燃燒回憶

看着日記付之一炬,不知道我會不會後悔自己的決定
By DOMINIQUE BROWNING / 摘自The New York Times

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ILLUSTRATION: Andrew Bannecker

我剛把寫了四十年的日記給燒了。原本我並沒打算這麼做,但有天早上一覺醒來,我知道該是完全放手的時候了。

I just burned 40 years’ worth of diaries. I didn’t plan to, but I woke one morning and knew it was time to let it all go.

我使勁拉開煙囪口,升起一堆柴薪小火,開始把日記本堆上去。起初火燒得很慢,一副不情不願的模樣,後來終於有幾頁點着,焦黑的頁角一路悶燒蔓過我的字跡,生出陣陣濃煙向上徐徐飄往煙囪。這些袖珍的日記本穿線精裝,側邊貼了膠帶,靛藍或松綠的光滑塑膠封套因高溫而皺縮。從前我以為那樣的顏色可以摒絕邪惡之眼,抵禦窺視、評斷的目光。

I yanked open the flue, started a small log fire and began laying on the books. They burned slowly, at first, reluctant. A few pages caught, charred edges smoldered across my handwriting, plumes of thick smoke funneled lazily into the chimney. Small hard-covered volumes, bound with thread and taped up the side, their plasticized glossy lapis blue or turquoise covers shrank and shriveled. I had thought that color would keep away the evil eye. The eye that would pry. The eye that would judge.

我不想讓任何人看到我的日記,永遠都不想。

I didn’t want anyone else reading my diaries, ever.

這次我之所以成為縱火狂,直接的原因可能是出於保護個人隱私。兒子們才返家和我一起過暑假,這很可能是最後一次了。他們即將邁入成年,搬進屬於自己的第一個家。幾年前我突然有個念頭:孩子一旦到了某個年紀,便開始有自己的祕密,變得連最愛他們的人都難以理解;他們開始做起就連做夢都想不到自己父母曾做過的事,這時就會無止境地猜想當年父母親究竟做過了什麼?有什麼祕密?是什麼樣的人?好奇心一起便無可抑遏。

Privacy was, perhaps, the proximate cause of my recent pyromania. My sons were spending the summer with me, probably the last one at my home. They were on the verge of departing into their own adulthoods, moving into their own first homes. It had struck me, several years earlier, that once children get to a certain age, the age at which they start keeping their own secrets, becoming opaque to those who love them most, the age at which they start doing things they cannot dream of their parents ever having done, they (the children, that is) become voraciously curious about what exactly their parents did do, what were their secrets, who were they, anyway? Once children get curious that way, nothing puts them off the scent.

我該懂得這種心理的。少女時代的我,就曾花了好幾年時間,埋首雙親的櫥子裏搜羅信件,翻遍一盒又一盒的信函和照片,尋找蛛絲馬跡,想知道他們究竟是什麼樣的人?怎麼會在一起?而我究竟為何會來到人間?

I should know. I spent years as an adolescent rooting around in my parents’ closets looking for letters, sorting through boxes of letters and photographs, searching for clues about who they were, how they came together, why on earth I was on earth?

我十四歲起開始寫日記,從此欲罷不能,日日都得抒發一番。讀大學的那幾年,還用各色墨水密密麻麻、不分段落地寫了數百頁,思緒泉湧到連筆尖都磨平了。成年後因分手而心煩焦慮,或興奮過頭難以入眠時,寫日記便成為一種自我撫慰的方式。

I started keeping journals when I was 14. I was compulsive about it. I scribbled daily—and as I went through college, I filled hundreds of pages with dense, colorful ink, denying paragraphs their breaks, my nib flattening under the pressure of the stream of soul pouring forth. Keeping journals is a way of self-soothing, as an adult, when you’re anxious about separation, or too worked up to fall asleep.

燒毀日記的衝動可能肇因於多年前我還是孩提時,每晚跪地禱告時的一貫禱詞:「主啊!要是我在睡夢中離開人世,求祢帶走我的靈魂。」我的靈魂全在日記裏,而這念頭始終壓在我心上;到了我四十多歲時,我心想要是在睡夢中離世,希望上蒼能在別人得手之前先取走我的日記。

The urge to burn may have been born, long ago, of the old prayer I said on my knees every night as a child: “If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” My soul lived in my diaries, and that weighed on me; by the time I was in my 40s, if I died before I woke, I wanted Someone to snatch my diaries before anyone else did.

我在日記裏提到差勁的男友、壞心的女孩,還有我所愛過那些說謊、騙人的無賴。我寫下產後憂鬱的痛苦心境,以及成為人母的迷惘和恐懼,不知該如何得體、仁慈、充滿關愛地扮演好母親的角色。我當然不希望兒子檢視這些細節。

I wrote about the bad boyfriends, the mean girls, the lying and cheating knaves I loved. I wrote about the wrenching pain of postpartum depression, the confusion and fear of becoming a mother, when I didn’t have a clue how to do that gracefully, kindly, compassionately. Certainly not the sort of detritus I wanted those boys to sift through.

我認為生命真的很像古印度的蛇梯棋,一面摸索前進,一面從長計議,然後燃燒殆盡,就像我的人生。有時你殫精竭慮往上爬,也得到幸運之神相助;而有時你正從容前行,卻突如其來轟地一聲!擲出了不好的點數,走錯一步,一個倒栽蔥從梯上跌落。這時你得趕緊振作起來,重新再往上。一段時間下來,難免教人覺得疲憊。

Life really is like a game of Chutes and Ladders, I thought, taking the long view while nosing around, and burning up, my life. You work hard to climb, and you get lucky, too; you’re ambling along when suddenly, wham, you roll wrong, you make a stupid move, and you’re perilously upside down the slide. You’ve got to pick yourself up and start the climb over again. It gets wearying after a while.

這十足就是芸芸眾生的常態。我們花了偌長的時間,練習從失手、滑落到重新開始,終至熟能生巧。等我們年紀大到足以了解攀登的過程才是一切、才是重點,而目的地並不重要時,我們也已經疲憊得可以擁抱智慧,能有效率、深思熟慮地行動,最終能駐足欣賞沿途的風景。

That’s the starkest pattern in all of our lives. It takes so long to get the hang of it, the slipping, sliding and starting over, that by the time we’re old enough to know that the climb is everything, the whole story, the destination doesn’t matter, we’re tired enough to let wisdom in, to move efficiently, thoughtfully, to finally stop and enjoy the view along the way.

我不要兒子們知道我曾蒙受的苦難。那對他們而言太沉重。 – I didn’t want my sons to know how I had suffered. That would be too hard for them.

焚燒那些日記時,我領悟到自己不想讓兒子知道當我摔下滑梯,跌落人生支柱下的大洞時,曾遭受多大的痛苦。那對他們而言太沉重。我要他們記得我是個打不倒的人。跌倒了再爬起來,勇往直前,那才是和他們一起成長的我。

Burning those diaries, I realized I didn’t want my sons to know how profoundly I had suffered from the slides down the chutes, the tumbles through the holes that gaped open in the scaffolding of my life. That would be too hard for them. I wanted them to remember me as one who clambers back. That’s the person they grew up with. A person who picks herself up and gets going again.

把日記本丟進火堆裏時,這些年的回憶彷彿回到眼前。我不住地丟。火勢越燒越大,越燒越烈、越響,紙張不再只是悶燒,而是噴出熊熊烈焰。日記本燒得鼓脹爆裂,餘燼在壁爐內紛飛,紙灰吹向一旁,在室內飄蕩。

Back through the years, I threw journals onto the pile. I couldn’t stop. The fire became huge and hot and loud; the pages didn’t smolder but burst into lashing flame, the books buckled and popped. Embers rocketed across the hearth; ashes blew sideways and drifted into the room.

溫度太高,迫使我不得不往後退。這教人血脈賁張,像是遺傳自穴居時代人類的本能。我不知道自己會不會後悔一時衝動將日記付之一炬,然而一切已無可挽回。又是一次重蹈覆轍。

The heat became so intense I had to back off. It was thrilling, in an atavistic, cavewomanish kind of way. I wondered if I were going to regret my spontaneous combustion—when it was too late to do anything about it. Another old pattern.

隨着日記燃燒,一旁的我看得既心驚又陶醉,彷彿是別人點燃這些日記來取悅我,又或者是折磨我。這火有一股暴力之美,但我也想到,謝天謝地,我已經把那東西解決了。

As the journals burned, I watched in horrified fascination, as if it were some other person laying the books onto the fire, to entertain or torture me. The fire had a violent beauty. But I also thought, good riddance. I’ve made what I could of that material.

我很想告訴諸位,這是一種深沉而奧祕的淨化經驗,我把諸多痛苦和憤怒都擱在那堆火葬的柴薪上,使之安息。奇怪的是,我只感覺到一種麻木的解脫感,還有些許苦惱,覺得該是時候清理自己在心裏造成的混亂了。我是說,在壁爐裏造成的混亂。

是嗎?

I’d like to tell you that it was a profoundly, mystically cleansing experience, that I laid a lot of pain and anger to rest on that funeral pyre. Oddly, I felt only a numb relief. And a certain amount of anguish that now it was time to clean up the mess I had made of my heart. I mean, my hearth.

Or do I?

  • opaque (adj) 難理解的
  • scribble (v) 潦草地書寫    
  • knave (n)無賴,流氓    
  • amble (v) 輕鬆地走,從容漫步
  • hearth (n) 壁爐地面;爐床     
  • combustion (n) 燃燒      
  • pyre (n) 火葬用的柴堆

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