It is yet again that time in my life where, when I am asked how I am, I simply do not have an adequate answer to give that doesn’t involve a sigh of some kind. It is the intensity of workload of Finals, but without the same permission to shut myself off from the world and stop taking calls and emails entirely. I am still currently in the stage of half-hoping, half-believing that this dissertation will write itself. Bills mount up, important messages go unanswered, and still I am only at the very beginning stages of what needs to be completed in about three weeks.
actual notes from the week:
- does not anxiety feel rather like a heavy coat that is impossible to shrug off? waking up with about ten seconds respite before all the chattering thoughts begin is a daily difficulty. it is a constant companion while i work, when i think about the people i hold close to me, when i consider the future. i am exhausted and i wonder whether this is why.
- “missing” a place, a person—what does that mean?
- it has been great fun redefining mythic this week.
- i have found i have very few people with whom i can share my great sorrow at having to leave this place, this beautiful, infuriating place: i appear at best sentimental, at worst wilfully moored in the past. i have made this place my own over the last five years, and it will not be easy to leave.
alba, in Old Occitan. Like the aubade, or the Tagelied. Except these all refer to the dawn; in a way, I am to be pitied even more than the troubadours of yore, as I am not even granted a full night, after which I am to slip out with the distilled watercolour rose of the skies—no, mine is not an alba, but the hazy, secretive period that cloaks the time between atardecer and amanecer; noche, almost medianoche, after these precious hours end and I must leave. For the night permits—indeed, how many of my tournants have taken place under the watchful eye of Diana, where everything takes on altered significance: six years ago, the frightful storm, vulnerable for the first time; four years ago, the still room bathed in silver, eyes meeting, gaze holding, everything changing; two years ago, the austere, humid city, fountains and spires guarded by stars, tram seats and a re-conocimiento, the curtains that did not exist; and now, your room, the permission we give to ourselves, who we allow ourselves to be, as the light outside fades (atrevimiento, to kiss you in the daylight), on your desk, my hips illuminated by the artificial moon, an urgency of hands and the point at which words fall away, superfluous.
I count my time with you, pour it out into measuring cups, stretch it out thinly before my eyes to examine its length, cut it up into roughly-divided portions, weigh it out in almonds, almendras, almendras, with which I demarcate each half-hour with you. As if obsessively weighing it out will extend it in some way: on my greyer days I wonder why we do anything if everything is to end; with you it was instant, within moments of the beginning we grasped how much time we did not have, had missed out on, something I will always regret like bitter medicine; from the very start we were counting down. New ways, too, of measuring time: the circles your hand rubs on my back when we are lying in bed together, quiet; the tiny unspoken rituals we now perform, time after time, up to your room, then down the steps in the night, running from your neighbours, collapsing into breathless giggles in the stairwell, almendras, almendras.
All these are ways of measuring time. Essential when the time with you becomes continuous rather than discrete, and so I fail to recollect whether it was this or last time that you turned to me with that which is unmistakable yet unqualifiable in your eyes, that you stared up at the ceiling with your hand absently on your forehead, arm bent, telling me fragments of pain and loss and the unshakable capacity to love. I am unable to describe how you are, only what you do: your razor-edged focus on ten things at once; your sharp turn of the head when something nevertheless commands all your attention; almost apologetically telling me that I am beautiful, your hands in my hair—yet I am at pains to say what the essence of you is. When I miss you—like now, where I sit and write, watching the bicycle wheels roll past and clouds of cigarette smoke drift across the window, wishing you would walk by and see me—I struggle to define what that is, what that means, other than the state of wanting you to be here where I am.
What does it mean to “miss” someone or something? I found myself missing Madrid in my sleep last week. My missing of Madrid constitutes itself in my desire to recreate or relive certain actions inherent to my experience of the place: late evening grocery runs at the Corte Inglés at Sol, wandering the financial district on payday, Gran Vía at sunset, running to catch the 5 metro line to Callao. All fine. But to miss a person? That, for me, does not constitute itself in already-lived moments that supposedly demand recreation: no, it is formed out of the lack of the essence of the person, and the desire to experience once again—but here the distinction between otra vez and de nuevo makes itself known: I do not wish to return to a previous point where I experienced this essence, but to experience it for my present or future self in a new moment. Simply put: I desire more. Since that is currently impossible—or more, it is improbable—, I avail myself of the next best thing to this essence, which, as I have already said, is not easily described: images. A tightly-organised sequence of images can be enough consolation in the absence of essence: the too-hasty kiss goodbye, you separated from me by a handful of strangers, their indulgent amusement as you assure me, arm outstretched in that most gallant of gestures, that it is a mere sixty-six and a half hours until I might see you next, the old man’s laughing rejoinder: “he loves you!”, to which neither of us say anything, the busy, noisy bus, your parting smile. Image sequences like this are not a complete substitute for the desired essence, which can only be achieved through presence and not through memory, but they are essential nonetheless. To that end, I cultivate images and image-sequences as if my life depended on it, for they are what will remain when the clock has counted down and you are altogether absent.