Some things stay with you forever, no matter how hard you might try to forget them. Sights, sounds, smells, words. You name it. You might not think about them on a daily basis, but they are filed away, ready to jump you at the strangest of times. Things like the scent of glue sticks or the melody of some Bangles song playing in the background the night your first boyfriend broke up with you. You think you've buried them, but they keep rising up and biting you on the ass like directionally-impaired zombies who hunger for your brain.
My personal undead companion of the summer has been a small chunk of lines from T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." which I learned in high school and, evidently, never quite unlearned. I think of them every time I encounter a peach, which is often, given the season:
I grow old... I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
When I first heard the poem as read to me by a wonderfully hammy, Scottish-brogued English instructor, I didn't take away any sense of Prufrock's failure, isolation, or tortured psyche. No, all I took away at the time was:
What's with the peach? Why can't an old guy eat a damned peach? It's a soft fruit for God's sake. He could probably gum the thing to death.
And then I went back to reading Sylvia Plath because I was so sensitive.