notes from the aftermath


1. The person with whom I can in fact talk about the loved being is the person who loves that being as much as I do, the way I do: my symmetric partner, my rival, my competitor (rivalry is a question of place). I can then, for once, discuss the other with someone who knows; there occurs an equality of knowledge, a delight of inclusion; in such discussion, the object is neither distanced nor lacerated; it remains interior to and protected by the dual discourse. I coincide simultaneously with the Image and with this second mirror which reflects what I am (on the rival countenance, it is my fear, my jealousy which I read). Bustling gossip, all jealousy suspended, around this absent party whose objective nature is reinforced by two converging visions: we give ourselves over to a rigorous, successful experiment, since there are two observers and since the two observations are made under the same conditions: the object is proved: I discover that I am right (to be happy, to be injured, to be anxious). […]

2. Which brings us to this paradox: it is the loved being who, in the triune relation, is virtually de trop. […] 

3. Jealousy is an equation involving three permutable (indeterminable) terms: one is always jealous of two persons at once: I am jealous of the one I love and of the person who loves the one I love. The odiosomato (as the Italians call the “rival”) is also loved by me: he interests me, intrigues me, appeals to me […]

— Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse


And when the visions, the lines converge? when the third, the reflection, is indeed loved by me, indeed interests me, intrigues me, appeals to me? what, then, indeed?


it is the slightly airless few days after we have said goodbye. there is silence, as expected. I feel your lack like a clamp around my trachea. light streams in through the windows—I have only just set down my sunglasses—as he arrives, slightly late, half-aware of the fact, and I see him for the first time. he is not at all how I had expected and I find I do not mind. it is strange and truly airless, breathless, at first, here in this place with the ghost of you beside us, between us. you are indeed de trop, but still present, third but always first, always. you linger in the air for so long that I worry you always will, and this is how it will stretch out over the years. but then: a conversation. in the very real, Platonic sense, that kind, still so startling to me, welcome in its unfamiliarity, unfamiliar in its wonder. it is as if he has decided he wants nothing more than to know this mind before him, and so over a distance of this small table he sends me question upon question, to take apart and reassemble my mind, to launch an expedition of the kind that has never interested you, starting at the very end. my curiosity trips over his; I am intrigued and delighted; I had forgotten how it felt to be the subject of such intensity: your love did not quite extend to this.



1. In Plato’s Phaedrus, the speeches of Lysias the Sophist and of the early Socrates […] rest on this principle: that the lover is intolerable (by his heaviness) to the beloved. There follows the catalogue of importunate features: the lover cannot bear anyone to be superior or equal to himself in his beloved’s eyes, and strives to defeat every rival; he keeps the beloved apart from a host of relationships; he attempts, by a thousand indelicate schemes, to keep the beloved in ignorance, so that he will know only what comes to him from his lover; he secretly craves the loss of what is dearest to the beloved: father, mother, relatives, friends; he wants the beloved to have neither home nor children; his daily assiduity is wearisome; he is not content to be left alone for a minute, day or night […] Whatever he supposes, the lover’s heart is filled with bad feelings: his love is not generous.

2. The lover’s discourse stifles the other, who finds no place for his own language beneath this massive utterance. […] Sometimes, in terror, I become aware of this reversal: I who supposed myself to be pure subject (subjected subject: fragile, delicate, pitiable) find myself turned into an obtuse thing blindly moving onward, crushing everything beneath his discourse; I who love am undesirable, consigned to the category of the bores: the ones who bear down too hard, who irritate, encroach, complicate, demand, intimidate (or more simply: those who speak). I have monumentally deceived myself.

(The other is disfigured by his persistent silence, as in those terrible dreams in which a loved person shows up with the lower part of his face quite erased, without any mouth at all; and I, the one who speaks, I too am disfigured: soliloquy makes me into a monster: one huge tongue.)

— Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse


I am yes, indeed, truly, monstrous, odious: I push down the tyrannical wantings, to rob you of him, to instate myself everywhere, until my image is inescapable, a hall of mirrors you cannot run from; I want to be desired by anything, any one approximating you, no matter how distant the relation. he is you; I am you; all is you, you are more than you, you are a life-crushing and life-affirming force simultaneously. the less you are here, the more you consume me. to have your hand in mine this minute: the tops of the buildings, with their perfectly square gaps, make me think of the gaps between your fingers. I marked this lack when I travelled: it is almost a rule that when you return to an old place after a long time, especially if it is your hometown, you must observe it closely for signs of change; here, the old hospital, the little library, also absent, now red blocks of flats, insolent in their studied ugliness—you were not here, and neither was the prospect of that future-tense dream. I felt better for having a suitcase in hand, a desperate proof to passers-by that I did not, in fact, claim to live or belong there, a kind of pitiful resistance against the obviousness of your absence.


then: a change. a shift. I sense the silent tectonic movement an hour and a half before its arrival; perfume on my hair and wrists. I know but do not know.


sundown. I, with unsteady legs, forgetting where I am going, where I am meant to go.

magdalen bridge, st. lenox, cowley road, bass guitar. I am very nearly hit by a car; I am transfixed in the middle of the road, arms outstretched in panic in the headlights. I am almost pathetically careful crossing each road thereafter: a wry quip half-forms itself in my mind. I wander, stumble home, my face stricken, distraught, as if some bad news had made itself known some twenty minutes ago, yet it is nothing of the sort; it is a change, a shift.

the following day, the question: who is “you”? ought not there to be many yous, multiple yous, each slightly but sufficiently distinctive to a casual reader, making themselves known in their curls, their emphases? there is you (1), unconsummated, unresolved, unforgotten, my perpetual state of grace; you (2), your memory returned to me by the scent of coffee in the street, disastrous, deceptive in your peace and good will; you (3), my baby, my child, your head in my lap, always; you (4), a smile on your face and breakfast in the mornings, unwriteable, I dare not address you; you (5), as the song goes, all of this time I’ve been waiting to hear from you/all of this time I’ve been wanting to talk, absent, always the apostrophe; and now, a new you, you (6), you with your eloquent mouth on mine, your hands in my hair.

to whom should I address myself?

5 thoughts on “notes from the aftermath

  1. Alex says:

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