Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tell Me Your Story, I'll Tell You Mine.

You keep luring me into this discussion of our stories, of our writing, of our letters, their content, their form, their purpose, the nature of their purpose, the form of their purpose, the letter of their form, the content of their nature. If the path of my writings, of my life under your eyes, is composed almost exclusively of these ramblings, it is because I am blown along before you by your tempest, that is to say, though I precede you across the frontier, it is you who pushes us into that wilderness where neither of us exists.
I admit, readily--I know too well--that I seem unable to write of anything else. It consumes me. Leaving it behind me is another of my resolutions, to go along with my determination to write in candor and good faith. Still, the more I try to turn my feet towards that road of truth, the more I find myself on this one again. Look! I am doing it still. The more I try not to think about it, the more I think about it.
So... Where are we? Are we? Do we have this genesis you mention? Do we find it at the end, as you suggest? Where did we meet? I remember an inn built around a courtyard and the smell of sandalwood burning and lilac. A woman with a torn shirt spoke to me in a voice I think of as smelling like orange-blossoms from Casablanca. And there was a young Danish prince there, with toussled hair and the wet stink of fog all in his clothes. He was always staring into objects, inducing them to speak, flashing a mouth of teeth that seemed inexplicably odd-numbered. I was already old then, and outnumbered. You took her hand and danced while I watched with the impotent jealousy of the withered. And she meant nothing to you but the warm reminiscences of a place you couldn't recall ever being, but to me she was the sweet just-departed memory of a beautiful forgotten future just beyond the horizon.

Everything else to me is lost in the tangle of brambles that is memory. Maybe we will find a full accounting of our beginning in our end. Maybe finding a full accounting of our beginning will be the end of us. Look at me, I have lapsed back, found myself walking again the forked path of paths in your garden, writing a letter about letters. Silly me.
I sound like a madman, less well known to my parts than yours. If any of the spies you envision reading our letters in secret in order to censor them or communicate their contents to enemies abroad, they must surely think me quite without sense. There are, I know, white-suited gentleman who would condemn such talk without restraint. I have great sympathy for those poor men; they labor under a genteel insanity. Still, I seem insane to myself--and yet, my sanity must be beyond question. And it is their invested, serious nature that needs so much respite in the snuff and lace kerchiefs of Southern nobility to seem reasonable.

Incidentally, I have left Panza to himself for a time. He will return, I have no doubt, with his amiable rambling and his supplications, his dissembling. I know this is abrupt. Under the influence of a certain sign, recently, I was taken with a foul humor, and needed solitude. His presence began to irritate me, and I felt my ramblings would be more productive (or less, which amounts to the same thing) with him temporarily out of the picture.
Fear not, though, he will delight you again. Perhaps he does so even now, as in his absence from me, it could be he who visits you in the land of fog, and not I, and it is perhaps those same fogs, or those more ombrous and aetherial wisps that disguise him for you in the image of the one you wish truly to see, that is, myself. For it is me you wish to embrace, isn't it? My sparkling naivete, my gift for having the wrong thing to say, for borrowing other people's words and making malaprops of them--these are the qualities avec lesquels tu veut faire les bises. And you would rend the literal vestments of Materiality in order to reveal her naked flesh, and erase that paper distance that makes my person and its characteristics always intangible to you, silly paper tigers, like the curious far side of a coin which you feel with your fingers, but which, upon becoming visible, hides its reverse, and incites your curiosity anew.
Beware: you an see me, or everything else, but probably not both. That world and mine do not coexist, and you cannot in them both survive. There is a crystalline pool of water that serves as a border between them, rather, into which you can peer; and perhaps you will see there a most beautiful fool in armour, mounted sadly on an old nag, with a murdered father and an adulterous mother, and a sister in an insane asylum somewhere beyond the reach of reason.
Why, again, must I always speak like a madman? I see in these words translations of your own. Is this the spinning disk you spoke of. Are we merely mismatching metaphors at each other? I hope we are. Madness again. Madness again. If I say it, it won't be true. Madness again.

Do I remember Ovid in my rationalizations of your constant tete-a-tetes avec Monsieur Mesmer? Was it not necessary, for some other, as well, to be held by the hand along a dark path before one was finally to see the higher planes? Alas, these are the things I tell myself to assuage my fears that Mr M is leading you into Perdition. I remember that the way of things is long, often twisting. One cannot always tell where it leads, and it is probably best that way. In any condition, that man frightens me, even in hearsay. But I've so related a million times. I'll cease if I can. But, of course, I know very little of what I "can" and "cannot" do. These days, I wander with little knowledge or concern for where my steps take me, not knowing where I tread or why. There was once a man I meant to challenge, Odvallo. He is gone from me now. I don't know where. Perhaps he was never here. Perhaps I will find him again. There are, you see, these rampant, violent fits of incoherence.... Do you detect them? Do they upset you as they do me? I fear them terribly, and yet, I know no way to stave them off. There is a man nearby, an alchemist, an apothecary, a writer and a priest. I'll seek him out.
But this madness, of which you are either the cause or the victim, it is what keeps me from my duties, it is what keeps me from Sancho Panza, and from Dulcinea.
It is what I must vanquish first.

humbly, exhaustedly,
Don Quixote De La Mancha


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