Tuesday, January 19, 2010

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?


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