The truth of the matter is that I only fell in love with her picture. Not Hepburn but Zadie Smith. She is the woman in the New York Library I never met. She is the perfect voice on the telephone that never materialized. She is her publicity photo.
Once upon a time I wrote about falling in love with a white woman, that I never did but never felt a part of myself missing for not. At this late date it is difficult to confess that I would have loved Zadie Smith better than myself without making myself smaller, but in her details of love for Hepburn I do feel diminished. For there is no human God walking the earth for me, no symbol of perfection brought into flesh. There is only the spirit of creation and the nebulous inspiration ever so rarely made incarnate in words, colors, patterns, algorithms, movements, rhythms or tones. People, I forget.
Yet when I was young enough to care and blackify the heavens in my dreams of cultural productions and perverse public stunts, I conjured up a sepia cast for 'The Philadelphia Story', a film that hit me with its movements and words, rhythms and tones. Nothing before or since has been so yar, nor even tried. While I recall that a friend told me all of Hollywood was looking for a vehicle for Whitney Houston in that year, an image of her by the poolside made the entire picture perfect. Had it never been remade? Could I craft the words so sweetly? I despaired. The story would have to remain, as ever Hepburn's.
Zadie remembers and reveres. I am suddenly empty, or so it would seem. I still have yet to see Gone With the Wind; I am lacking in that department of corporeal longing. There were no posters staring down at me. There was Kate Millet's Storm and Big Boy's Homecoming and The Man Who Lived Underground. And that's all there was until Bruce Willis got on that motorcycle and called up to his girlfriend to get out of Los Angeles before Ving changed his mind.
It is comforting and disturbing to know the kind of love that inspires. Artists tease us with their perfections when the verbs and adjectives flow, when the Method embodies Spirit, when the 64th note is unslurred and unhurried. That perfection slows time and reverses gravity and floats us above ourselves momentarily. Are we dead? Comatose? Only relatively, only in that moment. And then the moment is past and the words become pedestrian and clunk up again.
I can tell that Hepburn incited Zadie to beauty and Zadie lit my fire this evening. There's something going on here I wish I lived in.