke on my body that it is today, and things (boobs, belly) stayed up where they belong. My hair was virgin (even if I may not have been). I could kneel, run, jump, crawl and hide a bottle of Ripple from my parents at lightning speed. My parents were young and strong and had fun lives. It was the opposite of "The Chronicles of Narnia" -- here, it was always summer. Or more accurately, spring. Peepers. Skunk cabbage. Robins. Easter sunrise. Jean jackets after bulky, sweaty winters, and the scent of lily-of-the-valley -- "Muguet des Bois." No worries. Be happy. Play "Stairway to Heaven." Smoke.
Then today my dad and I went to the dump to forage a bit. More accurately, the Bulky Waste Transfer Station. If you have never been dump pickin' I feel sorry for you. In our family, it is tradition. Especially me and Dad; I used to ride out to the dump with him in his old green 1940's pickup when I was a child, shifting gears as instructed, oftentimes stopping in the piney woods to get out and walk among old foundations. Now the stuff's in big metal hoppers that you can't (legally) climb into, but still we find neat, usable stuff and the new attendant puts plastic milk crates of tossed-away books out for visitors like us to paw through. And there in amongst the paperbacks, a motley mix of Harlequin romances, sweeping western sagas and "literature" (Arthur Conan Doyle, Somerset Maugham, Mark Twain) a copy of guess what was stuck. Yep, "The Other." A bit of a coincidence, no?
So home we went, and I thought, tonight I will put aside my current crop of library books and found cast-offs and I will read "The Other" for its chilling brilliant evocations and wish for us all (except the guys shipped off to the jungles to fight) that it was 1972 again and spring, and lush, and alive with happy traditions and questionable adventures. The warm and fuzzies mixed in with fringed boots and Buffalo Springfield. What a time. Spring time, always.
Well, sometimes there's a really good reason why someone would get rid of an old book. It looked promising -- no mold or must or water damage puffing up the pages -- but sadly, a whole lotta pages were missing. Pages 1 through 42, to be specific. Damn. DAMN! So into the real true garbage went this book. I am not interested in starting a story on page 43. Back to reality. This ain't 1972. People are old, some are sick, some are dead, some are broke, some are fat, some are far away. But then I started thinking...isn't 1972 reality too? Doesn't 1972 exist?
Because years, like books, may not be something you are currently, in the here-and-now experiencing, but that doesn't mean they're not there somewhere, does it? The rain that falls on us is the same water that rose up into the air from lakes and ponds in the days of the dinosaurs and rolled through the clouds and came down as wet. So what happens to whole years when they evaporate? They turn into memories then. They can be almost tangible. And when you hear a certain song or read a certain book or wear a certain raggedy old T-shirt, you're back there again for awhile. You may never be able to go back any earlier than page 43, but you know those pages are there. In my case, "The Other," appearing by some unknown measure of serendipity in a box of discards around, I'll say, four days after I thought of it again and wanted to read it, is part of 1972 for me. Spring is here again.