Any device that holds things together is a valuable one.  The binder clip not only fastens papers but also keeps bags closed and holds back curtains. Scotch tape has been a crucial binding material over the holidays, and so has bourbon & eggnog.  A little bourbon and eggnog with a sprinkling of nutmeg along about four o’clock in the afternoon keeps things together nicely.  By “things” I mean my personality.  Glue and thread hold book pages together, as in Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel The Marriage Plot, which is also bound together by Jane Austen’s marital narratives.  In grad school, when I had the flu I used to lie in bed reading from the collected Austen, secure in her orderly universe. Now, sick with a hacking cough, I lie in bed reading Eugenides’ novel, whose universe resembles my own, encompassing college in the early 80s in the northeast, France, Greece, Provincetown, and Princeton, New Jersey (called Prettybrook in the novel, Prettybrook being one of two exclusive country clubs in Princeton).  Recently I returned to Princeton for a party, at which women I’d known since 8th grade told me to read Eugenides.  Life feels very bound together at times, the present self inseparable from the 8th grade self. So much time has passed since high school that our connection transcended the angst of those years.  The person who made out with my boyfriend on New Year’s Eve of 1979?  She was a found-again best friend.  It’s fashionable to say that memory is unreliable, full of self-serving fiction, and that memoirs and novels are the same.  But we all lived in the geographical place known as Princeton together in the Christian calendar time of the late 1970s, our subjective and yet collective recollections attached to an actual sweet sixteen party under a white tent, or a real wooden kitchen table on Cherry Valley Road.  Fiction and nonfiction may be interwoven, but they are neither identical nor equivalent. Lying in bed reading this morning, I wanted a happy ending for The Marriage Plot, my hacking cough, and life in general, and somehow Eugenides pulled out a plausible one on page 406.  What a relief!  Still, I must find another of those smuggled codeine pills from Spain…

Just trying to keep it together!, I say.  Getting my act together here!, I say. Thanks for the binder clip! A binder clip is like bandaids, super glue, string.  Icing, staples, and wax. A scrunchy, a barrette, and spandex.  Memory and time, zippers and belts. Proximity, chance, and cornstarch.  Flour and eggs. The Dewey decimal system, a leitmotif, a rope. Twenty-two years of marriage.  Melody, resonance, echo.  Nails, honey, and skin.  Velcro.  Safety pins.

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