Please forget me. I won't forget you. You were right about poets. How right you were. Poets are liars and obsessive. Always trying to excoriate reality into something aesthetic and effortless and love into something digestible at all. You were right. They shouldn't do that. It isn't possible and they shouldn't carry on like it is. It is true that I went too far. Something simple about boundaries and delicacy or discretion had begun to elude me. You may continue to blame me and I can live with that but— according to a very famous play (which I'm sure you've heard of) Blanche explains that the opposite of desire is death (death!) Asked Mitch: So do you wonder? I don't wonder, or really we didn't have to wonder, did we? It was the easiest thing in the world to do but very distressing and painful to have done. I mean, physically painful. Like a stomachache. Like sleeplessness. Sometimes desire is it's own death and has no opposite. No one ever battered me quite like you. Early on you told me about a set of mathematical proofs which show that two curves with infinite length can have a finite area between them. Koch's snowflake. Gabriel's wedding cake. But the converse is never true. I don't know why you told me these things, but I did want to understand them. Poets are always trying to manufacture metaphors even from mathematics. I did try to understand you. I shouldn't have told you that I wanted to know you and I shouldn't have wanted to know you. This is another character flaw among writers. The general inability to let things go unsaid or unknown. I still don't know what happened between us or what any of it meant, although I am starting to feel okay about that. As every day it became harder and harder to measure any finite space between us. To even understand what counts as a thing. One can claim they don't acknowledge unspoken subtleties, but isn't unspoken subtlety the only way anyone can distinguish something viable and breathing from all the pointless sediment floating along with the rest of the river? I'm not making that up. I think people discovered this all the way back in the sixteenth century. With letters and glances and common sense. I'm sorry for falling in love with you. Really, I am. Even the idea of you is revolting and obscene like eating food off the floor. I'm not suggesting there was any better way for this to end. In general, I'm okay. In general, I think solitude is a good thing. It's just that your message was perplexing and took a long time to sink in. But yes. Eventually your moody distractedness began to unattract me. The way certain words can create a story but aren't the story itself. Eventually everything you said ceased making any sense at all. So I stopped trying to understand anything. I think the problem is that this went down really deep. Well, for me it did at least. Deeper than I wanted. (But then you snap out of it. Then you realize that the well is deep but empty. So you throw in a cigarette. And the whole operation bursts into flame.) Do you see what I'm saying? I'm sorry that I fell in love with you. That was where everything collapsed. I started to sense that you didn't really want to know me anymore or know anything at all. You just wanted to wander around and pontificate and sulk as if things couldn't be knowable (only you called it brooding). Well. At least I know a few things about you now. Who you really are. It stung but I couldn't unknow. I said I wouldn't write you anymore, and I didn't. And that I didn't love you anymore. And I didn't. I had thought it was a pretext until I looked you in the face and said it out loud. Then I knew it was true. You know, sometimes words can do that, actually. I've realized. Poetry can do that to a story between two people. Make it into something, I mean. And then into nothing.
Libraries, for example, are good places to escape the viciousness of people when they try to get inside of you. Between the shelves there is plenty of space to lick your wounds. This is something I do often. My first twenty years weren’t easy I was always busy with the important occupation of dismantling myself—an exhausting and ungrateful enterprise. I did this so earnestly that I was, in fact, convinced I had invented the vocation. I just kept carving and carving. Did I ever succeed? in scraping clean the rind. in turning myself inside-out. What is left? after such a thorough cauterization. One raw little soul. I can still taste that grief in my mouth like champagne, icy & no hint of sweetness. I could have stayed inside all day. Meanwhile on the quad, a pretty girl walks her small white dog across the grass & shadows sprawl across the perfect lawn with their splotchy memory. Although memory, I am learning, always give back much more color than what was there in the first place. I look back now, and I want to feel that grass on my skin. But all I can remember is that I hated my life and I hated my life. The feeling comes and goes, but at least I find a quiet absolution in my landscape: the restfulness of books and sunlight in an empty room that transforms the isolation into something else entirely.
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.