"I had never been more afraid in my entire life", I said. One had to be crazy not to be afraid in these times, and that still didn't prevent me from walking uptight; I walked so slow, without my usual haste, as if the peril was too imminent to be avoided, and I mustered with difficulty the words of Oswald in King Lear: "And give the letters which thou find'st about me to Edmund earl of Gloucester; seek him out upon the British party: O, untimely death!". It was such a dark morning, the grey entered into your bones, and washed away all the feelings, all the words, all the instances of time; transforming all the gestures into a cruel wholeness, pristine white, suffocating even the water, into itself. An everlasting present, touching you so close, until the point of feeling nothing at all. Even the sounds disappeared, together with the heartbeats, leaving only the screeching noise of the water, as it died by drowning. Every morning looked the same, and as I merged into it, the nightmare seemed so kind in comparison; I trembled with fear, even in the most prosperous summer days.
I had gone to sleep in tears, and the pond of salt water around my ears was lukewarm, in comparison to the morning hours. And yet the same nightmare, full of wrinkles and dried lips, from the travels, departures, displacements. "When will you be home again?", she asked. "I've never been there", seemed to be an answer too laconic in response to such tenderness, as I had never felt in myself. So many hours in the sun, in the carnivals and the processions, conversations like this, smiles like that, but nothing. The cold remained housed in the bones, and had already set up a little coffee table in them, adorned with flowers and magazines. Every morning the same promise: "This will be a delicious breakfast, with eggs and fruits and bacon and marmalade". But then nothing... Not one word. Not even a silence. Then follows the starvation, hopping from ashtrays to coffee cups, and back. There were some small pleasures too, but I couldn't remember them. How joyful were those days, of jolts, at the lyceum, memorizing an ancient Greek song:
"I have not had one word from her
Frankly I wish I were dead
When she left, she wept
A great deal; she said to me, "This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly."
I said, "Go, and be happy
but remember (you know
well) whom you leave shackled by love
"If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared
"all the violet tiaras
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck
"myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wishes for beside them
"while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring without song..."
I whispered the lines in the nervous quiet, as I was crossing the small streets and then bridges, the roads and the avenues. I was afraid all the time, and wondered why the rest of the people weren't. Every step in the direction of my non-destination appeared haunted but unoriginal. I watched the cars, the bycicles, the bus lines, tried to remember the hues of colors, the beautiful part of faces, the smells of foodstuffs from the vendor carts. "What if I died?" was the only thing I asked myself. "What if I would fall from the bridge?", that too. "What would be my last words?", and I could imagine everything, the inability to speak, thoughts about this or that friend, perhaps some letters I wish I had written, some succulent dinner still to be had. All of it would be to no avail. "What if he is murderer?", I asked myself about the man that asked me for the time everyday in the corner, even though I never had a watch. "Who can measure time, anyway?", the answer. I would be terrified if people ever ask me why I look unhappy, but am not brave enough to wear sunglasses.
"The I should be banned from all writing", I had wanted to tell to the taxi driver when he asked me what I was staring into with so much attention. "The world, can't you see it?" would be an alternative answer. But I just nodded, as if agreeing with the fatal conclusion that it wasn't worth staring into anything. I had spent the entire night writing the letter, and without washing my face as not to give the impression I was risen from a graveyard, I was impatient to reach the post office. How I was dying to tell something important. In the traffic, staring, remebering Kafka: "Perhaps there is only one cardinal sin: impatience. Because of impatience we are driven out of Paradise; because of impatience we cannot return." There's no work of art worth publishing, I thought, everything is so partial and mediocre, except diaries and letters, things that are not even yours. Signing a letter is one fraction of death. You bring foreclosure on yourself. "Nothing more will come", you're saying. Renunciation, negation, silence... They seem the obvious follow-up.
I read from a book:
"Accompanying these exemplary renunciations of a vocation, each man has declared that he regards his previous achievements in poetry, philosophy, or art as trifling, of no importance. But the choice of permanent silence doesn't negate their work. On the contrary , it imparts retroactively an added power and authority to what was broken off -disavowal of the work becoming a new source of its validity, a certificate of its unchallengeable seriousness... So far as he is serious, the artist is continually tempted to sever the dialogue with an audience. Silence is the furthest extension of that reluctance to communicate, that ambivalence about making contact with the audience which is a leading motif of modern art, with its tireless commitment to the new and/or the esoteric. Silence is the artist's ultimate other-worldly gesture: by silence he frees himself from servile bondage to the world, which appears as patron, client, consumer, antagonist, arbiter and distorter of his work..."
I pause around to open the mailbox. "You're such a talented writer". "Don't ever stop". "You bring words to life". The contemporary equivalent of hate mail. "Should I respond with thank you and tamper my self-pity while I disagree?", but instead of formulating such arrogant question I simply disposed the letters, without even opening them. Sontag's journal always in mind: "Am I deteriorating these last two years -drying out, becoming stern, withdrawn? Seething with resentment. But I don't dare show it. When it mounts, I just absent myself. No image of the future. I wouldn't want to day-dream. What! And get my hopes up? My career is my life as something external to myself, so I report it to others. What is inside is my grief. If I expect as little as possible, I won't be hurt." Since I don't have a career to show for myself, I can only write letters to friends and spend, probably my whole life, wondering what they thought of them. I guess letter serve the function of secret treaties, conspiracies, pacts and peace agreements. Only in my head.
Amputated consciousness. There are only two forms of absolute consciousness with somebody else, either absolute language or absolute silence, but why always absolute language has only produced absolute silence? What is the point of thinking or of art if the absolute doesn't exist? This question however has no correlation in nature, and paradoxical as it might seem, the absolute has never existed in composition, symmetry, rhythm. Somehow the question itself would seem immature to philosophers. Who could bear the absolute? But the fear grows bigger, bigger than life itself and becomes its replacement. Every stare, every word, every evasion, every silence, a humongous knife entering your throat, cancelling all speech, rendering the soul inept. This is what eternity and the absolute mean - ineptitude, inability to move, fear and more fear, time crushing your chest against itself. Being scorched by the nearness. Cast into the fire. There's no love, or feelings at all, only fear, and the irresistible need to withdraw, to resist, to silence up and destroy. The urge...
But the nightmares return... And save you... And keep the language alive, even when he's not there...
"Wohl dem, der keine Heimat hat, er sieht sie noch im Traum" -Arendt
(Lucky him, who has no home, he still sees it in his dreams)