When I was twelve, I read a book called Green Darkness by Anya Seton. It was a romantic melodramatic novel in which the modern-day (1960s) heroine relives a troubled past life in Elizabethan England as a kind of requirement for setting things right in her present life. I adored that book and I have very specific memories of reading it because it was during a period in which I was horribly ill and home from school for several days.
I also have specific memories of it because … well … because … it's difficult to explain. You see, DH went to Delaware week before last and caught the flu while he was there. He'd had a flu shot, but it didn't work, and by the time he got home, two weeks ago, he was feverish and miserable and he stayed that way for over a week, essentially until he went to the doctor and got antibiotics for the infection that had settled in his chest. In the meantime, I stayed well until this past Sunday, when I succumbed to his noxious plague and had to cancel the cool trip I'd planned to Arkansas this week. While none of this appears to have anything whatsoever to do with my memories of reading Green Darkness, it does – because I got a fever.
I don't have fevers all that often, but when I do, I've discovered a funny thing about them. They seem to be a kind of conduit, for lack of a better word, to other times in my life in which I've also had fevers. When I'm really sick and I have a fever, I can sort of close my eyes and BE myself at another point in my life. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true!
So on Wednesday, when I was feeling just dreadful, I visited my 12-year-old self reading Green Darkness, which is why I have such a specific memory of it. Until now, I hadn't really considered what a nifty piece of life-magic this conduit thing is. I never thought it would be of more than passing interest to see my clarinet case parked under the windowsill, or to feel that slight drift of guilt for not practicing, or even to know that my dad was coming home early with pizza to cheer me up. (Alas, other people never make through the conduit; it's always just me.) But in that moment, he was alive, and bringing me pizza. And I was going to be in trouble with my clarinet teacher when I got back to school. And Oh! Green Darkness was SO romantic; it made my heart ache. And my head ached. And my nose was running like a river. And I was utterly miserable in both 1975 and in 2009.
I made a few other brief visits. My 15-year-old self lying on the sofa, reading R.F. Delderfield's Diana. My 9-year-old self in bed with Gone With the Wind. My 14-year-old self draped over a beanbag chair watching a Beatles movie marathon (wishing I could put a clothespin on my nose to stop it from dripping!).
When I was done with all my time travels, I still felt like utter shit, but for the first time ever, I realized what a wonderful consolation prize this conduit thing is, no matter how crazy it sounds. Because I have always been able to do it, for as long as I can remember, and yet I've never noticed before, that in that brief moment, it's not like a memory, it's like being there. The experience of it, including the feelings, like guilt, or the expectation of seeing someone with pizza. Which means it's a brief respite from the feeling that I'll never see that person again. It's definitely like a conduit through which something can pass. It only works when I am truly ill and it only takes me to other times when I've been truly ill in the past, but if its purpose is comfort, then it works.
Here's a video from a guy who seems like he might have a few experiences of his own with conduits. Oh yeah; and I was listening to this song when I was reading Diana.