“and upon reflection, maybe, sometimes, one of you, maybe neither, maybe somebody sitting nearby watching, is pleased to have bore witness.”

September 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Dear __________,

It is good to hear from you, even if the circumstances that prompted your writing have been so frustrating. Sorry to hear about one love lost — if that is how best anyway to describe your relationship and its end — and another one’s inopportune, unwanted (and apparently unreciprocated) arrival. Perhaps all this has been brewing for quite some time? You have the manner, if I may say, of a creative muse, so adventurous in your thought and imagination, and in my experience muses too often suffer most from misplaced (i.e., both lost and mistakenly laid) love.

I am in Europe for a few more days. It has been a pleasant trip. My week alone in and about rural Norfolk was pleasant. Long days of walking made for short nights of much else — meager attempts at writing followed by miserly skimming of the book I brought with me (The Selected Prose of Sir Thomas Browne) — beyond visits to the closest pub for mushy peas & ale. When in Belgium my time is divided between listening to the horde of music recommended by my more culturally aware friend, in preparation for my dinner with him tonight, all while teaching a two-year-old in-law English (today’s lesson: “Howdy”); eating more bread in ten days than I have in ten months; and biking to cafes filled in the midweek afternoon with the cigarette’d grey of white-haired pensioners. I return on Saturday to my American idyll.

I originally read your note in the dead of night, having awakened at 3 or 3.30 in search of a glass of water, and have ever since been toying with the notion of what happens to silent compliments — the ones stowed for later in the pocket, or under the hat for safe-keeping, or even under the ground for memorialized forgetting. The words not said, don’t the poets & mystics talk about how they’re the ones with the most power? But need words have power to act? I’m not sure.

Clumsiness, awkwardness, trains of thought that’ve skipped the tracks and emptied their cargo — compliments regrettably given, praise painfully accepted — these are the moments, the silences that aren’t the terminal sort for which poets & mystics clamor or yearn — that occur along the way … to what, exactly? … frustrating all our noblest intentions and greatest efforts — such as when you excitedly read aloud the most ‘beautiful thing ever’, whatever it is, to a kindred, and hear their coldness & inattention as you do; and, oh, you’re loathe to continue, but you do, and somewhere within (but not identifiably because) the persistence something happens — perhaps to neither of you — for you may remain disappointed and she bored — that redeems the frustration and inattention — that doesn’t change a person or circumstance so much as affirm and allow both — doors thrown open and welcomes met with wine — and upon reflection, maybe, sometimes, one of you, maybe neither, maybe somebody sitting nearby watching, is pleased to have bore witness.

All this is to say, I think, that I do absorb and appreciate compliments when & where they occur, and though I regret having ever made you or anybody else feel theirs has been in vain or poorly taken, I hope my little ‘derailment’ above offers some glimpse into my aesthetical rationalization for social awkwardness. But not to put too fine a point on it: thank you, for the support you’ve given me over the years — we can now speak in the plural, yes? — explicitly and tacitly.



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