Sometimes I don’t understand how she CAN have feelings for someone else, how that’s even POSSIBLE, when she’s so completely all I love, so deep, so hard, and all I know, or am, or have is her!
Yeah, I think so too. Nature’s shifting towards fall, and it’s fall for me too, inside and out. My journal pages are turning yellow, and the leaves have already fallen off the trees around here. Didn’t I tell you once about a handyman, right when I got here? I was just asking around in Pickton about him; all anyone would say was, he got fired, and then they’d all change the subject. Yesterday I spotted him on the road while I was biking off to another town, I flagged him down, and he told me his story, which…moved me isn’t even the word — I’m sure you’ll understand when I tell you. Actually…what’s the point? You don’t need to hear this, it’s stressing me out enough already…why should I lay it on you too? It’s just going to be one more thing for you to feel bad for me about and throw in my face… Well, what the hell! Bring it on.
He had this kind of withdrawn sadness at first when he was answering my questions, almost like he was shy; but pretty soon he opened up, like he suddenly recognized “oh, it’s us!”, and he laid it all out there, how badly he’d messed up and how screwed everything was. God, Will, I wish I could give you a transcript of what he said so you could judge him right! He confessed, I mean, he told me the story, with a kind of sweetness, like it was a fond memory, how his crush on the woman he worked for had gotten stronger and stronger every day, to the point where he didn’t know what he was doing, what he was saying, where the hell he was going… He couldn’t eat or drink or sleep, it was like he was suffocating, he did work he wasn’t supposed to, the stuff they DID ask him to do he totally forgot, it was like some kind of poltergeist was messing with him, until one day, when he knew she was in one of the bedrooms upstairs, he went up to her, or, really, was drawn up to her; when she wouldn’t listen, he got physical, he doesn’t know what came over him, he swears to God, he only ever had the most decent intentions towards her, and all he ever wanted was for them to get married and spend the rest of their lives together. After he’d been speaking for a while, he started “um”-ing and “uh”-ing, as if he still had something else to say that he couldn’t quite spit out; finally he confessed to me, again in this almost shy whisper, all the little ways she’d led him on and blurred the boundaries between them. He interrupted himself two or three times, insisting very urgently that he wasn’t saying this to make her seem like a tease [his words], that he still loved and looked up to her like always, that he’d never even think of saying that, and that he was just telling me this to show me that he wasn’t a totally off-base crazy person. And I know I sound like a broken record, Will, but… I wish I could show you this guy the way he was, standing in front of me, the way I can still see him! I wish I could find the words to make you feel how much I empathize with his story — how much I HAVE to empathize! But, I guess…you know my story, you know me, so you know all too well why I’m so drawn to fuckups and this fuckup in particular.
Reading over this, I realize I forgot to tell you the end of the story, though you can pretty much guess where this goes. She fought back; her brother ran in, who’d always hated him and had been looking for an excuse for ages to get him out of the house, because he was scared if his sister got married again his own kids would miss out on her inheritance, which right now they’ve got pretty much locked down, since she doesn’t have any kids; the brother threw him out of the house immediately and made such a public scene of it that the woman couldn’t have taken him back on, even if she’d wanted to. Now she’s got some other guy working for her whom she’s openly dating (!) which apparently she and her brother have had a huge falling-out over, because she’s super set on him and the brother “won’t have it”, etc. etc….
And just so you know, none of what I’m telling you here is “overblown”, there’s no “sugarcoating”, I mean, honestly, I’ve given you a weak, weak, watered-down version of things, what with sticking to our accepted-PC-vocabulary.
So this kind of love, this loyalty, this passion isn’t something the poets made up. It’s alive, it’s out there in all its purity among the kind of people we call uncultured and crude. We, the ‘cultured’ — more like denatured! Take this story seriously, please. I’m perfectly lucid, writing this out; you can tell from the writing, no typos here (for a change). Read it, Will, and consider, while you’re reading it, that this is the story of your friend. Mhm…that’s how it’s gone for me, that’s how it’s gonna go, and I’m not half as brave, not half as resolved as this poor fuckup I barely deserve to compare myself to.
She’d written a cutesy email to her husband, who’s out of town on business. “Honey, sweetheart, come back already, I miss you so much…” When she was just about to send it, she got a text from him saying he’d be stuck out there another few days. She left the draft open on her computer, and in the evening when she had me google something it was right there. I read it and started smiling; she asked what was so funny? “Imagination is the greatest superpower,” I laughed, “— for a second there, I could almost pretend this was written to me.” She did NOT look happy about that, and I shut up.
It was like pulling teeth, but I finally made myself throw away that old blue jacket, the one I wore the night Lotte and I danced together for the first time… it was just SO beat-up. But! I did some looking around online and managed to get the exact same design again, with that cool collar, and even another pair of those yellow jeans.
They’re not quite doing it for me, though. I don’t know — I guess after a while they’ll feel special too.
She was out of town the last few days, staying with Albert for the end of his business trip. Today I walked in her room, she jumped up to greet me, and it felt so wonderful just hugging her again.
A budgie flew down from the mirror onto her shoulder. “A new friend,” she said, luring him onto her hand, “for the young’uns to play with. He’s too cute! Look at him! When I give him some seeds, he flutters his wings and starts pecking so daintily. And he even kisses me, look!”
She leaned her mouth down to the little critter, and it pressed itself so tenderly against her sweet lips, as if it could feel the transcendence it was getting to enjoy.
“Here, let him kiss you, too,” she said and reached the bird over. The little beak moved from her mouth to mine, and the nibbling sensation was like a breath, a whisper, of something hot and tender.
“His kissing has some edge to it, though,” I said, “he’s hungry for something, and he pulls back unsatisfied from this empty mouth-to-mouth.”
“Oh, he eats out of my mouth too,” she said. — She held out a couple of seeds for him in her lips, with the most delighted, innocent, affectionate smile.
I looked away. She can’t do that… she can’t just fire up my imagination with these images of heavenly innocence and transcendence, and wake my heart up when I’ve finally gotten detached enough from life to lull it to sleep! — Hell, why not? — We’re so close! She knows how much I love her!
It’s enough to make you LOSE IT, Will, that people can even EXIST who have so little sensitivity or feeling for the few things on earth that are still worth anything. You know those chestnut trees I sat under with Lotte when we visited that dear preacher in St___, those magnificent chestnut trees! which, God knows, always filled me with the deepest inner peace! How intimate they made the churchyard feel, how cool! and how majestic the trunks were! and how they kept the memory alive of that dear old holy man who planted them so many years ago… the schoolteacher in town here always used to tell stories about him that he’d heard from his grandfather; he sounds like he was such an amazing person, and for me, the trees were like a shrine to his memory. I’m telling you, the schoolteacher had tears in his eyes when we were talking yesterday about how they were cut down — CUT DOWN! I feel like flipping tables, I could KILL the son of a bitch who held the chainsaw. I, of all people, who’d be shattered if I had two trees like that in my yard and one of them died of OLD AGE, I just have to stand back and watch. Well, Will, there’s still one thing! Still a bit of humanity out there! The whole town is FURIOUS, and I hope the preacher’s wife will get a sense from the cold stares & shoulders and the empty donation cup what a wound she’s cut in her parish. Because it’s all her, the wife of the new preacher (our beloved old friend also passed away), a scrawny cranky bitch who’s got every reason not to give a fuck about the world because no one gives a fuck about her. A dumb-shit passing herself off as sooo learned, always going on about her Bible study, trumpeting all the “family values” evangelist crap, shrugging off Santorum’s insane bullshit, sick as a dog so she can’t find any pleasure on God’s earth. Only someone like THAT could have had it in her to cut down my chestnut trees. I mean — gah! I can’t even! Can you imagine: the falling leaves made the churchyard messy and icky, the trees were blocking the sunlight, and when the nuts ripened, the kids would throw stones at them, which got on her nerves, it disturbed her in her deep meditations, mulling over the subtle differences between Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. When I saw how unhappy everyone was in town, especially the older people, I asked them, “Why did you let this happen?” — “When the mayor wants something done around here,” they said, “what can you do?” — But one thing worked out GREAT. The mayor and the preacher (who figured that maybe for once he could actually get something out of his wife’s pissiness) had this whole plan to sell the wood and split the profits; but then the county got wind of it and said, “hey, wait a sec!”, because it turned out they had an old deed to the corner of the churchyard where the trees were, and stepped in and sold them to the highest bidder. And they’re just LYING there! Oh, if I were the governor here! I’d take the preacher’s wife, the mayor, and the county — governor! — yeah, like if I were governor I’d give a shit about the TREES in my state!
All I have to do is look into her eyes, and it’s like a shot of inner peace! And I think it’s so messed up that, meanwhile, Albert doesn’t seem as happy as he… hoped… as I…. thought maybe… if….. yeah, yeah, DOT DOT DOT, but I don’t know how else to say it here… and I think it’s clear enough.
Wagner has kicked Homer out of my heart. What a genius! What a JOURNEY! Hurtling through the woods with the storm roaring around me, the swords and spears of my foes rattling at my back — hearing echoes off the cliffs, over the rush of the Rhine through the trees, of the maidens’ lament burbling up through the water, and the screams of the poor pregnant girl hunched over her soulmate’s bleeding body and the shards of his much-needed sword… then meeting the grey old god wandering over the doomed earth, stumbling over the graves of his son, his daughters, his grandson, piling wood around Valhalla waiting to burn himself down, thinking back to the days when the gods were young and the rainbow bridge glowed with the promise of life… when I see the despair on his face, see the free, fearless hero stabbed in the back by the people he loved, floating down the river in a fog of the past — Glowing flames Fire up my heart To hold him completely, Enfolded in him, In the fire of feeling To be FUSED with him! SIEGFRIED! SIEGFRIED!— oh, WILL! I wish I could help the Valkyrie onto her horse, send her into the pyre — end her torture and pain — and then throw myself in after her.
Ahhhh, this hole! This horrible HOLE I feel here in my chest! — I keep thinking if once, just ONCE, you could press her against your heart, it would fill this hole right up…
Yeah, it just gets clearer to me, Will, clearer and clearer, how little it actually matters whether you exist or not… so little. One of Lotte’s girlfriends came over, and I went into the next room to grab a book, I couldn’t focus, and finally I got out my laptop to write you. I could hear them talking faintly; they were telling each other meaningless stuff, gossip: how X got married, how Y’s sick. Super sick.
“She’s got this hacking cough, her cheekbones are practically poking through her skin, she keeps passing out; there’s no way she’s gonna make it,” the friend said.
“N…. is in such bad shape too,” Lotte said.
“I know, he’s so bloated…”
And my hyperactive imagination launched me over to these poor people’s bedsides: I could see them, how reluctantly they turned their backs on life, how they — Will! And these chicks were talking about it the way you’d talk about it if, like — a stranger was dying. — And when I look around and see this room, and Lotte’s clothes and Albert’s files all around me, and the furniture that feels so homey to me now, even this trash can, and I think: See how much you mean to this house? Everything. Your friends treasure you! You make them so happy, and you feel in your heart like they couldn’t live without you; but — if you went away, if you split out of this circle? Would they — how long would they feel the hole that your loss tore into their lives? How long? — ahhh, we’re so transient, that even in the one place where we can actually be certain we exist, where we leave the one real mark of our being, in the thoughts, in the souls of our loved ones, even there we fade away, disappear, inevitably, and so fast!