I think your face is beautiful, the way it is close to my face, and I think you are the real October with your transparence and the stone of your words as they pass, as I do not hear them. -- Bill Berkson, October October again and again it's full of you. Can you feel this small sadness as it climbs inside and undresses you. How an orchestra of hands can promise to be noteless. Outside everything is beautiful and dying. Can you feel this yawning mouth that only wants and wants. The intimacy of small talk without the immutability of its damage. Is it possible to fall back asleep in your contours without subverting your heart into a hallway. I know I didn't get it right the first time. Can you feel that. Inside me something insatiable comes to life. It reaches up my throat with its claws. Wants to be petted and fed cold milk. Wants to show up on your doorstep. But aren't I an expert on restraint. Again and again. I practice small refusals. I do not touch. I throw out the milk. I try to unremember the sound of you laughing. The way your face looked sad but honest in some moonlight. The way time continues to elapse patiently. A heart that beats slowly and sadly still beats. Still ventures to unremember. What could you have stored up to tell me anyway. After all this time. What would you say to me if you were not afraid.
Cloth hangs thick as curtains: floral dresses and saris with their oriental prints. Patterns from the tropics. Fabric from the moon. My own clothes now are navy and dull from so many cleanings. These are the pants I wear to work. The sweater I wear to meetings, to my lectures, with no comment or complaints to my supervisor or his supervisor. I know myself well, it is a lifeless body draped without vegetable dyes or the soak of the earth, raw hands to knead the knots and stitches. I am clearly not of this same earth as I see my face distorted in the curve of the shining rods on the racks. These clothes are almost free, relinquished by those who once owned them, by those who first imagined them, holding the design in their mind and finally made them, stitch by stitch. There is sadness in such a tender craft. For now they belong to themselves, aging in the light as it streams through windowpanes; they are safely apart from the world, yet part of the world, made of the world as it flashes by the bars of my body and does not peek inside. Look at me, I’m begging these bones to open, to open! and yet I am trapped in this box of glass: every speck of dust is illuminated.
Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow. Never expect to outgrow loneliness. Never hope to find people who will understand you, someone to fill that space. An intelligent, sensitive person is the exception, the very great exception. If you expect to find someone who will understand you, you will grow murderous with disappointment. The best you'll ever do is to understand yourself, know what it is that you want, and not let the cattle get in the way.
Excerpt adapted from White Oleander, by Janet Fitch.
After everything, I couldn’t stand to be alone in my bedroom, so I started sleeping on the couch. Then I couldn’t stand the couch so I slept outside in the grass, but I couldn’t stand the grass. So I slept in my body, strung from my ankles and my wrists like a hammock. When I couldn't stand my body, I chiseled myself out of it. This use of knives broke my heart, because it was an act of violence. My weakness broke my heart, because Julia comes from Jupiter. The meaning of my name broke my heart because I would rather be beautiful than strong. My vanity broke my heart because I am a scholar. My education broke my heart because universities are mostly lonely places and knowledge, in the end, is empty. My emptiness ate me alive; I was starving to be whole. The thought of wholeness broke my heart because it is elusive and I could not have it. So I tried to rationalize wholeness as the mastery of all interests: I walked into the yard trying to vomit and pray simultaneously. I fell asleep while whispering a love song. I was empty empty empty. I've had enough heartbreak to fill every inch of this house. Really, I was drowning in a room I couldn't stand.