August 8

Oh my god, Will, I’m so sorry, no! That bit wasn’t aimed at you at all — the whole sneering at how annoying people are when they tell you to just deal with it? Um. It honestly never occurred to me that you might be thinking anything like that. And…you’re basically right! I guess if I’d just add anything — and I’m saying this as friends, like, we’re cool! — I’d just say, I’m not sure the whole kind of either/or thinking you’re doing actually applies that often in real life. Feelings and situations have as many shades of grey as…as in that stupid book :P

So I hope you won’t take it the wrong way if I grant you your whole argument and still try to sneak between your either/or.

You’re saying: either you have a chance with Lotte, or you don’t. Cool. If you do, go for it, make this thing happen that you’ve been wanting so badly; if not, man up, and try to shake off this miserable feeling that’s sucking up all your energy. — Dear Will! that’s very well said, but it’s also…easy for you to say.

I mean, would you go up to someone who’s dying slowly of some chronic disease, and ask them to just stab themself and get it over with? And doesn’t the same pain that sucks up all their energy also rob them of the courage to set themself free?

Okay, sure, you could counter with a related analogy: Who wouldn’t rather have their arm amputated than let an infection put their whole life at risk? — I don’t know! — and we don’t want to keep going round in circles with analogies. aaaaanyway. — Urgh, Will, sometimes I have these bursts of energy, like I just want to jump up and shake it off and run, and — if I just knew where to go? I’d be out of here.

August 8 (evening)

I haven’t kept up my journal for a while now, but I happened to pick it up today, and I’m…amazed by how consciously I walked right into this! I’ve seen exactly what I was doing this whole time and still acted like a little kid, and I see just as clearly now, and it still doesn’t look like I’m going to smarten up anytime soon…

August 10

I could have such a great, happy life if I weren’t such a dumbass… I mean, how lucky am I to have so many things around me that you’d think would make me feel fulfilled? sigh. I guess it goes to show, the only thing that can make you happy is you :-/ I get to be part of this wonderful family, with so much love all around — Albert seeing me as a son, the kids seeing me as a father, and Lotte…! — And Albert’s being so sweet, he’s not making anything awkward or weird, just letting me be happy; being so open and friendly and warm; I’m basically his best friend, after Lotte… it’s adorable, Will, listening to us walk together telling each other how great Lotte is; this has to be the world’s most absurd bromance, and even so it brings me to tears, just thinking about it…

He’s been telling me about her incredible mother — how on her deathbed she bequeathed the house and kids to Lotte and charged her with looking after them, and Lotte’s been a whole different person ever since, she’s become so attentive and so dedicated and really grown into being a true mother, and every second, she’s caring for them or working, and even still, she hasn’t lost any of her cheerfulness and optimism… — I just walk along beside him and pick flowers along the path, tie them very neatly into a wreath, and — throw them into the stream rushing past us, and watch them quietly drift away. — I don’t know if I mentioned yet that Albert’s staying here and starting a very well-paying job at a law firm he has connections at. I think he might be the most organized hard-working person I’ve ever met.

August 12

Yup, it’s settled, Albert’s the Best Guy Ever. I had quite the scene with him yesterday. I popped over to say goodbye — I’d decided I really wanted to bike out to the mountains, where I’m drafting this — and as I was strolling around his study, I noticed a very slick pair of pistols on his gunrack.
“Can I borrow a gun for my trip?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said, “as long as you’re willing to pick up some ammunition yourself; I just keep them up there for show.” I took one down, and he continued, “I’ve had such nasty surprises even thinking I was being careful with them that I don’t touch the darn things anymore.”
That sounded like a story, I said. He went on: “I was staying for a few months with a friend on his farm, and I had a pair of pistols with me I kept around, unloaded — it just helped me sleep easier. One day, some rainy afternoon, I was sitting around bored, and I don’t know why, I just suddenly started thinking, ‘We might get robbed, we might need the guns, what if —’ you get the idea. I cleaned and loaded them and went to the bathroom; right then, two of our friends came in, and the guy started trying to impress the girl or scare her, and God knows how, the safety came off and he shot her in the hand at point blank range and shattered her thumb. And then I had to deal with all the fallout and help pay for her surgery… Since then I leave all my guns unloaded. Kind of makes you wonder why we even bother being careful! If something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. Although —”
Now, you know, I love this guy, but when he gets to his “ALTHOUGH”s — I mean, isn’t it obvious that any general statement has exceptions? But this guy is so scrupulous! that when he feels like he’s said something hasty, or over-general, or half-true — then he can’t stop qualifying and rephrasing and re-re-analyzing until in the end there’s nothing left at all. And this time he went wayyyy down the rabbit hole; eventually I tuned him out, my mind started wandering, and I made this ‘kill me now’ gesture, putting the muzzle of the gun against my forehead over my right eye.
“Hey!” said Albert, snatching the gun away from me, “What’s wrong with you?”
“It’s not loaded,” I said.
“Even so, what’s wrong with you?” he shot back impatiently. “I can’t imagine how anyone could be stupid enough to shoot himself. It makes me sick just thinking about it.”
“You people!” I exclaimed. “You can’t talk about anything without being all, ‘that’s stupid, that’s smart, that’s good, that’s bad’! And what does that even mean? Have you actually gone and dug up all the details of the situation? can you actually explain what led up to it, why it happened, why it had to happen? Maybe if you had, you wouldn’t be so quick to judge.”
“Come on,” said Albert, “you have to admit some actions are wrong no matter why you do them.”
I shrugged and said, sure. — “But, Albert,” I went on, “there are exceptions to that too. It’s true that stealing is a crime; but if a man ends up having to steal to keep himself and his family from starving to death, does he deserve punishment, or sympathy? Who’d throw the first stone against the husband who kills his cheating wife and her slimy lover in his righteous fury? Or against the girl who surrenders in a transcendent moment to the irresistible pull of desire? Even our cold, heartless legal system feels for cases like those and goes easy on them.”
“That’s a whole different situation,” Albert answered, “because the thought there is that, if the defendant was swept away by passion, he’s lost the power of rational thought, so he gets treated as if he’d been drunk or crazy.”
“Oh, you reasonable people!” I exclaimed, smiling. “ ‘Passion’! ‘Drunk’! ‘Crazy’! You stand there so detached, so void of sympathy, you proper people! You snicker at the drunks, you turn away from the crazies, you walk on by like the priest and thank God like the Pharisee that he didn’t make you like one of them. I’ve been drunk more than once, my passions have always been a little crazy, and I don’t regret either one: because over time I’ve realized all the great men who’ve ever accomplished anything extraordinary or impossible-seeming have always been called crazy or drunk by people who didn’t understand.
“But even just in the day-to-day, it’s unbearable, anytime anyone does anything free-spirited, or principled, or unexpected, someone has to say, ‘That guy’s drunk!’ ‘He’s stupid!’ You should be ashamed, you stuffy people, you starched shirts! You should be ashamed!”
“Oh please, you’re just riffing now,” said Albert, “you always make such a big deal out of everything, and anyway this time you’re definitely wrong, because you’re comparing suicide, which is what we were actually talking about, with great accomplishments — when really’s it’s just being weak, and that’s all there is to it. Because obviously it’s easier to die than to actually deal with the difficult things in your life.”
I was this close to breaking the conversation off there; because nothing sends me up the wall faster than when someone comes along with some meaningless platitude when I’m speaking from the heart. But I took a deep breath, and answered him, a little tensely, “You think it’s being weak? Albert, please, appearances can be deceiving. If a people is groaning under the oppressive yoke of a tyrant, is it being weak when they finally rise up and break their chains? Or when a man, horrified that a car has rolled over his son, lifts it right off the ground, which he could never have done calmly; or when someone’s fighting for his life, and in his desperation takes down six opponents — are they being weak? And, Albert, if that kind of push is being strong, why should an extreme version be the opposite?”
Albert looked at me and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I really don’t see how any of those examples are relevant here.”
“That’s totally possible,” I said, “people are always telling me my thought process can get pretty rambly sometimes. Okay — then let’s see if we can find some other way of understanding what might be going on in someone’s head when they decide that being alive, as great as that is, is more than they can take. Because it’s not fair for us to talk about this unless we approach it with some sympathy.
“The human self,” I continued, “has its limits: it can only bear happiness, sadness, or pain up to a certain point, and it breaks down as soon as that point is passed. So this really has nothing to do with whether someone’s weak or strong, right? It’s about whether they can take the amount of pain that they’re feeling, and that could be physical or psychological; so I think it’s just as strange to say, ‘That man is a coward for killing himself’, as it would be inappropriate to call someone a coward for dying of a malignant tumor.”
“Sophistry! Pure sophistry!” Albert exclaimed.
“Not really,” I replied. “I mean, think about how chronic illness works: someone’s health is under so much pressure that they get weaker and weaker and their whole system falls apart so much that finally the body can’t repair itself anymore, and there’s no way of turning things around to get them healthy again.
“Cool. Now let’s think about the mind. Say there’s this person, going along in his typical courses of thought, with things making impressions on him like they do, ideas taking root in him, until finally some cancerous emotion spreads through his whole mental faculty and breaks him down.
“What’s your detached, reasonable person going to do now when he sees him like this? What’s he going to say to him? There’s nothing he can do — no more than a healthy person standing by a sickbed can channel his health into the sick man.”
Albert still thought I was overgeneralizing. I reminded him of of a girl in the news recently who was found dead in a river, and went over her story for him again:
“She was a normal, quiet girl who grew up in the sheltered little bubble of home and school, with no real concept of happiness beyond hanging out with her friends at the mall in her one nice outfit she’d pieced together, maybe going to a school dance once in a while, and going on for hours and hours with her best friend about gossip and drama.
“Suddenly, she starts to feel this fire inside her, these inner drives, and guys are flirting with her, which just amps things up further, and everything she used to like starts seeming so boring — until, finally, she meets a guy she’s drawn to, irresistibly, by this feeling she’s never felt before, she wraps all her hopes around him, forgets everything else, she can’t hear or see or feel anything but him, The One, all she wants is him, The One. She doesn’t play hard to get, she knows what she wants and she’s going for it, she wants to be his, she wants to fuse with him forever and find the happiness she’s been missing, everything she ever wanted, all at once. Whispered promises seal the deal, stolen kisses drive her wild — and she is gone; she’s floating in a haze of anticipation, she’s cranked all the way up. Finally she reaches out to take her dreams in her arms — and her crush dumps her.
“Stunned, semi-conscious, she’s standing at a cliff; everywhere she looks is darkness, no way out, no hope, no clue! because HE’S gone… the only one who made her feel real. She can’t see her whole life still ahead of her, or all the people who could take his place, she feels alone and totally abandoned, — and, blind, pushed into a corner by the agony in her heart, she jumps, to smother her pain under the all-encompassing blanket of death.
“See, Albert, so many people have stories just like that! and I mean, isn’t that a case of illness? The self can’t find its way out of the maze of convoluted contradictory forces, and the person has to die.
“And screw anyone who’d look at that and say, ‘Stupid girl! If she’d only waited, if she’d just given it time, she’d have gotten over it, she’d have found someone new to comfort her before she knew it.’ That’s just like saying, ‘What an idiot, dying of cancer! If he’d only waited until his body recovered, until his immune system kicked in, and his symptoms had died down — everything would have been fine, and he’d still be alive!’”
Albert, who still couldn’t see the connection, said a bunch of things, including: I’d only been talking about one silly girl; but how a smart person, who wasn’t so sheltered, who’d seen more of the world, could be excused for that sort of thing, that he didn’t understand.
“Albert,” I exclaimed, “people are people, and being smart or whatever doesn’t really come up when your passions are raging and pushing you to the limits of your humanity. And on top of that — Some other time,” I said, and grabbed my bag. eugh my heart was so full… and we split up, without either of us really getting where the other was coming from. Like people hardly ever do in this world.

August 15

It’s so true… nothing ties people together like love. I can tell Lotte would be sad to see me go, and the kids can’t imagine a world where I don’t come back the next day forever. I went over there today to tune Lotte’s piano, but I never got around to it because the young’uns kept chasing me around asking for a story, and Lotte said herself that I should give them what they wanted, so! I sliced up the bread for their evening snack (they’re almost as happy to get it from me as from Lotte now!) and I told them my go-to fairy tale about the princess who’s waited on by a pair of magical hands. I’m learning so much from this — really, though! — and I’m amazed by how much it stays with them. Like, sometimes, if I have to come up with a detail on the spot, and I forget it the second time, they always jump right in and say, no, it was different last time! so now I’m working on nailing down one consistent version I can unspool in a single singing stream of syllables :P One thing it’s taught me is that if an author ever tweaks a story for its second edition, even if it’s way better written, he’s 100% guaranteed to mess up his book. We’re very receptive to first impressions, and the way people are, they’ll eat up even the craziest stuff; but it sticks that much stronger, so you better not try erasing or crossing anything out!

August 18

Does it always have to be this way? That whatever used to make you happy ends up TORTURING you?

The full, warm feeling I used to get from the aliveness of nature, that had me drowning in happiness, that turned the world around me into paradise, has turned into this UNBEARABLE TORMENTOR, this HAUNTING GHOST, that follows me around wherever I go… I used to look out from the cliffs past the river all the way to the hills, over this whole fertile valley, and see everything budding and sprouting; I’d see those mountains covered from foot to peak with tall, thick trees, see those ravines with all their twists and turns dotted with those beautiful woods, and the gentle river flowing between the whispering reeds, reflecting the pretty clouds drifting up above in the gentle evening breeze… I’d hear the forest around me come to life with birdsong, while a thousand clouds of midges danced nimbly in the last red sunbeams, and that last glimmer of sun brought the beetles humming out of the grass…and the buzzing and whirring all around me made me look down at the ground, and I’d see the moss sucking its nutrients out of my cliffs and the broom growing up from the dry sandhills, proving how much hidden, glowing, sacred life-force there is under the earth — and I used to embrace that all so PASSIONATELY, I felt like a DEMIGOD, overflowing with this fullness, and I could feel all these magnificent creations of earth moving inside me mingling their life-force with mine. Stark precipices loomed around me, chasms opened at my feet, the rivers rushed below me, and the forests and the mountains rang out; and I could see all them all, all the subterranean forces kneading and spawning all together in the depths of the earth — and now look at the earth and sky, swarming with these infinite unique creatures…every inch of everything filled with a million forms of life; and PEOPLE, meanwhile, board themselves up in their houses and huddle together and think they rule the world! How sad! valuing everything so little, because you’re so small… From the impassable crag to the desert where no man has set foot all the way to the floors of unknown oceans, the Spirit of Creation flows everywhere, and He rejoices in every particle that draws on Him and lives. — Gah! back in those days, the beat of a passing eagle’s wings would send me yearning for the coast of some measureless sea, where I might drink from the frothy cup of the Infinite a flowing dram of joy, and, for just one moment, the pressure in my heart might be soothed by a drop of the peace of the Being that creates all things in itself and through itself.

*sigh*…oh, Will, just thinking back to those days makes me feel so whole. Even just making myself summon up those transcendent feelings and describe them again is putting me in such a better place, it makes me realize that much more what terrible shape I’m in now…

It’s like someone pulled aside a curtain in my mind, and this whole scene of limitless life is morphing in front of me into the black hole of an infinite mass grave. Can you really say anything’s real, when it’s all going to die? when everything gets swept away like a flash flood, and practically never makes it through its whole lifespan, gah! gets swept up by the storm, dragged under the water, and smashed against the cliffs? Every second that goes by destroys you and the people you love, and makes you a destroyer too, unavoidably; even going for a walk means killing a thousand worm babies, one single step annihilates the homes that ants have slaved over and stamps out a whole tiny world in a gruesome holocaust. HA! All the terrible once-in-a-lifetime disasters of the world, the tsunamis that wipe away whole villages, the earthquakes that swallow whole cities, they don’t move me at all; what kills me is the murderous power lying hidden in the heart of Nature itself — which has never created anything that didn’t destroy itself and everything around it. So I go staggering around terrified! With the sky and the earth and the threads of life weaving around me! All I see is an infinite tooth-gnashing lip-smacking maw.

August 21

She’s never there…I try to hold her in the morning, when I’m struggling to wake up from scary dreams…I feel around for her at night in my bed when some beautiful innocent dream had me so sure I was sitting beside her in the grass holding her hand covering her with kisses…augh…and then sometimes I’m still asleep enough to think I actually feel her there, and it makes me so happy — and then the tears come flooding out of all the pain wedged up inside me, and I cry and cry at how bleak everything looks…

August 22

It’s terrible, Will, my whole ability to function is so out of whack, I just sit around feeling restless and useless, I can’t get excited about anything and I can’t do anything either. My imagination’s gone, nature doesn’t do anything for me, and I get sick even thinking about reading. When you lose your self, you lose everything :-/ Seriously, sometimes I wish I were a construction worker, just so I could wake up in the morning and have some idea what was going to happen that day, some kind of structure, something to look forward to… I even get jealous of Albert, seeing him buried in paperwork, and I keep picturing myself being happy in his place! I’ve been this close over and over again to writing Jim about that job you keep saying he’d totally give me. I’d probably still need to apply, though, right? I should write to Master Smith…he always liked me, and he always told me he’d write me a recommendation if I ever applied for anything. And it couldn’t take me more than an hour to put everything together. But then if I take a step back, I always start thinking about that fable about the horse who got bored of being free, so he let himself be saddled and bridled, and ended up getting ridden to death…and I just don’t know what I should do…and, Will! what if this longing inside me to change things up is just some kind of fundamental inner dissatisfaction that’ll follow me around wherever I go?

August 28

Man…if whatever’s broken inside me were fixable, these would be the people <3 Today’s my birthday, and bright and early this morning I found a little package in the mail from Albert. Right away when I opened it, I realized the lining was the little pink wrap Lotte was wearing the night I met her, that I’ve begged her for like a bazillion times since then. And wrapped up inside it was a pair of little green books — the Loeb Odyssey, the edition I’ve been wanting for ages to take on walks with me so I wouldn’t have to schlep around a dictionary. I mean — look at that! they know what I want before I even say it, they’re always finding these sweet little gestures that mean so much more than those schmancy presents people give you to beat you over the head with how rich they are. I can’t stop kissing that shawl, and every time I breathe it in, I taste a memory of the joy that overflowed from those brief, happy, irrevocably lost days… Will, it’s true, and I’m not just being grumpy, the joys we have in life are just — daylilies! How many blossoms wilt and fade away without a trace? how often do they actually bear fruit? And how many of those fruits ever ripen? But even so there are more than enough…and, I mean — unngh, Will! Can you just let ripe fruit lie there and rot, untasted and unenjoyed?

I hope you’re well! It’s gorgeously summery here; I’ve been spending a lot of time up in the fruit trees in Lotte’s orchard with the fruit-picker (a kind of long stick with pincers), plucking pears from the treetops. She stands below me and catches them when I drop them down to her.

August 30

You miserable fuck! What’s WRONG with you? Why are you DOING this to yourself?! Where are you going with this CRAZY NEVERENDING OBSESSION?!? When I pray now, I only pray to her; when I close my eyes, she’s always there, and when I look around all I can see is how everything relates to her. And I can be happy in that mode for hours — until I have to tear myself away from her again! which — AHHH, WILL! which my heart keeps FORCING me to do! — When I’ve been hanging out with her for two, three hours, getting lost in how she looks, how she moves, how she speaks so fucking articulately, and bit by bit I start revving up, my vision starts to blur, I can barely hear, and I start choking as if someone was strangling me, then my heart kicks in and starts racing to clear my system, which only makes everything worse — Will, I barely even know where I AM! And, — unless the sadness takes over and Lotte lets me cry it out on her shoulder, which is amazing but also TERRIBLE, — then I just have to GO, I have to get out of there! and I throw myself around in the fields; then it feels great to go vault up a sheer cliff, go crashing through the woods, through the thistles, that cut me, through the thorns, that shred me! Then I feel a bit better! a BIT! And when I collapse sometimes from dehydration and exhaustion, and lie there, in the middle of the night sometimes, with the full moon high above me, in the lonely forest, and I sit down on a crooked tree-trunk, just to give my screaming feet a rest, and doze off into this drained sleep in the half-light! oh, Will! a ward in solitary, a straightjacket, some padded walls would be just PERFECT. Goodbye! I don’t see any out for this misery but death.