Sunday, September 27, 2015
F: 5 a.m. All right, Papa, continuing? You were going to list the reasons why you were hurting because of your breakup with Hadley. Or – that isn’t it, but you know. You listed pride, guilt, loss—
EH: I was about to list what I was feeling, not exactly why I was feeling them. But yes, my pride was hurt because I thought I should have had sense enough to see what was happening – everybody around me did, I expect. I had made a fool of myself, and there wasn’t any two ways about it. That wasn’t the only thing, but it was there, and it was big. I never could stand making a fool of myself, especially in public.
And the guilt? Leave off thinking about Pauline’s part in it. I was front and center in the whole mess, and there wasn’t any getting around it. So then I had betrayed Hadley and it wasn’t half a dozen years since I had fallen head over heels in love with her and couldn’t imagine going on without her. I might be mad at her for this or that, but what could she have done, ever, to deserve being betrayed by me that way? And you know I had that conscience, and once it started in on me, it never quit. I could shout it down, or throw logic at it, or keep as busy as I could to try to not hear it, or I could promise to myself that I would make up for things – that I would atone for them, is one way to put it – but the fact is, it was like killing somebody and even if you get away with it, you would know for the rest of your life that you had done it. That kind of guilt dies down, with time, the way anything does, but it doesn’t go away, and any little unsuspected thing at just the right moment can bring it roaring back. It isn’t active all the time, but it is like a permanent flavor in your life, and you can get mighty tired of it, but you can’t get rid of it. And that can turn to resentment, of course, but Hadley never gave me an excuse to turn it in her direction, whereas Pauline did, and in spades. And that led me to do other things.
But the thing that was biggest in my life right away was loss. And I want you to keep coming back to this, because I think people didn’t understand this – my friends did, but I mean people who read about me later. You might think, “Oh, Hemingway traded wives, and got a wife who was a little younger and slimmer, and a lot richer. He made a shrewd trade.” Or they will think just, he got bored and wanted something new, and he got to feeling sorry for himself when he realized that he couldn’t get something for nothing, but had to pay for his fun. And I know some people figured it was a commercial deal – I went looking for somebody rich enough to support me in the style I wanted to become accustomed to.
That’s all wrong, and the reason you have to know this to understand what happened later is that if you don’t get my sense of loss, anything else you think about it is going to be just that far off base.
F: Go ahead, then.
EH: I lost Hadley, and I lost a normal relationship with Bumby, and that is only what you’d expect. But what I really lost, and what I didn’t see coming because I wasn’t thinking, was that I lost the clean simple story of my life, and I got into something very different.
F: Do you want me to express it for you? I don’t see the advantage, but I’ll do it if you wish.
EH: No, I’m just – hesitating, I suppose you could say.
EH: Well, because how you tell it determines what you tell, and there are many different ways to tell it, and they are each true in their own terms and yet each true story is only a piece of the real story, only they don’t fit together. And this won’t seem particularly strange to you, maybe, but it will to most people. It won’t help your credibility.
F: I’m past worrying about that. If people’s crap-detector is functioning, we’ll be okay, and if not, what can we do about it?
EH: True enough. Well, if you look at it from any one time-line, any decision takes you down a path you can’t undo. Actions have consequences. It’s true enough, I see now, that different time-lines have different story lines., put it that way, but I didn’t know that. I thought, you get one life and if you bitch it, you bitch it. From the overall point of view, a larger Hemingway, call it that, might be able to make a dispassionate weighing of losses and gains and say well, that hurt, sure, but it also enabled you to get this and that. But in any given time line, you don’t get to do that, and that’s what I’m trying to describe here. In the time-line you know, I had lost the story line that had me the unstained hero, and then what I was, I didn’t recognize and didn’t know what to invent.
F: I am torn between wanting to ask you metaphysical questions and wanting you to go on with the perspective that illumines the life we know about.
EH: It depends on how much time you want to give to it. I’ve got all day.
F: Right. Well, what you just said implies – and I’ve never thought about it but I suppose it makes sense – that different time-lines for you means different experiences of Hemingway for your reading public in each version of your life. I don’t see how that conclusion can be avoided, now that I see it.
EH: And now maybe you can understand why your non-physical component, that exists outside of fixed inertial time, can give you good advice. It can compare results and say, in effect, well, doing that didn’t work out so well in that version: We strongly advise you to do this instead. And sometimes you listen and sometimes you don’t, but either way you’ve got a Greek chorus available to say yea or nay.
F: It’s logic that is impossible to cram into a time-stream, isn’t it? We get advised on what our actions will do by something that sees what that action has done, and what a different action has done in a different stream.
EH: Yes. If it could be made more common-sensical in terms of the world as it is usually explained to you, of course it would have been, long ago.
F: So if I am a devoted reader of Hemingway, or John F. Kennedy is, say (as he was) and in that time-line you hadn’t split up with Hadley, what I would read would be entirely different, or anyway mostly different. Other time lines have Hemingway masterpieces we missed.
EH: That’s right, and mostly they don’t have For Whom the Bell Tolls. It isn’t like it is all gain and no loss. But sure, and it’s the same with your lives. Your choices put you on different time-lines and you see how it affects you and to some extent those around you, but you don’t always realize it affects everybody, to some extent, because everybody affects others, who affect others. Not everybody affects as many people as I did, but of course plenty of people affected more than I did. It isn’t a matter for comparison. But nobody makes choices that affect him only.
F: So let’s get back to your specific situation in this time stream in which you lost the unbroken life with Hadley that you might have had.
EH: Did have, in other time lines, you understand. That’s why I know how it hurt.
F: I think I mangled that last bit.
EH: No, that’s what I meant. I was in close touch with my own non-sensory guidance – my conscience, I would have said then, but it was more than that, and I’m not talking about guilt here, but about things I knew but didn’t know I knew, and ways I had of knowing but didn’t connect in my mind.
F: I get, like the times you could smell when death was going to hit people, in the war.
EH: Premonitions, superstitions, omens, it’s all part of the same thing: I knew but I didn’t know how I knew, and nobody could tell me – and, often enough what I knew didn’t happen – in that particular timeline – and so my knowing looked “wrong.” How many premonitions did I have of impending death that never came true? And yet I always knew that I would kill myself, and how I would kill myself, and I even let myself play with that knowledge, and dramatize it, only mostly but not entirely believing it.
F: This feels like a cliff-hanger – yes, I hear you saying “the Perils of Pauline,” and I suddenly get the feeling that’s a private joke you indulged in repeatedly in life – but I think this is a good time to quit for today.
EH: It is, and you haven’t lost anything by taking it gradually. More likely to lose things by going too fast.
F: All right, well, I’ll probably be busy tomorrow and maybe Tuesday, but I look forward to resuming this when we can.
EH: I’m not going anywhere.
F: Till then, and thanks as always.
Sunday, September 27, 2015