The End

A neighbor saw the flash and heard the shot go off; but when everything stayed quiet afterwards, he didn’t think anything more of it.

In the morning, around 6, the bellboy knocks on the door; it’s unlocked, he walks in. He finds Werther on the floor, the guns and blood. He shouts, he shakes him; no answer, just the death rattle. The concierge calls 911 and then Albert’s house. Lotte hears the phone ring, her whole body starts to shake. She wakes up her husband, they get up, the concierge tells them the news, bawling and stuttering, Lotte collapses in front of Albert, unconscious.

When the ambulance arrived for him, they found him on the floor, past saving, his pulse was beating, his limbs were all paralyzed. He’d shot himself above the right eye, the skull was blasted open. They hooked him up to oxygen, he was still breathing.

From the blood on the armrest of the chair, it was clear he did it sitting in front of his desk, then sank down and convulsively twisted around on the chair. He was lying helpless with his back against the window, fully dressed, with his shoes on, in a blue jacket and yellow jeans.

The hotel, the neighborhood, the whole town was turned upside-down. Albert came in. They’d laid Werther on the bed, with his head bandaged, his face already like a corpse’s, he wasn’t moving a muscle. His lungs were still rattling violently, weakly now, then stronger; he was close to the end.

He’d only drunk a single glass of the wine. The Great Gatsby was open on his desk.

I’m going to pass over Albert’s devastation and Lotte’s grief.

The old D.A. came running in when he heard the news, he kissed the dying man, crying hot tears. His oldest sons followed him on foot soon after, they collapsed beside the bed with frenzied, painful screams until he was gone and people tore the boys away. Around 12 noon, he died. The presence of the D.A. and his assistants prevented a scene. At night, around 11, he had him buried at the spot he’d chosen. The old man followed the corpse along with his sons, Albert just couldn’t. Lotte had been rushed to the hospital. Farmhands carried him. No priest went with him.

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Goodbye

“11:06 pm —
Everything’s so quiet around me here, and my soul is so peaceful. Thank you, God, for giving these final moments this warmth, this strength.

I walk to the window, darling, and look out, and I see, even through the stormy clouds flying by above, a single star in the eternal sky! No, stars, you’ll never fall! The Eternal carries you on his heart, and me, too. I see the handle of the Big Dipper, my favorite constellation. When I left your place at night, when I’d walk out your door, it sat right in front of me. I looked at it so many times so drunk on happiness, so many times I raised my hands to it and hailed it as a sign, a sacred landmark of my ecstasy in that moment! And now — oh, Lotte, what doesn’t remind me of you? Like you don’t surround me! And like I haven’t hoarded everything you’ve touched, you saint, like a little kid!

And that dear silhouette I sketched of you! I’m bequeathing it back to you, Lotte, and I hope you’ll treasure it. I pressed a thousand, thousand kisses on it, waved hello to it a thousand times when I went out or came home.

I’ve asked your father in a letter to look after my body. In the cemetery, there are two linden trees, back in the corner beside the field: that’s where I want to lie. He can — he will do that for his friend. You ask him too. I don’t totally believe pious Christians will want to lay their bodies near a poor fuckup. Ah, I wish you’d bury me beside the road, or in a lonely valley, for priests and pilgrims to cross themselves before as they walk by the gravestone and shed a tear.

Okay, Lotte! I’m not shaking, grasping the cold, fearsome cup from which I’ll drink the dew of death! You handed it to me, and I’m not shaking. All — all — this way all the wishes and hopes of my life are fulfilled! So cold, so bleak, knocking at the iron door of death…

I wish I could have had the privilege of dying for you! Lotte, of sacrificing myself for you! I wanted to to die bravely, to die happily, giving you back the peace, the contentment of your life. But ahh! Only a few noble souls have had the privilege of spilling their blood for their loved ones and through their death forging a new, happier life for their friends.

I want to be buried in these clothes, Lotte, you touched them, you blessed them; I’ve also begged your father for that. My soul is hovering over the coffin. Don’t let anyone go through my pockets. This pink wrap you had around your shoulders the first time I met you among your children — oh kiss them a thousand times and tell them the story of your friend the fuckup. Those precious kids! They’re flittering around me. God, the way I locked onto you! From the first moment, couldn’t leave you! — I want this wrap buried with me. You gave it to me on my birthday! I just drank it all up! — ahh, I had no idea that path would lead me here! — don’t be upset, please, don’t be upset!

— They’re loaded — it’s striking midnight! All right, then! — Lotte! Lotte, goodbye! Goodbye!”

Guns

Lotte had barely slept the night before, dreading the thing that had in fact been planned, planned in a way she couldn’t have imagined or feared. Her mind, usually so clear and light, was churning with anxiety; her heart felt like it was going to burst from the thousand feelings pounding through it. Was it the fire of Werther’s embrace that she felt in her chest? Was it resentment over his disobedience? Was it an angry sense of how far her life now had gotten from those days when she felt so unselfconsciously free and innocent, so carefree and self-reliant? How was she supposed to go up to her husband and let him know about this scene that she really should confess to him but that she was too scared to confess? They’d both kept quiet on the subject for so long — was she supposed to be the first to break the silence and make such an unexpected revelation right when things were so uncomfortable between them? Already she was afraid that just the news of Werther’s visit would hit Albert especially hard, let alone this disaster he couldn’t possibly expect! Was it really likely that he’d take this the right way, take it without judging her? Was it likely he’d really understand her feelings? And, on the other hand, was it okay for her to keep something hidden from her husband, with whom she’d always been as transparent as glass and from whom she’d never hid or could hide any of her feelings? Both options made her anxious and upset, and her thoughts kept circling back to Werther, who’d ruined his life for her, whom she couldn’t lose, who — ahhh! — who had to be his own problem now! — and who’d have nothing left if he lost her.

It was so painful for her now to recognize the rut that she and Albert had fallen into, which she hadn’t been able to recognize clearly at the time! Even people this reasonable and good start keeping things from each other around secret differences of opinion, each one thinks they’re in the right and the other’s in the wrong, and the relationship gets so twisted that it’s impossible to untie the knots even when it matters most. If warmth and intimacy had brought her and Albert together earlier, if there had been more love and understanding on both sides to unlock their hearts, maybe it still would have been possible to save our friend.

One more unusual factor was relevant. Werther, as we all know from his letters, had never kept it a secret that he wanted to die. Albert had often argued with him about it, and the subject had come up from time to time between Lotte and her husband. Albert, who felt a deep opposition to suicide, had even, often, with a kind of snappishness which was otherwise totally out of character, made it clear that he couldn’t take this ‘intention’ seriously at all; he’d even cracked a few jokes about it and shared his skepticism with Lotte. This did comfort her, in a way, when she started to worry, but, in another way, it made her feel like she couldn’t share these fears with her husband when they tortured her.

*          *          *

When Albert pulled in the driveway, Lotte ran up to meet him in an awkward rush. He wasn’t in a good mood, he still hadn’t closed his deal, and that branch manager had turned out to be an inflexible, small-minded man. The terrible roads had also made him grumpy.

He asked if he’d missed anything when he was away, and she answered, too quickly: Werther had come over the night before. He didn’t react, just asked if any mail had come in, and learned that a letter and some packages were waiting in his room. He went upstairs, and Lotte stayed by herself. The presence of the man whom she loved and looked up to had made a deep impression on her. Remembering his generosity, his love, and his goodness had calmed her down further. She felt a deep pull to follow him; she got her sewing and took it up to his room, as she’d been doing more and more lately. She found him busy unwrapping the packages and reading the mail. Some of the letters didn’t seem like especially pleasant reading. She asked him a few questions; he answered them curtly and sat down at his desk to write.

They spent about an hour like that together, and Lotte’s mood got darker and darker. She could tell how hard it would be for her, even if her husband were in the best mood, to tell him what was on her mind; she fell into a depression that only got more anxious the more she tried to hide her feelings and her tears.

Werther’s text message coming in threw her completely; she handed Albert his phone, and he turned casually back to her and said, “Get down the guns. And I’m texting him back… ‘Have a good trip!’” — That hit her like lightning, she staggered, standing up, she barely knew what she was doing. As Albert called up her oldest brother, she walked slowly over to the rack, shivering, she took down the guns, wiped away the dust and shuddered, and she would have hesitated even longer if Albert hadn’t pushed her on with a questioning look. She gave the dreadful things to her brother, totally speechless, and once he headed out with them, she packed up her sewing and went into her room in an inarticulate haze. Her mind kept flashing the most horrible scenes in front of her. For a moment, she thought of going to her husband and breaking down, telling him everything, what had happened the night before, her guilt and her suspicions. Then again, she couldn’t see how to stop this train — there was no way she could convince her husband to drive over and talk to Werther. Lunch was on the table, and a good girl friend of hers, who’d only come by to drop something off, was about to go — and then stayed, making the conversation at the table bearable; they made an effort, they talked, they told stories, they managed to forget.

*          *          *

The boy brought the pistols up to Werther’s room. Werther took them with delight, hearing that Lotte had handed them to him. He sent the boy home, ordered a sandwich online, and sat down to write.

“They went through your hands, you wiped the dust off them, I’m kissing them a thousand times, you touched them! The Spirit of Heaven approves of the “what” — and you, Lotte, you give me the “how”, you at whose hands I’d always hoped to die, and ahh! now I’m getting my wish. Oh, I practically interrogated your brother. You were shaking as you handed them to him, you didn’t say goodbye! — No! NO!!! NO GOODBYE!!! — could you really have closed your heart to me at the exact moment that ties me to you forever? Lotte, a hundred years couldn’t make that memory fade! And I can tell, you can’t hate the man who burns like this for you.”

After eating, he zipped up his suitcase, tore up a lot of his old notebooks, and went out and settled up a few more small debts. He came back home, went out again past the town limits, ignoring the rain, to the public garden he loved so much, wandered around the area again, and came back as night was falling and wrote.

“Will, I’ve taken my last look at earth and trees and sky. All my very best to you too! Mom, I love you — I’m sorry! Comfort her, Will! God bless you both! My things are all settled. Goodbye! We’ll see each other again in a happier place.”

“I’ve been unfair to you, Albert — I’m so sorry. I’ve disturbed the peace of your house, I’ve brought mistrust between you two. Goodbye! I’m going to end it. Oh, I hope my dying can make you happy! Albert! Albert! Make that angel happy! And God’s blessing will always be upon you!”

He went through a lot of his papers that evening, tore up a lot of them and threw them in the garbage, and taped up a number of boxes addressed to Will. They were full of handwritten drafts, scattered thoughts which I’ve seen a few of. Around 10 pm, he poured himself a glass of wine and called the front desk, asking them to come up to his room early the next morning to help with his bags; he was expecting a taxi at six.

Mortality

Room service found him writing when they brought him coffee the next morning. He added the following to his letter to Lotte:

“So this is the last time, the last time I’m opening these eyes. They’ll never — they’ll never see the sun again, a bleak, cloudy day is hiding it. Well, go ahead, Nature, mourn! Your son, your friend, your beloved is nearing his end. Lotte, there’s nothing like this feeling, but the closest thing is coming out of a dream — telling yourself: this is the last morning. The last! Lotte, I can’t wrap my head around that word: the last! I mean, I’m sitting here now, totally alive, right? and tomorrow I’ll be lying stretched out and limp on the floor. Dying! what does that mean? See, we’re clueless, when we talk about death. I’ve seen a lot of people die; but as humans we have such a limited sense of things that we can’t wrap our heads around our own beginning and end. And now mine — yours! Yours, oh my love! And for a moment — separated, parted — maybe for ever? — no, Lotte, no — how can I be gone? How can you be gone? We ARE! — “gone!” — what does that mean? That’s just a word again, an empty sound, that doesn’t mean anything real to me. —— Dead, Lotte! Stuffed into the cold earth — so cramped! so dark! — I had a girlfriend once, who made my stupid teenage life worthwhile — she died, and I followed her corpse and stood by the grave while they lowered the coffin in and pulled the ropes thrummingly out from under it, then dumped in the first shovel of earth, and the terrible box made a dull thump, then duller and duller, until it was finally covered! — I collapsed beside the grave — seized up, shattered, manic, shredded inside, but I had no concept of what was happening to me — what would happen to me — Dying! Grave! I DON’T UNDERSTAND THESE WORDS!

I’m so sorry! I’m sorry! Yesterday! I should have just died on the spot. Oh, you angel! For the first time, for the first time with no doubt at all, the joyful feeling glowed right through me: she loves me! She loves me! I can still feel, burning on my lips, the holy fire that flowed from yours — new, warm joy is in my heart. I’m sorry! I’m sorry!

Ahh, I knew you loved me, knew it from the first soulful glances, from the first hug, and still, whenever I was away again, or when I saw Albert by your side, I gave up again in anxious despair.

Do you remember the flowers you gave me that one time after that terrible party, where you couldn’t say anything to me, couldn’t reach out to comfort me? Oh, I spent half the night on my knees in front of them, and I felt so sure they proved you loved me. But — ahh! These certainties fade away, just like the sense of the mercy of God Almighty fades from the soul of the believer, even when it’s been shown to him with all the fullness of heaven in sacred, unambiguous signs.

But that’s all transient — no eternity will extinguish the glowing life that I tasted yesterday on your lips, that I feel inside me! She loves me! This arm held her, these lips shivered on her lips, this mouth trembled on her mouth. She is mine! You are mine! Yes, Lotte — forever.

And so what if Albert’s your husband? Husband! In this world — and so in this world it’s a sin for me to love you, for me to want to tear you out of his arms into mine? Sin? Fine, and I’m punishing myself for it; I’ve tasted it in all its heavenly bliss, that sin, I’ve sucked down healing and strength into my heart. From this moment on, you’re mine! Mine, oh Lotte! I’m passing on! Going to my Father, to your Father. I’ll cry to Him about it and He’ll comfort me until you come and I run over to you and take you in my arms and stay with you in His eternal gaze in your arms forever.

I’m not dreaming, I’m not crazy! This close to death, I’m seeing clearer. We will BE! We’ll see each other again! See your mother! I’m going to see her, I’ll find her, ahh, and pour out my whole heart in front of her! Your mother, your second self…”

Around 11 am, Werther texted Albert asking whether he was back from his trip. Albert wrote back, yes, he’d just driven back in. Then Werther texted him: “Hey, I’m about to take a trip — could I borrow your pistols like we talked about? Be well!”

Starting the Note

That morning, Monday, December 21st, he started the following letter to Lotte, by hand, which was found after his death in a sealed envelope on his desk and delivered to her. I’d like to insert various passages from it at certain points where they shed light on the circumstances under which he wrote them.

“Decision’s made, Lotte, I want to die, and I’m writing you this without any romantic exaggeration, detached, on the morning of the day I’m going to see you for the last time. By the time you read this, darling, the cool earth will already cover the stiff corpse of this restless fuckup, who can’t imagine a sweeter way to spend the last moments of his life than talking with you. I had a terrible night, and…weirdly… a soothing night. It’s what put the seal on my decision, locked it in: I want to die! Tearing myself away from you yesterday, in such a horrible blur of anger, everything came rushing in and it hit me so hard, with sickening coldness, just how hopeless and joyless being near you has been — I barely made it to my room, I threw myself, in a frenzy, on my knees, and, oh Lord! You granted me the final unction of the most bitter tears! A thousand options, a thousand outcomes raged through my soul, and finally it stood there, firm, whole, the one final thought: I want to die! — I went to bed, and this morning, in the calm of awakening, it’s still standing firm, still totally strong in my heart: I want to die! — it’s not despair, it’s certainty that my time’s up, and that I’m sacrificing myself for you. Yes, Lotte! Why not be open about it? One of the three of us has to go, and I want it to be me! Oh, my darling! So many times the idea has slithered into this shredded heart — to kill your husband! — you! — me! — all right, then! — when you hike up into the hills, on a lovely summer evening, remember me, the way I always used to come up from the valley, and then look over towards the cemetery at my grave, while the wind rocks the grass back and forth in the glow of the setting sun. — I was calm when I started this… now… now I’m crying like a baby, I can see it all so clearly…”

Around noon, Werther took a shower, got dressed, and started settling his accounts: he called the front desk and told them he’d be leaving on a trip in a few days, started packing all his clothes in his suitcase, texted people asking them to return books he’d lent them, PayPaled the various acquaintances in town he’d borrowed money from, and set up recurring payments to some of the artists and charities he sometimes donated to.

He ordered in for lunch, and after eating he biked over to see the D.A., who turned out not to be home. He walked moodily up and down in the garden, as if he wanted to pile all the pain of remembering onto himself one last time.

The kids didn’t leave him alone for long — they chased after him, jumped up on him, told him how tomorrow, and then tomorrow, and one more day, they’d get Christmas presents from Lotte, and described for him all the most amazing presents their childlike imaginations could dream up. “Tomorrow,” he cried, “and then tomorrow, and one more day!” — and kissed them all tenderly and was about to leave them, when the youngest one said he wanted to whisper something in his ear. He revealed that the older brothers had bought beautiful New Year’s cards, so pretty! And one for Daddy, for Albert, and one for Lotte, and one for Mr. Werther too; they wanted to present them early on New Year’s morning. That was too much for him, he gave each of the kids a bit of money, got on his bike, told them to say hi to their dad for him, and rode away with tears in his eyes.

He got home around 5 pm, turned on all the lights, and continued packing, laying his clothes and books at the bottom of his suitcase and his coats on top. This is also probably when he wrote the following paragraph in that final letter to Lotte:

“You’re not expecting me! You think I’m going to obey you and not see you again until Christmas Eve. Oh, Lotte! It’s now or never. On Christmas Eve you’ll hold this page and your hand will shake and you’ll soak it with your darling tears. I’m going to, I have to! Oh, I feel so good now that I’ve made up my mind.”

Breaking the Silence

What was going on in Lotte’s mind at this point — what her thoughts might have been about her husband, about her unhappy friend — is something I’m almost uncomfortable making any claims about, but, given some knowledge of her personality, I think it’s possible to have at least a rough idea, and I think every one of us has a sensitive, feminine side we can tap into and use to think our way into her head.

This much is certain: she’d made a firm decision to get Werther to leave, whatever it took; and if she hesitated, it was out of a heartfelt, caring desire to spare him, because she knew how hard it would be on him — almost impossible for him, even. But at this point she felt like she had to stop putting it off; her husband was following her lead and not bringing up her relationship with Werther, and that only put more pressure on her to prove through her actions that she deserved that kind of trust from him.

On the same day that Werther wrote the letter to Will that I posted this morning, the Sunday before Christmas, he went to see Lotte in the evening and found her alone. She was busy wrapping a couple of toys that she’d bought as Christmas presents for her younger siblings. He talked about how much fun the kids would have and reminisced about those days when suddenly opening a door and seeing a tree all decorated with Christmas lights, candy-canes, and ornaments was so thrilling.

“Well, you know,” Lotte said, hiding her awkwardness behind a cutesy smile, “you’ll get something nice too, if you behave.”
“What does that mean, ‘behave’?” he exclaimed. “What should I do? How do you want me? Ahh — Lotte!”
“Thursday evening,” she said, “is Christmas Eve, that’s when we’re having the party with the kids and my dad, that’s when everyone gets their presents, so you should come too — but not before then.” Werther froze. “Please,” she went on, “just this one time, I’m asking you for my sake, for my own sanity, this can’t — this can’t go on like this.”
He looked away from her and walked up and down the room and muttered that phrase, “This can’t go on like this,” through his teeth.
Lotte, who could see what a terrible state these words had thrown him into, tried all kinds of questions to sound out what he was thinking, but nothing helped.
“No, Lotte!” he yelled, “I’ll never see you again!”
“What — why not?” she asked back. “Werther, you can totally — you have to see us again, just get a grip on yourself! Oh, why do you have to be so intense, why do you have to latch on so crazy passionately to everything you ever get into? I’m begging you,” she said, taking his hand, “get a grip on yourself! You’re so smart, you know so much about everything, you’re so talented — you have so many ways to be happy! Just — shake it off! Get over this hopeless obsession with someone who can’t do anything for you except feel bad for you.” He ground his teeth and looked at her darkly. She squeezed his hand. “Just think clearly for like a second, Werther!” she said. “Can’t you tell that you’re fooling yourself, that you’re destroying yourself and you know it? Why — why ME, Werther? Me of all people, when I’m TAKEN? Is that why? I worry, I worry it’s just the unavailability, that nothing could ever happen with me, that makes this fantasy so attractive for you.”
He pulled his hand out of hers, looking at her with a hard, defiant stare. “Wise!” he yelled, “so wise! Let me guess, did ALBERT say that? Deep! Oh, that’s deep!”
“Anyone could say it,” she shot back, “and you really think, in the whole world, there’s no one out there who could make you happy? Snap out of it, get out there and look, and I promise, you’ll find someone; ‘cause it really scares me, for your sake and for ours, how much you’ve cut yourself off from everyone this whole time. Snap out of it! A trip will — I mean, it has to take your mind off things. Get out there and find someone who’s worth all this attention, and then come back, and we can finally be happy together as actual friends.”
“That’s great,” he said with a cold laugh, “you should be writing an advice column. Lotte, just, give me a break for a while, it’s all gonna be fine!”
“But seriously, Werther, don’t come back before Christmas Eve!” —

He was about to answer when Albert walked in the room. They all exchanged very frosty “Good evening”s and started fiddling with their phones. Werther launched into some meaningless topic and trailed off pretty fast; Albert did the same, and then suddenly started grilling his wife about some specific chores he’d assigned her, and, when he heard they weren’t done yet, said a few words to her that struck Werther as cold, even hard. He wanted to leave, couldn’t make himself, and hesitated until eight, as his scorn and resentment grew, until they set the table for dinner and he got his coat and boots. Albert invited him to stay, but Werther, taking it as an empty gesture, thanked him coldly and headed out.

He got back to his hotel, almost knocked over the doorman on his way in, went up to his room, wept loudly, talked to himself in fits and starts, paced violently up and down the room and finally threw himself fully dressed onto his bed, where the maid found him the next morning around eleven when she went in to ask whether he wanted the room cleaned. He let her clean up but ordered her not to come in again any other morning until he called the desk.

December 20

Thank you for the love you show me, Will, in taking that phrase and running with it like that. Yes, you’re right: I should just go. I’m not a huge fan of your idea of my coming back to you guys… at very least, I’d want to do some kind of road trip on the way, especially since it’s barely snowing and the roads are clear. And it’s also very sweet of you to offer to come pick me up here; just give me another two weeks, and keep your eyes open for another letter from me with the details. You don’t want to pick a fruit before it’s ripe, right? And two weeks more or less can make a big difference.

Please tell my mom to pray for her son, and that I hope she forgives me for all the embarrassment I’ve put her through. I guess I was just meant to make life hard for the people I should be making happy.

Be well, dear friend! Heaven shine all its blessings on you!
Goodbye!

Dark Thoughts

This is around the time, coming off last week’s events, when the decision to die got more and more concrete in Werther’s mind. Since he’d come back to Lotte, he’d always seen it as his ultimate way out, but he’d always told himself it shouldn’t be a rushed, impulsive act; he wanted to take this step with total certainty, with as calm a resolve as he could.

His doubt and his internal struggle stand out in one fragment in particular, which is probably the beginning of a letter to Will and which I found in his drafts folder.

“Just seeing her, what she’s going through, her sympathy with what I’m going through — it squeezes the last tears out of my dried-out skull. Lifting the curtain and stepping behind it! That’s all! And why all this shaking and uncertainty?! Because we don’t know what it looks like back there? And you can’t come back? And that it’s pretty much the nature of our spirit to project confusion and shadows onto things we don’t know anything defined about”

In the end, he got more and more alienated and attached to this sad idea, and his decision became more and more irrevocable, as another letter he wrote to his best friend testifies. I’ll post that tomorrow.

December 14

What’s WRONG with me, Will? I’m fucking terrified of myself! My love for her is totally platonic, right? Like a brother? Have I ever had the smallest inappropriate feeling about her? — hmm, methinks the lad doth protest too much — and now DREAMS! Calling Dr. Freud! Whoo, don’t bother! Last night! I’m shuddering, typing this — I held her in my arms, pressed her hard against my chest, and covered her mouth with endless kisses as she whispered she loved me; my eyes swam in the drunkenness in hers! God! Is it wrong of me that I still feel so good, feeling that warm, blissful memory inside me again? Lotte! Lotte! — and I am GONE! My senses are all tangled up, for eight days now I haven’t been able to think straight, my eyes are full of tears. I feel terrible all the time, and I feel great all the time. I don’t want anything, don’t need anything. I should… I should just go.

December 12

Dear Will, now I know how people felt when they thought they were possessed by evil spirits. Sometimes this thing comes over me; it’s not fear, not desire — it’s this obscure internal chaos that feels like it’s going to make my chest explode, like it’s strangling my throat! AHHH! AHHH! And then I go running outside through the terrifying midnight landscapes of this season that hates us.

Last night I had to get outside. There’d been a sudden thaw, I’d heard the river had overflowed, burst all its banks, and flooded my dear valley from Pickton on down! I ran out a bit after 11pm. What a horror show, seeing the howling floods coursing down from the cliffs in the moonlight, over fields and meadows and hedges and everything, and the whole valley from end to end turned into a stormy sea roiling in the wind! And then, when the moon came out again and floated above the dark clouds, and the deluge, in its terrifying, glorious reflection, heaved and crashed: a shudder ran through me, and then this pull! Ahh, with open arms I stood before the abyss and breathed out! out! And lost myself in the joy of sending my troubles, my pain, storming down! To crash in like the waves! Oh! — And you couldn’t lift your foot off the ground, and end all this torture! — My time isn’t up yet, I can feel it! Oh, Will! I would have been so happy to give up my humanity to tear the clouds as a stormwind, to wield the waves! Ha! And who knows, maybe one day this prisoner will be set free?

— Ahh, and looking down at a spot where Lotte and I had stretched out under a willow, on a hot walk, — that was flooded too, so much so that I could barely recognize the place! Will! And their gardens, I thought, the area around their house! Our whole arbor must be trashed!, I thought. And a ray of sun from the past shone in, like a dream of plains and skies and loved ones for someone stuck in jail.  I stood! — I’m not beating myself up, I know I’m brave enough to die — I would have — now I’m sitting here like an old woman picking pennies off the ground and begging in the subway, to make her fading, joyless life a second longer and more bearable.