Saturday, November 07, 2015

I Drove All Night

Dear Garrett,

We haven’t spoken in many a long years and I have had a life in the meantime, etching out what little I could find to make me happy and focusing all my strength on it. I have always lived a solitary life, only coming to meet others in words- rarely in actions. There are ants infesting my home these days, armies of marching menaces angrily approaching anything that seems edible. I see them in places where there is nothing to eat, collecting their dead comrades and carrying them off to who knows where? Seems like my kitchen. They wake me in my sleep sometimes, crawling along my arms and legs and I rise, rattled- slapping myself wildly before I remember- only ants.

I have tried, in these intervening years, to write something that counted, to attempt to create something beautiful outside myself that I would be happy to stand beside, years later. But, that has not proven entirely, or even mildly successful. Instead, I wither away my days eating and drinking, walking and pacing. Sleepy, I rise from bed in the late afternoons and wander about my house, absent-mindedly knocking things around. I imagine how I would feel in a different house, in a different time. I pretend at philosophizing but I always found rote memorization boring and I feel like I need to do a good deal more of that to get even a slight grasp on the history of philosophy. Hypotheticals just don’t grab me. Pontificating about what life is and what it should be without metaphor, without adjectives, with the weight of this wordy, heavy text- it’s hard for me to appreciate. I try, though. To be more knowledgeable about the people who said things before me, and likely said them way better, without the anchor of emotional excessive attachment.

An ex of mine came to visit whom I hadn’t seen for many years. She was my first love and I fell back into her like one falls off a cliff- weightlessly plummeting towards an inevitable crash. It wasn’t my intention. I had tried to be guarded, for a second anyway. Before I realized that I have never been good at being guarded, in hiding my feelings. I may attempt to tell a lie but I don’t often succeed. She went back home to her husband and her garden and now I write her pining love letters and hope her husband doesn’t read them. I hear he’s a bit controlling and keeps her under close wraps. How, I long to give her the things he can’t. How arrogant of me to begin to imagine that I know what he can give her, but I do. I imagine him as she described him: somewhat cold, distant, facing a desperate loss. What we once had was so brief and it was I who ended it, running off with her best friend. It’s a miracle she even speaks to me at all, honestly. But, she did speak to me. For the short visit we had, she was mine. And I rekindled all the singular emotions that only she has ever inspired in me, and I remembered them, sunk into them and floated down a rabbit hole of memories. She told me she still loved me before she left. I didn’t expect that. And now, I am attempting to climb my way out of the hole I fell into, thinking only of her and of how her breath felt on my neck, how she told me how different I was, how sophisticated. It was funny, that. The idea of someone thinking me sophisticated. I, who blow my nose on my clothes and pillowcases, who use my dirty underwear to clean up piles of dead ants from my nightstand, who gets so wasted sometimes that he falls down in the street. It’s interesting to view myself from that perspective and to bask in her adoring gaze almost makes me feel like I’m the person she thinks I am.

But, she’s gone now and the momentary self-assurance her admiration leant me is quickly fading with the daylight as the season shifts and the sun falls down into the Pacific at such an early hour. I feel the heft of the upcoming winter and the darker the days get the more I fear I’ll cling to this for salvation. I know I need to look elsewhere, but her presence inspires in me such a wealth of words.

Tell me how you are and of your own loves,


Dear Runner


One can't get past the emptiness of lost days. Time spent senseless, without thought or feeling, carves out a hole in the consciousness which no amount of forward motion can fill. We attempt to escape time when we deaden ourselves to its passage and slip into routine or simple blankness. I fear I was guilty of this for some many months before your visit and it was only the intense depth of my desire for you that pulled me from that pit. Life had been lost and I found myself more than ever time's victim, moving forward without having lived and lacking the self I might have gained had I fully experienced those days. The anticipation of your arrival shook me out of the dream-sleep that I called my waking life and I experienced each day you were here so fully and so closely that I only recognized my previous failures in the light of your gaze. I began to see everything the way I thought you might see it and by living vicariously through your judgement I was able to take objective count of all the days I lost to blindness and lack of creativity. The unexpected act of holding you in my arms again awoke in me some animal urge and it is only now that I must attempt to turn it off or at least try to turn it down. 

I think about the way you touched me, so lightly- my skin beneath your fingers quivering into gooseflesh. I think about your arms- so smooth and whitesoft, and I remember days long past of innocence and fear, of hiding and groping for each other beneath the harsh light of the world around us. We held to each other through the tremors of other people's opinions, drinking ourselves into some state of absurdity. I could never convince you that you weren't a monstrosity, Frankenstein's brute cobbled together with dead people's skin and bones. How hard I tried to give you the things you didn't think you deserved and maybe even, that's what I'm doing now. We were so much less then. To look at us now- we're practically alight with the wealth of age, experience, wisdom. When we met again, older and wiser- I thought that I could maintain a certain emotional equilibrium; I thought I could maintain a certain dignity. But, emotional weakness stripped me of all my dignity and I began to wonder if I would ever again face anything bravely. I have jumped again off the cliffs of sanity and into the madness I always sought in your arms. There is a great divide and in between the spaces there lingers a love I thought I had mostly come to terms with. But, it seems I was simply storing it away, compressed into a tiny package and like some wildly grinning Jack-in-the-Box, it exploded from its secret spot and now wobbles to and fro- maniacally mocking my once simple life. 

The moon is full tonight and I can see it glowing outside my window, little lines of light cascading down through the cracked blinds. Dust glitters, floating freely around the room and I think of how much I have changed since I last slept beside you. I rise and walk the streets alone, unseen, a ghost to those around me. I drag this heavy past behind me- as if an empty coffin in a Spaghetti Western. Perhaps, I should attempt to shed the skin of my past- take what I can from it and move on. But, it seems the stars themselves do not wish for me to begin anew- to find a fresh start in this world of worlds. Maybe that is why I wander the streets, thinking of you, not even knowing what I want to put in my coffin but always imagining that it was filled with something I will never have. I keep dreaming of you, of the curve of your chin and the bend in your fingers and of all the years that went by and yet I still remember the exact placement of each vein as it crawls down your arms. You have lived all these long years on a pedestal in my mind, standing above me on a stage and looking down upon me. I had always imagined your expression as one of disappointment because I used to feel you were always ashamed of my lack, my lack of coolness, of wisdom, of tact. But, after seeing you again with the weight of all these years behind us, you still stand on that pedestal but you look down on me with pride and love. There's hardly a better feeling that I can remember than the one that swells up inside me and explodes over like a glass of Champagne poured too fast. Beneath your approving gaze, I beam like a child given a gift. And my life is suddenly a very different place now that you are alive again in it. Whether you return words to me or not, you inspire me to write, to think, to see more, to be more. And for that I will be forever indebted to you. Wherever life takes us- a part of me will forever belong to you. 

Keep it safe, 


Friday, January 23, 2015

Oh Silly Frenchman,
We write to each other with a relentlessness I haven't seen since my childhood scribblings to the next door neighbor with whom I was madly in love. Her blonde hair swayed behind her as she raced back and forth across the lawn, the sprinkler spraying long lines of cold water down her legs. I watched her from the window as she and her sister played silly games- grabbing each others' hands and spinning until they both fell down on the soaked lawn.
I remember all of our lengthy bar talks that almost ended in brawling, how you could always bring a girl home and I would sit, arms stretched out looking down between my legs at the bar. And the bartender would tap me and tell me, "It's time." And you would be long gone with some girl and I had taken it for granted that you would be there. I had forever expected you to come back, laugh and say, "It was always you." But it never was me, was it?
Sometimes, I would leave with someone, drown myself in some other person's smell, some other person's words. And yet, it was only your words which would linger- astutely serious and yet sometimes lost in a language that isn't entirely yours. It's funny, that. How could I, the king god of judging people by words- by their opinions of words and their use of them and their dedication to them, how could I- of all people- worship so someone who thinks in a foreign tongue, someone who is not constantly filled to the brim with a love of English?
I would love to love another language and I do, some, when I get to speak it. But, it is English which drives me, English which feeds me, English which sustains me. And as it has always been. English has been the driving force of my relationships. It has been the exchange of words both written and spoken that has been the essence of all the things that matter.  It has only ever been in the exchange of real words that love is built. To be honest, anyone I have ever loved I have loved just as much in words as in actions, just as much in letters as in caresses.
Let us continue to spill out words to each other and if you must do it in French I would understand. Sometimes I wish you would write me a long, lengthy, literary letter in French, just so that I could get a feeling for the tone and rhythm of your thoughts.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

To Catherine, New.

Dear Catherine,

I know it's been some time since we've written. I like to imagine that you didn't respond to my last letter because you were caught up in an intriguing, mystifying romance. I see you, arm in arm with a smiling stranger- laughing, and I see myself- always looking for you in others, always looking for you in myself. The world spins around the drab and the common. We wake. We eat. We sleep. And I still try to search for beauty in the crisp winds and cloudless skies, in the flow of traffic and the beating pulse of a vibrant city. Since our last communication I have moved around a bit, traveled here and there. I have seen the lands beyond and for all their glory, the ways in which everything is the same baffles me more than the ways in which it's different. I live on the ocean now, again, pacing the sand and thinking old thoughts, thinking of when they were so new and glowing, pulsing beneath my skin, weaving in and out of all that I was. I wrote then, of then; I reminded you of the hesitant glances and and the sudden, unexpected physical contact, your hand on my knee, the other hand covering your mouth as you laughed.

This ocean is colder and there's never a time when it's hot enough to race into the water or slap sand on each others backs. There aren't fireflies here or thunderstorms and I miss warm rain at night with flashes of bright white in the sky more than I miss most things. The city sleeps earlier than I'd like it to as well. But, Miguel and my nieces are only a short drive away and feeling a connection to something whole and dynamic outside of myself is really all I have ever wanted. I often wonder, as my brother's daughters cling to my leg if I am missing out on some important, necessary experience by not wanting to be a parent. But, when they fall down and cry or ask questions I'm not sure how to answer, I look helplessly toward their parents- the desire or ability to nurture vacant and confused inside me. It is often in these same moments that I think of you so tenderly, the babe I held against my chest and soothed to sleep, perhaps the last time I felt truly and wholly this love that I can't shed. I want to give it to someone, to pawn it off a while- relax and let someone else carry its burden. But, they balk, as you did at its weight, its size, the delicate need of its tendril-like arms, reaching out to you and practically begging for absolution.

What am I ever asking for, Catherine, that is so hard for anyone to give? Devotion to the written word? Dedication to the knowledge and uncovering of hidden truths? A headstrong development of educated opinions? A love of tiny things, observing the things that go left unnoticed. I found all of these things once, in you, freckled as you were with an irresistible innocence of ill-experience. Before your brother fell sick the world truly did smile upon you, cradled you in its arms like I once did. And I wonder, now that you've lived more years, if you still have that quiet gaze that never accuses but yet always asks. Are you everything to some brilliant man who knows how lucky he is and who gently brushes back behind your ear that little hair that always strays? Does he hold you in his sleep and touch you lightly, your spine tingling up your neck?

I hope you are surrounded by all the happiness and the beauty that we once knew and I hope you'll tell me what does surround you and what you gaze upon with your contented smile, palms pressed up against your lips, fingers cupping your cheek.

Yours again,

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Caught Up In The Company of my Collapsing Consciousness. From Fernando. Three.


I am sorry to hear about your brother. I don't recall you speaking of him much before but I suppose a thing like that just tends to sit in a fixed point in one's mind. It doesn't come up in your daily thoughts because it neither worsens nor improves; it never changes. It is during this season that I feel the tug of others most often, most deeply. My own brother is far away, his own wife- a family. I expect him to call; he always does. He's very thoughtful, Miguel. He's always been the one everyone turns to, always the one Mother asked for advice, looked at with proud eyes full of adoration. I believe I confused her. She always looked at me edgewise, worried. I think she saw my loneliness as a reflection of her own, something she didn't need to be reminded of. She felt my loss and I think she felt somehow responsible for it. Without any kind of focus, I became a prisoner to my own emotions. I might have thought it normal, my secrecy, my silence had Miguel not been so goddamned perfect. I don't resent him for it. On the contrary, he is one of the better people I have ever met. He always has a kind word, dedicated to his work on a quickly dying newspaper. He is a great father and husband- all things I will never be. Not because I am incapable of finding (again) anyone willing to marry me but because I am incapable of acting as though what I want is a normal life.

There is something to be said for passion in one's work, surely. I may not have a comfy, high paying job or even a low paying job I am passionate about but my work lives outside of the drab daily. My writing lives beside me, as alive as any woman who may sleep by my side (present company excluded). It doesn't ask, it demands to be given top priority in my life. Without it, I am awash, at sea, at a complete loss. I lose the ability to see myself from another perspective. Without it, I am nothing. Everything that is important to me, everything I hold dear- I express with my words.

I spend days caught up in the company of my own collapsing consciousness, cowering beneath the pages I have written. Perhaps I am delusional; maybe it's something your brother and I have in common. Perhaps I will live and die- a slave to words- without them ever offering me anything in return. Or, it could be that I am dooming myself to a life less whole, a life devoid of other luxuries. But, I know that words give me things in return: your words as they sound whispered quietly, almost mumbled beneath my breath. The sounds of them, tracing their shapes with my lips and tongue- these are the gifts that words give me and I give my thanks by giving my life to them.

Your words and thoughts echo through time and space and find me a slave to their rhythms. I sit in utter silence and stare at their shapes sliding softly down the length of your letters, S's curved just so and little curly loops on your M's. I see you as well, skipping about the edges of my thoughts. I notice the way a girl's hair shines in the sunlight and I imagine you standing next to me, noticing too and noting my noticing but not saying a word. And I know with a brief
glance and a smile that we both see beauty in every detail. I try to recall instances when things like this actually happened in real life but I have an increasingly hard time separating our letters from reality. I suppose that is nothing out of the ordinary, though.

The sun is sinking in the sky behind me; sapphire clouds glow with bright orange hues. I think of you as I often do in times when the things around me change so drastically and I remain so endlessly and dramatically the same. I think of you on the road with your Mother, the two of you quiet and contemplative, the pity for your poor brother hanging in the air, saturating the silence with an ever present loss. But there is an understanding as well, a kinship between you two. I have such a vivid image of your mother though I have no actual basis for this. I suppose it is like something out of a book written by a young English woman, such gentle propriety and comfort in silence. I imagine your brother trying awkwardly to communicate something that he himself doesn't truly understand, and giving up- his gaze aimed out the window and his mind clearly elsewhere entirely. Your descriptions of his postcard, his painting, have lingered about my mind these few days that I have been contemplating a response, distracted so heavily by the photograph you sent. You look slightly wiser than I remember, perhaps just a bit less innocent. You have a beautiful melancholy in the way you hold your head up which is punctuated by a slight glint- a slyness in your eye. I try to imagine what someone who didn't know you would think of this photograph, though it seems that it's more like trying to separate you from my own impressions and biases. There is no doubt to your beauty, but I wonder how much I see because I want to and how many of the subtleties of your personality are actually conveyed.

I wanted to tell you how immensely honored I am to be a part of your perfect memory to replay in hopeless hours. Though, sometimes that perfect memory calls forth in me the most heavy lonliness. I am delighted to be the soul that is capable of balancing your own.


The Coincidences That Life Composes. From Catherine. Two.


Strange the coincidences that life composes in the service of infusing a bittersweet air into the passing days.  In the span of a few hours I have visited with the ghost of the past, the ghost of the present, and now perhaps I am childishly imagining another phantasm that may appear and guide me by the elbow out above the rooftops and speed me across the night to show me a bit of what the future holds (or maybe that is just the spirit of the season whispering in my inattentive ear).  I had just returned from that opaline asylum where my brother resides to find your letter awaiting me like something dislodged from time.  You are a curious echo of my brother.  The voiceless nature of our relationship (your "silence amidst a sea of sounds", which extends even now in these letters), the restrained delicacy of our interactions, the unassuming intimacy we so easily fall into; all of this you share with my poor brother.  You are both also prone to express yourself in the distancing, comforting (because compliant), all-encompassing composition of beautiful images.  You use words, he uses charcoal and watercolor.  Not that he has much else to fill his days, besides a bay window view of a dark valley beyond the grounds of the hospital, cradled by the shadows of bone-colored escarpments, and three lousy meals a day.  He doesn't read and he doesn't write letters anymore, not even to our mother (of course she understands he is incapable, and I will accompany her on her visit over the holidays so there is someone else to share the gloom of that place with), but he revives images from various intact points of his memory and puts them down on that stiff watercolor paper rather vividly.  From his days as an army engineer there are boats and bridges and mountain ranges of foreign lands; from his childhood a farm and goats and a meandering river beside a golden meadow, a toy house and yard with a pointillist garden and a fence that doesn't exist in reality (even in his fantasy he has constructed an obstacle between himself and his unrealizable former life); of me then a little girl in flower-patterned socks and pajamas in a sapphire colored room parallel to five or six quick brush strokes representing a feline form (his pet name for me is "Cat" or "Kitten").  But he slips away and then doesn't connect events like he used to and we know his sickness is getting worse despite the rainbow of various medicines they give him.  He will hold conversations for a time, but then his gaze wanders about the room and usually settles on the window where light is gently falling, and then he wanders in worlds unknown to us, perhaps with my father, discussing their shared fate.  On the train returning this evening I looked again and again at the postcard-size watercolor he had given me:  a stretch of ocean, a few thin clouds, a blazing sun and white sands.  After finding the envelope with your name on it I couldn't help but smile at the startling consonance that life often provides.

Here the sky is of a dark blue porcelain hue, the stars are appearing one by one, and I have read your letter through and am watching shadows come together on the horizon through my window.  It is unusually still in the city this evening, as warm as it is not many people are walking about on the street below.  Perhaps it is just that I am reading myself into what I see, I am projecting my feelings across the landscape, I am again regarding reality as a mirror.  The loneliness of the city tonight is my loneliness.  Other times I fear I feel an intimation of that sickness that swims in the blood of the males in my family.  But I never feel myself disintegrating, I am always myself, total and lucid; I almost feel ashamed at the clarity with which life presents itself to me, as if I am hoarding some rare thing that my brother is very much in need of.  My mother also bears her burdens with this strength, as if nature had provided the females in our family a surplus of what lacked in the other half.  I think of you often, too, you are part of that staid happiness (perhaps happiness is not the right word, what then... confidence?).  It is silly to think I would forget you, or that I don't reread our letters often, or that your presence does not linger behind so many of my thoughts, teasing them and pushing them outward toward connections I never would have made on my own.  Our meeting was one of those events that come to color everything that follows, if not overtly than in hidden, poetic ways.  At times when I am on the verge of sleep the air in my room softens and I feel the night open up over me, and the regular rhythm of waves gently delivers me into your arms.  At other times, it is as simple as the coloring of a leaf flitting across the sidewalk in the wind, a little autumn flame dancing about, that I know you would have noticed and appreciated too.

Our time together was dream-like, you are correct, but it is just as fascinating to trace what the dream has become as we have given it a body, the weight and flesh of words, our description of it.  We didn't need to speak much when we were together, everything we experienced was stored away silently, almost as if by a hand other than our own, placed gently in a deep and safe vault, enough to sustain us through all the rest of our time apart.  The substance of those days was so warm and full and given with the breath of life that it would take anyone years of distance to understand it at all.  And these sporadic communications, these letters from another world, are so replete that they enrich countless vacant hours.  I picture you in the motion of your daily life.  I see secret smiles that flash across your face and are then stifled by an intruding thought (I am the same) and I see you losing yourself in the diffuse glow of a golden day (I am the same) and I see you resting between menial daily affairs in the deep field of your immense thoughts.  For we can't cure everything that is wrong with our lives, we can only expand so that it is but a fraction of the total.  These words do expand across distances, and as you say, we repeat the dream of our first encounter again and again, we restructure it and replay it because it is all we know of each other, that is, everything we needed to know of each other.  And it is something we are missing in our physical lives:  a soul capable of balancing our own.  I don't know if life will bring us together again, but isn't it almost enough to know our counterbalance is out there somewhere sharing our innermost thoughts when we least expect it?  This is what your letters mean to me, since you asked, they mean that my thoughts have a companion, that my dreams are understandable, and that life has provided me with a perfect memory to replay in hopeless hours.

Night has fallen all around me here, the streetlights have come on and I feel like getting out and stepping into the cadence of other people's lives.  Loneliness dissolves when the mind is enchanted by the spectacle of the world, even if it is only this tiny portion of it, this effervescent gem washed up on the banks of a shimmering river (the moon is shattering on its surface right now, I see it from my window).  Think of the moon shattering across the sky.  Think of me tonight.  Write me soon.


PS-Do you like the picture I enclosed?  I thought you might like to have it, we haven't seen each other in such a long time.  My hair is shorter now, but isn't a lovely portrait?

Silently Stoic Amidst A Sea of Sounds. To Catherine One.

Dear Catherine,

I've been reading about language all day and I have been thinking about your unique relationship to expression. I have infrequently met someone so gesturally and facially expressive with so few direct, vocalized observations. I am similar though. I keep my thoughts in my head and only let them loose in very calculated language, very direct and careful turns of phrase. I suppose this is evident in my life within words- more alive than my daily, spoken life in every way. The memories of nights we spent together, enraptured by one another's presence but stoically silent amidst a sea of sounds, serenade me in my snoring sleep. I dream that we are laying together on the ocean beach, the sand solid but slowly sinking beneath our entwined forms. We do not speak in the dreams, as we barely spoke- sometimes in whispers- during those few real nights we spent together. They were so brief that they feel like a dream and this letter feels like some long forgotten entry in a long forgotten dream journal.

But, the dreams that I have of those times are what betrays them to the reality of existence. I know the events were more than a dream because the dreams are vivid memories and I wake with a rush of emotion which is so distinctly attached to a physical memory. In the dreams I can feel your hair brush lightly against my cheek. I can smell the salt of the sea and hear the swells as they spill out across the sand. I don't often smell my dreams but some sensory neuron in my brain, triggered by the thought of you, engages and every sense is heightened. I wake up in a sweat (perhaps another cause of the smell of salt) and I look around my bleak and empty room, the sun shining through the window. My alarm goes off suddenly- breaking me from my sleep induced stupor. And I stumble to work, half-blind to the world around me, startled by thoughts of you.

I feel like I have written you this exact letter time and time again. And perhaps I have done so in dreams, as vivid as the others I have of you, only I can't recall. Perhaps I am only clutching desperately to the memory of someone who has long forgotten me like I have done so with so many others. But, perhaps I continue to write you because I do not believe fully that you have forgotten completely. There is a part of me, yes, who idealizes and etches in bronze, who glazes and polishes each memory of you so that it shimmers perfectly and brightly in my periphery. But, there is also a part of me that remembers your flaws and even if I do not frequently re-read your letters, I still glow with the impression of your humanity. I still think of you and shine with the memories of your careful concern for your aging parents, the close consideration you paid each passing thought, each tiny detail of life.

I remember your letters as lustrous, radiant admissions of thoughts of the most delicate kind. And, I remember your touch- equally delicate and equally engrained in my perception of reality. For you see, Catherine, the world looks so much bleaker when I forget that you are in it- somewhere- even far away from me in thought, in action, in physical body. I remember your letters and the brightness they brought to my being. I wonder if my letters ever did anything similar for you. Often, I am prone to go on and on about my own problems. I seem hermetic and cantankerous and yet still frightfully hypersensitive. I miss engaging you in rich, detailed literary speak or even in pretty descriptions of a limited number of events which have been already excessively described.

I care little about my own repetition. I know that I feel the same way about you often and I do not think I sound excessively redundant, even if I do. Were I to sit and read my letters to back to back- my opinion would surely change. But, as it stands now, I simply want to have your narrative form again grace the presence of my mailbox and my weary old mind. Sufficed to say, I miss you.

Fondly and For Always,

Monday, August 03, 2009

Dear Garett.

Dear Garett,

Some time has passed since we spoke last but I do not feel as though anything between us has changed. I remember when we used to correspond regularly, when our ideas and phrases used to bounce back and forth between letters. Now, I am sitting alone in my room, listening to the distant sounds of a train passing in the night. I think of you often in times like these, when I am left to my own experiences and I am lost somewhere between the present and the past. The things I used to know haunt me and I ache for them long after they have vanished from my life. Sometimes I believe my memories of you are something I made up to convince myself that someone else could possibly understand me. But, then I laugh because I see you in my mind’s eye- shuffling through papers on your desk and looking up at me over the tops of your glasses.

We used to speak in poetic riddles, quoting here and there within our words, begging each other to find the poems within the sentences. I haven’t had a drink in months and things feel a bit foggy. My senses seem dampened by the lack of contrast, they are so often the same, so often still. And yet, I see things daily. A lemon tree, a brick building, a small bird landing on a sill. I know these things are as real as I. Yet, it is only when I am experiencing them that I feel truly alive.

I used to imagine that I would grow out of this benevolence. I used to sit back and daydream about a life full of action but somewhere I would know that it never would come to pass. Often, I hide from myself- drowning in a swell of images, of words, of distractions. But, I come back to this form- these letters- so that I can somehow get a grip on what I want to say to the world.

If I did more, if my courage could somehow outweigh my cowardice, then I might be able to finally make a life for myself but I spend so much time thinking of how things can go wrong that the time to do them fades farther and farther from grasp. Yesterday I took a run through the city. I watched the people moving past me; I thought of how different I was from everyone but also how much the same. I rode the subway and sat next to people who I wanted to speak to but somehow couldn’t find the words.

It was then, on that subway, with the squeal of train brakes screeching in the distance and the pressure popping in my ears that I remembered how truly alive I am in the heat of an interesting discussion, when I am drinking whisky and wine and feeling carefree and yet still so focused on arguing my point.

Unseen, I pass through these streets, a ghost to those among me. I drag a heavy past behind me- as if an empty coffin in a melo-dramatic Western. Perhaps I should shed the skin of my older experiences- take what I can from them and move on. But, it seems the stars themselves do not wish for me to begin anew- to find a fresh start in this world of worlds. Maybe that is why I still wander aimlessly through the desert- not even knowing what I might put in my coffin but always imagining that it was filled with something I could never have.

I keep dreaming that I am someone else and I know I am not myself but I do not fear for who I am because it is, at least, new. I am subservient to a master I do not know and do not see. Walking around in a repeating scene of perfect joy- I suddenly realize that this can’t be real because everything I am seeing- I already saw. My body shakes and I quiver to be rid of this thing which I do not know. Upon waking, I lose sight of who it was and my suddenly submissive self shrinks off into the early morning sunlight.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Cloak of Winter - From Fernando

Dear Catherine,

The drab, grey cloak of winter is finally slipping off of the city. The days are getting slightly longer and every once in a while you can smell a light, fresh breeze. There were two gorgeous days in a row last week and just as I thought we had finally shaken the cold of winter a sudden storm shook in and shattered all my brilliant visions of sunbathing on the roof and reading beneath the budding branches. But, still, I know it is only a matter of time before I am back again into the swing of life. When the cold creeps around each corner it is easy to stay hidden in the house, a recluse. Just today, I developed a series of photographs I had taken last summer and I remembered how many letters we'd written, you and I, Garret and I, Miguel and I.

On New Years' Eve I realized that it had been an entire year since I had written Anna. I sat in my house alone, at ten o'clock in the evening and remembered that last year at that exact time I had been writing to Anna about all the things I wanted to change and all the things I intended to do. I don't remember what any of them are right now so I do not know if they were done or changed or what have you. I remember sitting on my roof and staring into the bright blue sky decorated with plush clouds and thinking of you and of when I would hear your voice again.

We have only known each other in letters since those days on the beach and I feel like I know you even better now. When you show me the things that you see, the man in the hat and the doorman and even your own face in the glass, I see everything through your eyes and it is like I am reading the story of your life. This is what I love about my favorite writers: that I can see things from their eyes and know their lives. I think that is all that needs to be left, all that needs to be given to this world. It is all I inted to give and I think it's enough. I don't want to be distracted from all the words I give and all the gifts I still maintain within me. I want to see your words and my words etched out in the sky. I want to hear them echo across a great divide, bridging the gap with every image, with every accurately described detail.

I have spent the winter alone, judging myself harshly for hibernating, for staying hidden even from myself. I have sat and tried to come up with something to say but it all seemed too dark. When everything is dead and people are all huddled up indoors there is not much to see and not much to think about but what is there infront of us. I worked rigidly, focused on my work and I exercised too for the first time since I was much younger. I was mostly separate from myself and outside of everything and the frozen streets and the colds winds did nothing but keep me running from my past.

Now that the Spring is peeking out from the shining shield of winter and the squirrels are scurrying about, I have had a second to remember what it means to be someone in writing. Every time I write again after a long hiatus I wonder why I ever stopped writing at all. As soon as I am in the midst of a letter and I know that I will keep writing for many minutes, I wonder why it is so difficult at all. I wonder why I do not just sit down and write someone everyday. But, the second I pause to consider the next sentence there is a distant lack and I wonder if I have anything even left to say.

When I read about your mother, when I saw you two standing together on your father's grave, my eyes welled with tears and I tried to remember my childhood, tried to remember all the bright and vibrant colors of my youth. I tried to stop myself from crying by flooding my mind with nothing but the happiest of memories. But, it did not stop them from falling. I sat and cried in short but breathy huffs and I remembered those few but drawn out years that I lived in the house alone with my father, after both Miguel and my mother left. The distance between us vibrated in the air, the unspoken anger we each had building beneath the surface; I was desperate to separate myself from his constant reserve. Sometimes, I imagined him looking at me as a very tiny baby and I imagine him staring blankly and trying to find something to feel but failing.

I can't imagine staying within the same walls which held so many memories, every unmoving thing a reminder of a lost love. Already, I am plagued by the shadows of the past. Whenever I hear a seagull cry or cackle, I am suddenly brought back to the beach and I see you beaming, sanguine in the sand. When I see the sunset over the water I think of Anna and her child, hand in hand and how we used to walk by the harbor in the evenings, silent but understanding. I couldn't live on that same porch, cook in that same kitchen; I couldn't sleep in the same bed. My whole life would be overcome by the past and I suppose that is why your mother is so removed. She has to be caught up in every little reminder of what she's lost.

I think you can bring life in this world by simply living in it. I think we are bring life into this world right now as we write to each other, as we make new words appear on the page in front of us. You have put a bright light into my life with your words and I would like you to keep sending them to me. My life makes so much more sense when I write it out to you, when I look at it within the structure of your own. I want to keep telling you what I see in the world because only then does it seem real to me. Send me your stories and I will send you my own.

Here's to saving everything with words,


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Some Things Last A Long Time- From Catherine


It rained for three days here. The daylight never seemed to be able to rise out of the steady darkness. Even at noon the streetlamps were on and the puddles glimmered on the sidewalk under their glow and I watched people dance around them, sidestep them, holding umbrellas or newspapers over their heads. In this weather the square near my apartment is often completely emptied of people, and I hurry home from work in the evenings listening to my footsteps smacking the wet sidewalk and echoing off the walls, no one to hear my little cadence but me. And the rain sometimes would fall down in sheets, and I would run under the awning of a restaurant, and to justify myself to the doorman I would pretend to be reading the menu. And I would catch my reflection in the glass display and see my hair clinging in strands about my cheeks, and I would stare into the eyes of that ghost in the glass and try to determine who she was just then. My hair is shorter than when we met last summer, and my skin has lost a good deal of its color. This winter seemed long and lonely and I feel as if I haven't changed much for all the time that has passed.

Then after the third day of greyness and cold rain, the weather broke, and the season changed suddenly. The morning felt fresh; the sun was warm and the city became full of its color and light. The people in the square reemerged, their clothes different, their eyes sparkling. They all carried themselves so much more lightly, and I myself felt lighter and felt myself opening up again. It always strikes me how people and nature respond the same way to shifts of weather. The man hunched in his heavy coat and soaked hat, huddling with his head bowed to his feet in the rain, and the leaf-less tree, sleek and black, limply waiting for the clouds to open. Both change drastically in a spell of warmth and sunshine. On this day, the same man was walking briskly, his head up, his face reflecting the radiance of the sky, his arms bare to his shoulders. And the tree, its branches now arcing upward strongly, tiny green and red bulbs appearing at the tip of every limb, releasing into the air the scent of its sap flowing through its veins like blood. The man passes under the tree and stops short, briefly called back to something by the familiar smell. He lingers over a memory, he considers the buds specking the branches, he turns his head and then he goes on his way.

I drifted about these last few months. It is strange not to be in love with anyone. Or to have your love live only in memories. They flit in and out of my heart; I lose myself in an almost perfect moment and I am carried away. But I soon descend, and I find myself back among the familiar rooms and faces that make up my life here. Some things last a long time, Fernando, and the words you whispered to me under that immense night sky softly settled somewhere permanent inside me.

Not too long ago I was standing beside my father's grave with my mother, holding her hand. It was a pale winter morning, clear and bright. The ground was wet and we were the only ones in the graveyard, and she told me that she couldn't love anyone but my father. And I thought of all the years she has been alone, with only a few friends and me coming every so often. Yet she isn't some obsessive widow. She just seems distant, like she is always distracted by some thought. And I wonder how it is to live in that house that she shared with him, to be reminded constantly of his absence. The bed they slept in, the kitchen where they cooked for each other, the porch where they sat and spoke. It must not be a whole life. You told me how Anna wanted a child but you never did. And I have thought for a long time that I do not either. But that morning by the gravestone my mother's eyes filled with tears and she told me that throughout that whole tragedy, the horrible dark last years of my father's life, he kept saying that no matter the end, when he held me in his arms, when he looked down on me before kissing my forehead as I slept, when he thought of the years ahead in which I would grow, he felt that he had somehow justified the misery of his life by giving me the gift of mine. And I don't feel that having children qualifies someone's existence, but I am the life my father was denied, and I wonder now and then if I should give life, in return. Or if there is some other way I can bring life into this world.

I am telling you all of this because it has been so long since we have written. Seasons have passed, and I am living with only the memory of you. Time moves so quickly, and we lose ourselves in its passing, but please do not lose me forever. Nothing is lost when it is written or spoken between us. I don't wish to slip into the silent dusk of things gone; I wish to create myself, to save myself, to save the ones I love. And when I was with you I felt that those things were possible; you had only to lay your arm on my shoulder or your head on my lap. There is so much that was never said between us and I want you to know that I want us to say it.

Speak to me,