I'm probably not the reincarnation of Lawrence Durrell but you can't prove me wrong.
As I sat, scarfing down pizza at the surprise birthday party my friends threw me, we began talking about people who shared our birth date. But, upon researching (read as: Browsing Wikipedia), I found I was more interested in who died on my birth date. I realized that a writer named Lawrence Durrell died the same morning I was born. I'm not particularly religious, but I like to think our beings circulate over and over through different lives. This is possibly due to my inability to make any decisions manifesting as a want to live through all of my options. But, once again, prove me wrong. .. .. .. That's what I thought.
I immediately bought a copy of Lawrence Durrell's collected poetry to see if we had anything in common as far as our writing was concerned. He was born in British India and moved to England at the age of eleven. He traveled all over the world and had four wives. He lived in a large house in the French countryside. Maybe it was just wishful thinking, but as a gay man born to a poor family middle-of-nowhere Ohio, I felt like this guy was already checking a lot of Life's boxes I wasn't gonna check.
But, we're both writers. He has a large stack of novels and poems to his name. Awards and recognition follow his name. He has a damn Wikipedia page for Christ's sake. That's basically a right of passage nowadays. These are all things I'm lacking. But we both share seats at the same dinner table, one reserved for those who prefer to express themselves through words. Sure, Mary Shelley isn't passing me the pepper grinder. Obviously I'm not going to be part of the dinnertime conversations about "how often to talk about your Pulitzer is too often". Yes, I am the Jan Brady to each of their Marsha's (Anybody? No? Not my demographic?) but we both have the written word in common.
When his collection of poems arrived a few days later, I was a little nervous to crack open the book. What if I hated his work? Jesus, that would be a new level of self-loathing I don't think I could handle. I peeked into the introduction to see him regarding T.S. Eliot with praise. Well, shit. Already one strike against him. ...Me? ...Us? Whatever.
But, I turned to the first poem, "Mneiae", the first line shook me:
"Soft as puffs of smoke combining
Mneiae--remembrance of past lives:
The shallow pigmentation of eternity
Upon the pouch of time and place existing."
Holy fuckballs. It's like he was waiting for me. I immediately put the book down and started (frantically) considering what this meant. Let's say hypothetically this dude believed what I believed and figured he'd come rolling around to this book in someone else's body. Maybe he laid out a specific foot path for me/him/us to follow back to his writing so we(?) could start where we left off? Maybe I'm just overthinking all of this is a desperate, existential search for meaning? Maybe asking rhetorical questions makes me feel better, so leave me alone, Judgey.
As excited as I was to have this post-mortem run in with my past-self, this whole thing sent me into a secondary train of thought: If Ol' Lawrence left this bread crumb trail to him, what should I be doing for the next-life-version of me? What kind of legacy am I leaving for me/them/us? I mean, maybe my future reincarnation will be totally into eating Taco Bell, making puns, and watching RuPaul's Drag Race on a loop. But, is that all I want to leave behind?
As my favorite holiday, New Years, slowly slogs its way through the clove-scented, plastic holly boughs of another Christmas season, I find myself considering my resolutions. As the cursor blinks at me, expectantly, on my screen, I realize I'm not making goals for myself alone. I can feel Durrell over my shoulder, raising an eyebrow at my budgeting goals. Future-Me mumbles something scathing under their breath as I plan out my ridiculously long list of writing projects. Even I can't finish the sentence involving "eating healthier" before I lay on the backspace button.
I'm not just living for myself anymore. There are many more Me's waiting expectantly on what shape my life takes. Each of our smoke plums weaving in and out of each other, leaving advice and whispering suggestions. But, even though we each are different shades of the same Mneiae, I need to remember that I am the only one alight at this moment; I am the flame that causes them. This world is momentarily only mine to live in. And I refuse to let us down.
Durrell, Lawrence. The Poetry of Lawrence Durrell. New York: Dutton, 1962. Print.