The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Stories
|Point - Counter Point
It took me several months after her death to have the courage; temerity, really, to touch her belongings. When the time comes, when you have to triage your lost loved one’s things, you too will know how hard it is. You too will know how empty one feels as the evanescent presence of your loved one vanishes from each and every shoe, glove, hat, purse and shawl you decide not to keep. It hurts the heart.
She is dead now. You know this, of course. It’s been several months now. What you don’t know, however, is that I found her handwritten journals in a back drawer, clandestinely wrapped inside a single black nylon stocking; wrapped, over, and over, and over, until the nesting nylon negated the notion of any destruction; no mother bird, with loving instinct, would have made a better bedding for her tiny treasures.
The notebooks are unmistakably hers. I know her handwriting. It was she who filled each page, recto and verso, pouring out her soul. It was she who wrote them. Of that I am sure. I recognized her neat handwriting: the carefully dotted i’s and fastidiously crossed t’s, on words pregnant with meaning, obviously not meant for my eyes to see, but someone else’s eyes to read, for some other heart to feel their birth and warmth, delivered with deep and unhurried fervor.
This I know for certain: she never wore black nylon stockings. Not this particular kind: the kind modeled by young models, much too young to be considered symbols of Eros; showing off the lure, rather than the comfort, of the garments worn.
The nylon bundle, like a silken spider’s nest, was itself concealed inside a woolly sweater. A sweater I resented, and never liked, because of its mocking provenance. She did not know the real reason for my disliking the sweater. She may have suspected, but she did not know that I knew who the sweater came from. I am justified now, I should think, to have hated it, the sweater that she wore and seemed to adore, more, when she suspected I abhorred it. (I knew it was a gift from you.)
Yes I found her diaries. When I unwrapped them, I recognized the Gustav Klimt leather covers: a dead give away that the journals belonged to her. Gustav Klimt, as I am sure you know, was her favorite artist. She never expressed to me the reasons why this was so. I was never privy to her tastes. Obviously, I was not in the know. Was it Klimt’s subject matter? Was it the exuding sensuality of his subjects? Perhaps Klimt’s technical ability? The glittering gold? Or was it the ever present knowledge, deep within her being, of a kindred spirit within the art which gave courage to let sequestered truths fly out into the ether, lifted like the wings of a dove, as flights of fanciful writing? I never asked her. She never told me. I’ll never know. But you, I’m sure, did know.
Yes I read the journals. Yes, It was hard!
What was harder, though, was to learn.... Well, I’m not going to bare my soul to you here Ms. F____. After all, this is not a confession, or a yearning for an explanation, to be sure. It is rather a simple declaration. Take these lines from the first page of the first book, for instance:
“I held her hand. I held it tight. Very tight. So tight I feared my heart would burst into flames from the pressure of the blood being pumped by that, that minuscule combustible muscle. I didn’t know what else to do but to let hands do what lips could not. Oh, I held her hand for a brief eternity...”
Perhaps you remember? It was during our wedding celebration. We sat down to feast on fowl. You sat shoulder to shoulder at the crowded table. She held her finger-bowl filled with champagne in her right hand, and her head turned away from you; while you, a champagne flute in your left hand, leaned your head away from hers. I sat across from you, regarding your two heads as one, in profile, like in an ancient Roman coin. A gentle, generous, revealing breeze ruffled and lifted the linen tablecloth, revealing un-gloved hands, clandestinely entwined, finger upon finger, curling, twisting with surreptitious delight, and bright desire.
Her words expound what that gentle wind revealed to me:
“It felt good. It felt comforting. It felt as if my very soul had been tenderly cradled and softly rocked by her willingness to let my had hold hers, tightly! Is there anything more precious than willful and complete surrender...?”
Blasphemous words! Their clear and unambiguous meaning, like a pressing vise, tormented my mind. A nearly numb and nauseous state took hold of me; marked by fear, panic, guilt, remorse, regret. A sense of powerlessness squeezed my throat, and enveloped me with its pitiless, formless, shadowless embrace, urging me to think of a quick, reckless, bruising decision, as I thumbed through page upon page filled with injurious deeds.
I felt the vivid urge to light a purging fire to consume the ink and paper; to char the sentiments; to torch the declarations laid bare before me; mocking me with their ingratitude; kindling within my very soul a desperate sense of desolation, solitude, neglect and desperation. The words grew heavy with betrayal, pressing my mind as a heavy tome crushes the lifeless flower placed between its pages. So blind and so careless a lover I turned out to be.
Prickly sweet words flowed form her willful pen and etched themselves onto the pages. Soft missives, weighing heavy in my heart, mind, soul, with their power to destroy:
“..was it love I experienced from her willful and complete surrender, which became a slow and steady smoldering inside me? Is that what love feels like? if that is so, I felt it! I felt love! I felt her love when I held her hand. So tight. So long. A precious, brief eternity. I felt the warmth of pure and tender love. I also felt the weight of a lived life: like this book with words chosen to epitomize the desperate struggles of the soul; a thirst for life gone unquenched; deeds regarded imperative, yet still-born within the soul...”
Pathetic emotional claptrap, relegated to a collection of neatly folded paper, dripping thick, with syrupy, gooey, sticky words! I wanted a quick purging fire to destroy each and every bleeding page, to exorcise the pungent, sentimental, brutish melodrama of their candor; thus to dissipate their strength into a smokey oblivion. If every page on which these words were written had been made of no of pulp, or bark, or linen, but of human skin and inked with brilliant, seductive, carmine blood, then coagulated by time, and transformed by time’s relentless, intrusions, into a dubious, sordid, indisputable, purple-black (the color of my bruised soul) I would have justifiably cremated them.
I would have burned the past to rob the future of a prologue, and deprive the past of a necessary epilogue. Yet a palpable longing, as real as the cursive writing on the pages, pricked my heart. It forced me to abandon the desperate thought, taking with it the underlying notion that a bonfire, with its forceful devastation, would erase feelings, visions, memories, surreptitiously recoded by these carefully chosen symbols; missives and witnesses of a the desperate struggle of a desperate soul, whose desires had remained unquenched. Every “dot,” every “if,” every “and,” a scribbled declaration of a life decimated by still-born wishes, of songs not sang, of lips not kissed, of words not uttered, etched with indelible ink not just on paper, but carved into my soul; surely meant to give birth to illusions, thoughts, intentions, and shades of aborted needs.
I, too, held her hand, Ms. F_____. I held it when she died. I placed my lips upon her dying lips. I closed her eyelids with my fingertips. I consoled her when pangs of love and longing hurt her soul. I write this to you, not out of spite, not to pretend she wasn’t yours as she was mine. I say it as a sad reminder:
Love is truer when you let it go.
p.s. Attached are all the notebooks. They were meant for you.
Mr K ....
Thank you. I don’t know what else to say. And thank you for sharing the journals with me. I’m sorry they have caused you so much grief. I am sure she did not mean to hurt you; or hurt anyone, for that matter. She was not capable of such meanness, as you probably know. Yes, I know. You did not need to remind me. You are a lucky man. You were there with her in her final moments, and that is something that you’ll always have.
I must apologize to you, but I am not a poet. I write simply and without much fanfare. I got poor grades in grammatology, and the notes I took during my English classes in college, consisted mostly of undecipherable scribbles, jotted down in a frantic hurry, to try to keep up with the rest of the class. You see, I never saw the point of Derrida, or Literature in general. I guess I’m a ‘left-brain’ individual. I had very little patience when it came to reading the classics, or commercials. You see, to me, mathematics is the thing. There is a certain beauty in a mathematical statement, in its precision, its elegance, when solved correctly. You see, a mathematical statement is not open to interpretation. That is what I like.
You sound very angry and bitter in your letter. I don’t have any reason to believe that anything that I write here will have any effect in changing your views on things. But then, I feel that the very fact that you decided not to burn the journals, means that there is a part of you that accepted the facts for what they are, and nothing more. Yes, I imagine it was as difficult for you to read some lines in those journals, as they were very dear to me. But I have to tell you, and these words are not mine, they are directly quoted from a paperback book, a paragraph that she liked ( from one of the many paperbacks she left behind--she was a reader--she read out-loud to me often) and she underlined with ink, so it was easy for me to find: “people in general attach too much importance to words.”
As for her attraction to the work of Gustav Klimt. I think you are being melodramatic. In fact, it was no secret that Claire was fond of his work, mainly, and I think you knew this, it was because of that movie. I can tell, from your interesting narrative, that you too, spent many hours watching that intriguing film with her. ( Which she said was based on a novel by an American writer of the late nineteenth century. She actually cried several times when we watched the movie together. It was too difficult for me to watch because I did not like the premise of the movie. I did not like the ending. and most of all, I hated the parallels of the story with that of Claire’s life. I think, in fact I know, that the reason she wanted to watch that movie over and over and over, was because of the darn parallels, with her life. I think she saw herself as Milly and lived, through that character, what she must have hoped her life could have been like.) We watched the movie too many times, and I bet you did too. I see it in your writing: the allusions to the film, you are a clever craftsman.
I do remember the wedding. I remember the moment you describe so well. Again, I think you are being too much of a poet. This is life you know, and you should consider yourself lucky. Very lucky. She was, after all, marrying you. You lucky bastard! don’t you understand? You had her, body and soul. You think that because she shared a moment with me, that obviously meant a great deal to her, to her mind, to her state of being, it diminished what she felt for you? Come off it! Face the facts. She was your wife! She married you because she loved you. She spent her days and nights with you. You sell her short, when you proclaim her feelings for me as a betrayal. She loved you. I knew about that love. I did not feel betrayed. I lived with it. I was there when she needed my comfort, and I am grateful to her for being there for me, when I needed a friend, a companion, a soul mate. I am sorry but I do not feel you have the right. You cannot call it a betrayal.
I have to admit, however, that you are brave. You are certainly braver than I was when it came to dealing with her ailment. I saw her waste away and I could not face it. As for that statement in your last paragraph: “Love is truer when you let it go” I think, again, that you are being a bit too melodramatic. If you think about my situation you would understand. But, yes, I would not have had the courage to be there in the end and do what you did for her. I am too much of a coward. I would not have been able to endure it. You must realize, that I wanted to remember her the way she always was when she was with me. I wanted to keep her memory alive, just as alive as when I saw her. The few moments she spent with me. Seeing her otherwise would have been devastating.
I must admit that that is the clear difference between you and me: you define love with emotions and poetic statements. I see love as a mathematical statement, it’s either true or false, without room for interpretation. I define love with deeds.
Thank you once again, for being there with her when she took her last breath. I don’t wish that I had been there with her. Nevertheless, I was surprised to see that you did not follow her wishes to the end. When I saw the announcement of her funeral and enterrement in the newspaper. I was horrified. She had made her wishes know to me, and I assumed that you knew. She did not want to be buried in the ground. I think she disliked the idea of worshiping the body after it had been separated from the soul. I thought you knew. She wanted to be cremated. She wanted her ashes to be all that was left behind.
Well, I know there’s nothing I could have done to prevent this. Nevertheless, I wish you would have followed her wishes. As for her journals. Thank you for sending them along. It was a rare luxury to be witness of her innermost thoughts and feelings. I have to say that I felt it was a privilege to read them. I never knew she was capable of such passion. I was very surprised to know that she kept these. Thank you for sharing them with me.
Nevertheless, I think you should have gone ahead and burned them when you had the chance. You see, I think that the anger manifested in your, albeit, poetic letter, may have subsided, had you had the opportunity to follow your instincts and thrown the notebooks in the flames, thus giving yourself closure: burn her memory away.
Mr. K_____. I had no choice. After reading a couple of pages from them, I felt I had no right. I felt there was a certain violation inherent in the reading of her private thoughts. I could not bare it. Needless to say, I did what you did not have the courage to do: I burned them all! Each and every one of them. I burned them all, and it felt good.
It felt good to know that, even thought I did not see Claire succumb to her ailment, I did what I could to follow her wishes. I cremated her innermost thoughts. I saw the essence of her being go up in flames. I am happy to say, I have the closure that I needed.
p.s. Attached please find what's left of the notebooks. Her ashes were truly meant for you.
© Oswaldo Jimenez January 2014
Abby, of course, had her plans carefully laid out. She’d been working out her itinerary long, long before she was old enough, or had the required maturity (required by her parents and of society) to be traveling on her own.
The Undiscovered Country
The scene stays with you when the after-image of a bright pair of headlights, heading straight for you, make you to blink. Blink once, twice, three four times, more times than you could easily keep count