Saturday night 7 mai 1988
I must speak of the letter I received three days ago. Je ne peux pas te dire jusqu’à quel point tu m’as fait mal. Ce n’est pas pour te culpabiliser, mais pour te dire la verité – chose qui t’a échappé, paraît-il.
Forgive me if I seem at some remove. I am distant from everything at the moment and from myself, as if I am thinking inside an echo chamber rather than feeling, and so I am writing from that same place. It is dark here where I am, and cold, though Spring is arriving at last outside my window.
I will come to the point. I hear your explanations, but I do not trust them.
You are apologetic and eloquent, il faut le dire. But you have lied, at worst. You have misled, at best.
You say you would like to remain friends and more, that your sentiments are unchanged, that you did not know how to tell me but felt that you must no matter what, that you were trapped by circumstances and your own emotions and you hope I can understand. All I can say to you is excuses are easy and the truth is harder. Don’t we all deserve the truth before we are broken by it?
I would like to think that friendship will be possible, but that is as much as I can say, and looking back over your beautiful letters I wonder, were I in your shoes, how I would have included the right words or known the best moment at which to say them.
Couldn’t you have found a way when we were together? At least then I could have seen your eyes, and perhaps known for myself what to believe.
Right now I have my own troubles. That isn’t the word I’m searching for but it will have to suffice. I am struggling to put the sentence together, to use the precise terms because I cannot bear to speak them or write them and so I will say them here and now straight away. My grandmother has died.
She was old, nearly ninety, but she was never old to me – only beautiful and strong and funny and proud. Always proud. I have loved her since I was a child and the thought of her gone is implausible; je me sens déséquilibrée, utterly off-balance, numbed as I was after my father’s sudden death.
Someone you love is there. Someone you love is gone. And now your letter.
Is this another death?
At first I was furious and wrote you an angry response which I will not send. I have put that letter away. Perhaps I will show it to you someday. Perhaps we will never speak again and the paper will disintegrate with time, forgotten in a book or drawer. Perhaps I will never post these words at all, and leave you to the same silence that you chose for so long. It is silence that pours through me, do you understand? Silence. It is not the same as quiet.
For now, there is only this hollow that widens and my insomnia that persists and no room for my own voice and certainly not for your stories. There is of course the office and the work, which I manage with everything and I’m grateful that is the case, though I am unsure how that happens. We hold tightly to our rituals of routine, preparations, legalities, formalities. In life. In death.
Us? You write to me of us? Is there an us?
Your explanations, your actions, your absence of both in such an important matter all these months as I came to love you and you knew it – j’arrive pas à comprendre. What do I do with this information? With this mess?
Your news leaves me breathless and foolish and doubting everything you have said. I feel tiny, Jean-Marc. But you – you are small to me now.
I appreciate your note and drawing of the flowers which arrived the day prior. Le muguet de mai – c’est ça? I didn’t realize you possessed such talent. But I find it an odd offering of happiness and affection, given your letter that followed.
I will write when I can find the words. I must get through these next terrible days and weeks. Please do not contact me.