Tuesday, October 16, 2007
an impossibly narrow ideal
Sophie is elusive. Though she has been here and here, I've not yet found her. Or if I have, I just don't know it yet.
I have, apparently, told too many about Sophie. Worsening the crime, they are invariably women with whom I've shared the story:
Many years ago, I was on a KLM flight from the east coast to Amsterdam. It was one of those giant 747s, and of course -- government-funded transportation being what it is -- I was seated precisely in the middle of the middle row, with neither free access to a window or aisle or room for my (admittedly narrow) ass but for the egregiously overweight people to both my right and left.
Yet directly in front of me and one seat to my left sat Sophie. Upon seeing her, I was instantly smitten. Over the course of the next seven hours, I deduced that she was a French girl of the early-20s set, a globe-jumping, hostel-gracing backpacker fresh out of undergrad school. She was neither dirty nor prissy... she may have worn those same jeans for two or three days. She hadn't washed her curly blonde hair that morning, but I'm sure it still smelled of meadows and lilacs. I imagined her luggage fool of notebooks and Lonely Planets and smashed among tampons and a novelty compass and a Ziploc full of gorp was a pack of Marlboro reds, missing only one. Her tan was genuine and was bordered by whiteness only at her waist and thighs, and her toenails once painted were trim and feminine still but flecked with a faded purple. She could move effortlessly from Keanes to Marc Jacobs and from flannel to silk. She could upend a bottle of Irish whiskey 'round a campfire before later retiring to write poetry.
I didn't utter a single syllable to Sophie. For all I know, her name was Anaïs or even Barbara. She had no idea that I sat behind her and that she would become my unwitting muse for the next eight months as I fought a war. She certainly doesn't know that to this day, a candle burns somewhere for her. Yet Sophie does not exist.
In the intervening years, I have told this story to countless people, trying to explain My Perfect Woman. The Perfect Love. The Beginning and End. To some in my audience, she became something of a joke, but to others, she became what they were not, themselves. To even more she became the ideal to which they, more than I would measure potential dates -- or even strangers. "Oh, Justin, I was at the pool the other day, and there were countless Sophies -- you should come with me, next time." "Justin, I know I'm not your Sophie. But I want you to find her."
I'm tired of being reminded of Sophie. Though I want to find her, too, increasingly, I think, Sophie is a mirage, and the dream of her works against me. No love I've ever had has been Sophie -- and this did not lessen my love or attraction for them. I have no reason to believe that my next or final love will be her, either. For every dog-eared copy of Lonely Planet, there's been a Treatise on Cost Accounting.
I think I need to let Sophie go. Or, that Sophie needs to let me go. It is fitting for her to end her haunting, here. She was created in impossible circumstances, she should wisp away in the same.
Posted by ~Justin at 5:20 PM