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,