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Bright Iris, I wanted to write something down for you, since I seem to be talking to you all the time in my head. I can assure you that I am not crazy, and that my intentions are not sinister, or even selfish. I guess you have made just another conquest on the grim streets of Victoria. In my case a useless one. There is not much I can offer you, except orange juice, and there is nothing that I want from you, except being a muse. Still, whatever you want from me you shall have. Your beauty overwhelms me.
Where is a redeeming quality of our specie that I can see? You. Redeeming. Angelic. Lit. And I am not saying this lightly. I have been with many remarkable women in my time. And I can't really feel guilty about how old I am, can I? It is what it is, and the gulf of time is real and insurmountable, as it should be. There shall be many intense and beautiful relationships in your life as mine wind down to nothing, and who deserves them more than you? I'm not even sure in my glory days I could woo you.
When I pass you by, when you lift your hood like a peacock nimbus against the cold, or when you point to your tattered boots, when you wait under the elm tree at the entrance of the bank as the rays of the winter sun turn your disheveled hair to gold, or when you smile like an industrial floodlight, I have to look away. Run even. But I take your aura the entire day. I feel the same way I felt in Montreal, St. Jean Baptiste day, on the damp lawn listening to Harmonium, surrounded by thousands of forgotten lovers.
Then there are the days when I glance at your corners to only find inanimate concrete, DO NOT signs, or worse, other faces. Or when I think that somehow I have offended you. That you look through your, what? Purple and green eyes? and see a bald man hunched over, wiping his creepy smile. Why should it matter at all? But it does. I only thought it fair for you to know the scale of my entanglement. Oh, I'm sure you are beginning to understand your power yourself. This ethereal power, warm and good. Mere words failing before being heard.
Once again I hesitate writing you this note. For what is the point of stating the obvious? Is there anything here you don't already know? My friends are baffled by my humiliating moans. It's not attractive, they point out. They want to see your picture. See what it is that hurts. Or, perhaps, this state of desperation is desired by all? This burning flame that you know you best keep away from? My alternatives are good, they conclude. I have everything anyone could want. They are right of course. It is not about having, but its opposite, I weakly blurt.
I passed a man today not far from where you usually stand. He wanted to give me a pamphlet. I didn't look at him directly but still I glimpsed a colorful scene with the Swedish features of Christ in the foreground. I noticed the man's expression change at that instant, that mixture of disappointment and regret that I saw in your face when you said "Oh! It was from you!", or "Yes, I get a lot of those!". I went back and took the pamphlet as I thought you should have never told me that I would never bother you.
Dear Iris, over this weekend your hold on me has weakened. I feel a shift. It's wonderful not to look around as I cross the street, not to glance at your direction at every intersection. This golden chain of yours, perfumed and all, I must overcome like the addiction that it has become. Yes, it is wrapped in wonder, but also, I notice, in the melancholy of my spirit. I hold onto your beauty like a lifeline, but I have to let go so you can attend to your drowned. Poets, painters or writers can only aspire to be damned.
Today I finished "The Books of Love". Soon it will become a physical object with a life of its own. Will I be able to give it to you? Remember, what I need from you is sustained and clear distance. I am turning away, as you can see. It is a brave effort. It needs your discouragement. Your imagery needs to be purged from my soul. Poet and writer! But is there a more despicable title to be bestowed on the society's rejects? If I have to resort to these words, does it not show how inadequate I have become?
A miserably cold wind didn't dampen my enthusiasm today. The sky was bright on one side, and dark with low clouds on the other, so that the buildings stood very yellow against the black background. The city was empty, everyone having something better to do than feeling sorry for themselves outside. Well except me. I walked around, shoulders against my neck, rushing from spot to spot. The clouds were truly spectacular, menacing but also aloof to our little soap operas. How beautiful it would look once the forest reclaims it all from us and gives it back to the animals.
I feel like a very rich man, a tycoon perhaps, who has lost it all and now has to do with minuscule rooms, filthy wallpaper and a shared bathroom. The shock of the ordinary after the opulance of wealth is not only humiliating, but also deeply prophetic of the next bend in the road, the visit to the hospital, the solemn news of something dreadful. I look back at the sweet bird of youth and feel not like the young stud that I was, but like the aging actress drenched in booze and death and a legacy of self abuse.
It rained today. I caught my mind rewinding to hair clumped and stuck to your face, water and hair mixed with the rough texture of your scarf. The abstract shape remained sharply focused for a few blocks. I wondered then, and now, how much more sympathy you got in days like today? But sympathy is the wrong word, in the same way that attraction is the wrong word, or love. But I don't dare to touch the word "love". It winks at me, cajoles me to lightly part your wet hair, my fingers trembling on the soft and warm skin.
Spring must be here. I confess that I did look for you. Just from far I thought, to see your professionalism at work. I do remember the last time I saw you, you were talking fast and long. I didn't want to interrupt, so I just handed you the CD I promised you. You lifted your face and smiled, amused and knowing. I guess you know me well enough to foresee something radically different: Priesner, Wolf, Part, East Germanic Europe of mysticism, cold and abandoned voices sparse amidst the fog. In the cover I wrote these entries from 100words.com.
So I lay in the bathtub trying to predict your reaction to my words. The water had become cold a long time ago. My body was numb. I had forgotten. The storm, outside, wet and loud, was as close as my toes. The impossibility of this relationship was plain for all to see. And yet, was that not its allure? Do we care for what we have? Or do we dream, each in his or her own world, of the utter unpredictable joy of being, doing, yearning. I wonder but don't care. I trust what has brought me this far.
Dear Iris, every time I get lost in the joys of my materialism you bring me back to reality with the beacon of your stance. To be honest, as a meandring refugee from this land of plenty, I had to learn to read between the lines, to finally understand the scale of deception in our daily life, the destructive nature of our ways, the selfishness of our apetite for food, pleasure and vice. In contrast, in beauty, in truth, you stand at your corner and tap, ever so gently, at my shoulder. You laughed when I used the word Angel.
"So, des ne?" I say left and write, getting ready for Japan. I am determined to speak a few words, roll them in my mouth to get a feel for this minimalistic language with no tense. The less you say the better. "Yana" and "Eee" for foul and nice. It's strange to the core. I have often wondered about this language of poetry. If every letter is pictorial, then the poems are woven out of flowers, stream, women, sake, serpent and ghosts. Only four more months to loosen my tongue. The written Kanji shall be left for my next life.
A bland encounter. As beautiful as you looked, we both felt nothing inside. And that, my dear Iris, is very good. We part, having shared these brief encounters, and take what we want from them. If you permit, I will hold on to the luminous flashes of intent, to the sly glances, to the tree of possibilities that bloomed and wilted at every turn of what was said, and of what was left out. I had a slight headache afterwards but found myself lighter. A bright and warm day waited for us with arms wide open. Another winter had passed.
I was going to write something on Japan, its sense of esthetics derived from nature, or the way the thin and long country looks like a North-South road, or even the violent history that mimicks its volcanos, its earthquakes and its tsunamis, but my mind keeps coming back to you. I wonder if, isolated in that foreign environment, my mind wouldn't home in on its familiar territory; on the sorrow of loss. It's in my genes, this ache of being choosen, or not. Of being worthy of intimacy, or cast away, another thirsty man dying in the leper colony.
As there aren't many entries left in March, I wanted to paint what has remained in my memory from our encounters. If you will, a posthumous report. Once we're gone, or, once we are so old as to be removed from the world being born anew, when all we can do is to look back at the few events that stand out, either by their significance, or simply by their sheer beauty, then perhaps someone by chance or boredom might click on one of these episodes and amuse herself, or himself, or itself. Or judge us severely, or laugh aloud.
As I told you before, Iris, I felt nothing inside. I was mad at you for not calling back, for not making an effort. But you started to talk about your paintings, and I told you about my dad, and you wanted something to look at. I waited for a paper to write on. You shuffled in your stuff and not finding any, offered me your hand. The moment of contact, when my fingers touched yours, something happened. We both looked up, and we both withdrew at the same time. It reminded me of a slowed ballet, for some reason.
Could it be that all these signs point to nothing? The fool, clutching his useless sliderule, passes the high priestess standing between the two fake columns of the bank, while the clair-obscure of light, almost moon-like, casts its odd shadow? Stopped cold in his tracks, mesmerized by her promise of the secret life of sufferers, the world of healers and charlattans and double snakes, could it be that he recognizes but chooses to ignore? One in motion, the other motionless, casting and calling? Is this familiarity, this opposition, this bouleversement not divinely real? Could he simply just continue?
Even if you weren't real, even if your smile was a sleigh of my imagination, even if, instead of charm, you spat cruelty at my predicament, I would create you the exact same way out of paint, cardboard and words and I would place you at the same spot. I would reherse, going back and forth, the same naive remarks that would leave my mouth. Alas, They wouldn't be your impassioned words, but my watered down banalities, as selfish as I have always been, as blind to the fate of all. I'm grateful, therefore, for the twists of your road.
It is the first day of spring. I received a brown envelop with four copies of The Books of Love. They have a nice weight about them. I opened one up and started to read. I couldn't tell at all if it was any good. The lines I toiled over were too familiar and only evoked something like a memory. I sent one to French Town, and inscribed another one with "To Iris, who occupied my mind in these dark winter months". How to explain that it isn't about you, that I wrote it almost a year before our encounter?
What an excellent day! So crisp, so fresh, with just the right ocean breeze to lighten the heat. So it is only natural for all Victorians to stroll around downtown underneath the spectacularly blossomed cherry and plum trees. When, in dark winter days, they would have cursed under their teeth, now they graciously smile and check out how much weight everyone has gained. I descended Yates street, doing pretty much the same and got interviewed about what Victoria should do to "unharm" the city. "What do you mean unharm?" I asked truly puzzled. "You know, to clean up the needles."
I always know when I'll run into you. I said to myself let me takes these two books with me, "The Trip" and "The Books of Love". Sema and I had a few errands to run in town. The weather was perfect, both cool and warm. She talked the whole way, a true teenager. And there you were with a friend of yours. Whenever I see you my universe collapses into a tiny particle, or a tunnel with a pair of eyes at the end. "We're both wearing turquoise earings" you said to Sema as I handed you the books.
I am looking at three little photos. In each Claire is wearing a sleaveless black dress with a long transparent scarf. Her hair is pulled back so that she looks like Grace Kelly in those ornate Parisian decors. you wouldn't know that her hair had just grown. You wouldn't guess how much she has already endured behind that smile. My dear Iris, these pictures are the opposite of your youth. They speak of an absolute malice. Their voice comes to me from their chamber of horror, a room of indifferent injustice, and, even after all these years, of empty sorrow.
I wake up from a deep and dreamless sleep to a sunny day. Right outside my window the cherry blossoms make the sky look white, almost too bright to be properly seen. I linger on the bed listening to the obcene news. They do their best to hamper my enthusiasm for this beautiful day. But they also make me think of you. The IMF, the everlasting war, the drugs flowing in from whatever country we take over. Our beliefs, mine and yours, don't matter. Our actions even less. But I can't tell you that, can I? You'd simply move on.
Sometimes I think we're drunken sailors fighting over the last bottle as the ship's about to crash to the rocks. We see plainly the storm and the rushing coast. We see the captain counting his coins in his lush quarters. And still we fight. You, Iris, would be busy bandaging wounds, while I wonder which fish would make my ribs home. It's not that I have given up. I still shout as you can see, as useless as that is among all the screams. But also, rather than being morbid, I cherish that I might be useful to the fish.
Do you know why we like something and not another? I would guess it is because of recognition. When I hear a song the first time, its impression is thin. But something opens a door. Once that's done, the more I listen, the more my senses are receptive. It's like there is a defense mechanism that is opened with a key, and the more I open it, the easier it gets. That initial nudge is memory. There might be some refrain my mother sang with her coloratura, or even just a note, the way she held it wavering but pure.
With only three entries left in this month, and with the parting of our ways, rereading these few paragraphs I think they captured well my imaginary states. For imaginary they were without a doubt. I would think that from your point of view, with the exception of business transactions, very little has occurred. In your dealings with me, you always maintained your detached and professional posture while I fluttered and jumped to conclusions and through the hoops trying to figure you out. It was simple really, all along. I never existed, just as you never existed outside of my mind.
It's difficult to go back and paint a saintly figure drenched in light (I shall keep this image even if untrue) while it walks you by without even a glance. But this is the essence of beauty, this elusive femininity that needs not to act, only to reveal itself. Action is for men. They must swallow their pride, bend their knees and throw their bodies to the ground. I imagine the opposite might be a man in the height of vigour with a tearful woman in tow. In our dealings with the opposite sex has an equilibrium ever been found?
As the finale, I send you a thank you. If it weren't for you, I'd be writing about the weather, the buildings, the trees. Not a bad thing in itself, at least for me, but how interesting would that be for our readers? I am closing my chapter on you. I'll see you from time to time, doing your good deeds, but I shall never approach you. Your memory is best preserved in an hermetic jar. Perhaps one day you'll discover these and chuckle to yourself. I'm certain I will. Goodbye beautiful Iris. Here's to a wonderful and unpredictable life.
The Tip Jar