I think I’d rather have had the madeleine.

Has anyone reading this ever had a moment like that famous one Proust had with his madeleine? Where something just hits you and you are suddenly swept up in a torrent of memory and emotion?

I have not, though I have always sort of wanted to; I have wondered what it would be that triggered such a thing for me. The foods of my childhood were mostly processed, and it’s hard to imagine having a huge, nostalgic wave of feeling over a Little Debbie snack cake or a box of what they call Kraft Dinner here. (I mean. Perhaps it’s possible, but my inner aesthete objects to the notion, and my palate has…adjusted…after some years of cooking for myself. I doubt very much I would still enjoy many of the things I used to subsist on.)

I have had a recent incident of something triggering unexpected feelings, though: I listened to a song. Not a favorite, or even one I was all that familiar with; I had perhaps heard it once before, in the kind of “shuffle songs” situation that comes up when you are exploring an artist or a genre.

And, for no apparent reason, I cried for almost an hour as though my heart were absolutely broken.

And then I felt like maybe it would be a good idea to check and make sure people were okay, just in case I was having some kind of premonition. (They were; I was relieved but felt rather stupid for acting on such a thing.)

And then I felt rather confused (and maybe a bit ashamed as well). That was weird.

I have since been advised that perhaps I should consider any such unexpected emotional outburst in a bit more depth. The song in question is, as I interpret it at the moment, about striking out on one’s own when those around you are unable to take care of you; it does not appear to be going well for the speaker, so there is a strong undercurrent of loneliness and of the loss of relationship(s?), perhaps of identity as well, after a fashion. The new world is hard and loud and cold, and in it it is easy to forget one’s name.

Considered with a little distance it is not difficult to see how that might possibly have some impact on my reptile hindbrain, but the degree of the reaction is still a bit of a surprise. I haven’t really been having that bad a time. Things are stressful in the usual areas of adult life (work and sometimes finances and so on, compounded of course by the pandemic and all of the business down south), and yes, I’ve spent almost two years holed up mostly in my house but I’ve worked very hard to reach out to people consistently and to try and keep some semblance of a social life going.

…I do sort of feel lonely anyway. There is a…hunger, I think the same one that for some reason often translates into a craving for cake. (I don’t think I quite understand that, either. Cake is a special-occasion food, certainly, but I do not remember having any particular kind of special relationship to it as a child, other than being happy to see it on said special occasions. Why that particular sweet, brain? Why not chocolate or cookies or ice cream? A doughnut, even?)

This is preposterous, exasperating; I have literally talked to someone, at least digitally, every day all this time, and I live with a partner, who is generally good company and might justly wonder what on earth I meant by that and whether they were chopped liver or what.

I feel the same irritation looking at this feeling as I might watching a little kid have a meltdown because the packaging of the chocolate bar you have just bought them is the wrong color, and no amount of telling the kid that it’s just the packaging that’s different and the contents are exactly the same seems to make a bit of difference and everyone is staring at you and you find yourself perhaps wishing you could invoke a bolt of lightning to end this and all other awkwardnesses forever.

It IS the same chocolate bar, right? Everything is fine. What the hell is wrong with you?

I guess I’ll have to sit with this one for a while and keep thinking about it.

Still hoping to have a bit of a nicer version of this experience some day, though.

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