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,