Seeking Solace in Capricious Gardens
Excerpt from The Simurgh Rises سیمرغ کا عروج by Selma Tufail and Anniqua Rana:
Capricious Gardens, a short story by Jeffrey Eugenides, is told through the voices of four people: two men in their forties and two young women. Everything happens in the course of an evening they spend together in a large house with a messy, neglected garden.
The original plan for this unkempt garden was laid by Sean’s wife who left him some years back. Malcolm’s wife has left him too —for another man. Both friends (now single) are attracted to Annie, the prettier of the two young American tourists traveling through Ireland. They don’t know that Maria and Annie have already kissed in an empty carriage of a train.
Maria loves Annie. Annie loves Sean’s flirtations. Sean isn’t aware that Annie just wants attention. Malcolm envies Sean’s ability to get over the loss of his wife so quickly and so painlessly. He is depressed.
Dinner is a bland affair. There is nothing to eat in the house except boiled artichokes —the only edible thing growing in the overrun garden. All four are unstable, and their capriciousness leads to miscalculations and misunderstandings.
Four completely disparate narratives unfold in that one evening —each person communicating from a different plane, a different space —a disappointing night for everyone.
End of Discussion?
I suspect this is what my aunt is hinting at. This is how our conversation will be now, especially as the disease progresses. But Mummy and I have discussed Thomas Hardy, Dickens, Poe, and Shakespeare since I was in school. Will we never have real discussions again? There must be something we can do to fix it – control it.
When Anniqua and I talk next, I tell her about a study where a group of catholic nuns in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, all tested positive for Alzheimer’s but showed no symptoms at all.
It’s actually called the “Nun Study“. I tell her. The data shows that the disease does not always affect cognitive ability.
But this is a study of nuns, she says. They have a different lifestyle. You should know that. Nuns are your “thing”, no?
Mystics, I correct her. Mystics are my “thing”, not nuns. The point is that being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean it’s all over.
I feel the panic building up in my voice. Why am I getting worked up over Anniqua not knowing that I’m interested in mystics? I pick up a glass of water and take a few sips.
Watching: Still Alice – Trying to Understand Alzheimer’s Disease
Did you watch the movie, Still Alice? I change the subject without warning.
I didn’t finish watching it —too depressing, she replies.
Then did you get to the scene where Alice senses her daughter’s irritation when they talk about Lydia’s aspiration to be an actress?
Apparently an Alzheimer’s patient can understand feelings – yours and their own – even if they don’t remember the context.
We do the same too, with childhood experiences. She says in her matter of fact manner. Your painting – the shadows of little girls reaching out from behind the colored glass panes. Do you actually remember why you felt that way?
I must have been four, or perhaps five. I reply. Then my heart starts pounding for no apparent reason. Maybe I just wanted to play outside in the moonlight and no one would let me go.
Then we both do what we always do when we’re uncomfortable —laugh out loud. Even if it doesn’t fix anything, at least we’ve had a good laugh.
So, why do I not feel lighter this time?
Have you had the misfortune of watching a loved one fall prey to this cruel disease? Want to know how to protect yourself?