...is the error in the mind?
No, I’m not preparing the soup, no soup tonight, though perhaps I should prepare more soups. I’m reviewed the exchange, trying to imagine the turn that our conversation might have taken so that he wouldn’t catch me unprepared, unprepared yes, but for what? What was I afraid to say, to not say, to not allow myself to let him know or to hide from him?
We had an appointment to talk on the phone. From e-mail, we moved on to the telephone. It took almost eight years to take the step that seemed to shorten the distance between us. Eight years. Eight years of thoughts, desires, dreams, unspoken most of the time. Even to myself. He was always in my thoughts, somehow, in a corner of my mind, of my heart, of my stomach. It seemed to me that the feeling of his presence would move from one point to another of my body or my soul and that it would hide sometimes, causing me to believe that it wasn’t there anymore; this thought was sufficient, though, and it had already reappeared.
She told me that when she saw him for the first time, she recognized him immediately and thought: there he is, it’s him. I was the colleague and friend with whom he shared an office; I introduced her to him, saying that he was my favorite neuropsychiatrist. From that moment on, she had done everything to see him as often as possible. They gazed at each other, he in a corner, sitting on a sort of throne and she, sideways, on a bench, waiting for her turn to come. I, who had just finished mine, watched them furtively before disappearing, slipping into the office to study the profile of the next patient, or as they say now the next client. They looked at each other for so long and so intensely that in the end, she told me, she could no longer understand where she started and where he ended. It was becoming a fixation, an obsession that was light, delicate and discreet, but omnipresent.
What a joy to hear his voice! When he spoke to me I could never follow the line of his discourse, much less mine. I was amazed that in spite of all I did manage to respond, to counter, sometimes even interjecting a witty and relevant remark. I was amazed because I was actually somewhere else: the vibrations of his voice carried me into another dimension, beyond space and time. The signification or significance of the words uttered no longer had any importance; their sound simply had an evocative and mysterious function that reminded my soul about things that had already taken place a long time before or things that were yet to happen. Revelations, ancient omens. The melody of his voice opened all of the doors to my heart and silenced thoughts, making them almost insubstantial.
Is there another knowing? One beyond that which is learned in university books, from getting a masters degree in psychopedagogy, from cultural anthropology seminars?
She felt more and more confused. The feeling grew in a manner out of sync with the realization that they could not love one other for a thousand reasons. And yet, like a tightrope walker on an extremely thin line between everything and nothing, she was slowly and cautiously moving towards him. It was like a ballet with cruel choreography: two steps forward, three steps back, he drew her towards him and then cast her away, where she landed alone, disoriented and alien to herself. In the end she didn’t want to know how things really were. Even though I had suggested that she do it a thousand times, I had never wanted to ask her anything explicitly. Maybe because she already knew the truth. And it frightened her.
Then one day he was offered a professorship in developmental neuropsychiatry in Bombay, and left.
He gave me his email address before he left. That’s how we started writing each other. A few, cautious messages at first, then more frequent, some of them winking, vague promises, pauses and silences that were eternal but at the same time beneficial. Actually, during the long breaks, I’d decide to stop wallowing in that limbo, to wake up, to take my life back. But then I’d be afraid that if I managed to gain the right distance from the events and my feelings, the distance required to live peacefully and genuinely, completely immersed in myself, I would not have experienced the hypothetical joy of seeing him again one day even if it were perhaps only for a moment. Because, when I least expected it, I’d just happen to experience an absurd sense of happiness linked to a bizarre nostalgia for events that had not yet happened, places unexplored and unknown. An ancestral feeling, an atavistic desire beyond the stars and time that would follow the ancient heart, leaving the thoughts confused and shattering the intentions
Finally the phone rang, hello, it’s me. Impossible to say how long a phone call would last: five minutes, five hours, five years. Once I told him that he was like a small bright dot in my mind, and then I asked myself whether it was right to think that what I felt for him might be located in the mind and not in the heart, and I came to the conclusion that yes, it absolutely was. He was a constant but discreet thought that had to remain confined to the mind, where I would be able to control it. If, as had already happened, it had descended into the heart, into its natural place, it would have started to grow, to expand. But not being able to come to light, not being able to be born, having to stay inside me, sooner or later it would have exploded and would’ve ripped me apart.
Years before she had allowed one of his smiles to transform into tenderness and to slide down into the gut, to expand. When he told her that they could not have more than this because the circumstances didn’t allow for it, she stood in tears for hours in the Luxembourg Gardens holding her heart in her hands, throbbing, bleeding and fraught with love. It was I who went to her to pick up the pieces and bring her back home. She trembled with courage at the thought that she could never have loved him and knew that she would have missed him forever.
So, I did the only possible thing. I let the lava of love slowly be expunged, spilling out from my heart, passing through my nose, mouth and ears and enveloping all the people I met and who surrounded me. This was how I managed to not die of an internal hemorrhaging of love: with warmth, enthusiasm and gratitude, I hugged and smiled at everyone. They were helping me not to die. I survived the immense emotions I felt for him, transforming them and giving them to others.
I have kept a flicker, though: that point of light that I safeguard in the mind, in the memory, in the banishment of love from where it can do no damage.