I’m marveling at how clean everything is. I haven’t lived here long enough yet. My brother came to see me the other day and he said it looked like me but he said it needed a bit more to be me. I wasn’t sure what that meant until this afternoon. I haven’t been to bed yet. I also bit off all my nails. I was so proud of them yesterday morning when I found I could finally paint them a luscious red on slender fingers. Now I have to wait for them again. I feel like I always am.
My brother, he has a way of telling things about people. He looks at them once and he can see them. He told me it has to do with their whole face together. All their features combined and how they look at you. Most people repeat that your eyes are the window to your soul; Tom said that there was more to it. That you only ever see, really see a person once for what they really are. That you only get that one chance so you can’t make a mistake, but that most people do; they make mistakes, or they forget. I thought about him that night. I stared at that man’s eyes and I thought about my brother and what he said. He was so adamant; I believed him. The man was lying quietly. I could only hear his very faint breathing. Covered in blood and rain, I was the only other person in the world there. I thought I held him forever. That’s why I thought of Tom. I was looking into a strange man’s eyes and my brother’s words seemed to be the only ones that could count.
I was slightly drunk, by myself, on red wine. I got myself a bottle that day to celebrate having a free weekend. The whole week I was locked in the library because I couldn’t concentrate at home. Margery my landlady is so nice she would have me drink sherry all day with her if I stayed in. She’d gone for the weekend to see her daughter in London. She’d been raving about it all month. It was a lovely kind of childishness. Not many of her friends are around anymore. There are only a few lovely ladies and two gentlemen who call a couple of times a week.
I’m exaggerating when I say I was slightly drunk, it was closer to slightly tipsy, not quite as daring but daring enough. I was listening to Frank Sinatra on my record player; I love the sound it makes, it feels raw, almost alive in a way.
The afternoon was so beautiful, the sun didn’t hide once and there wasn’t even any wind. It’s almost as if the city needs rain and gales to breathe; but that day it breathed and it was glorious. Everything glorious gets shot in the end though and so it did then. The city will remember forever that it needs drizzle and winds to subdue and feed whatever monster is hiding somewhere under. The newspapers will mark it in their archives.
People never think about what a city needs, they never realize that those cold hills are cold for a reason. Nothing cools just on its’ own, it needs help. I feel like that night Edinburgh paid for its desire to welcome the sun. I hadn’t been back in a long time, I’d forgotten.
I heard the thunder. It went three times and it tore something out of the street we lived on. It tore every last shard of self respect the old houses and their occupants might have had left. It also almost punctured someone’s life; but it only punctured his skin and in a way etched off a strip of mine. Now I feel more whole when there is less of me.
I sat still for a while after the lightening stroke. I didn’t want to move out of cowardice and indecision and the knowledge that if I saw what I felt I would see for the first time in my life I would have to move; that I would never be able to sit still again. This was the choice that people who believe in fate see as a fork in the road. When I got to the window I stared and started. I saw a man who was running away. I saw his face and I saw his hair and most of all I saw his eyes. I never saw anyone’s eyes before and his made me wish I never would again. The mixture of fear, excitement and lunacy was something you could never expect to meet but when you saw that face that you see in your dreams that you chase after but dread to greet. He ran away fast.
In the road was a man, just lay there and no sound got let out of the street. This was a man I recognized. I saw him at the library every morning; he usually sat a couple rows in front of me to the right. I knew his face from when I walked around. He never lifted his eyes, he was always so absorbed. His assassin ran away and he was left there in the rain like a sponge, absorbing the air, the water, but spilling his blood like soap. The lights that were on went out. The door pushed itself open for me without the hard shove I was expecting. The city finally cried for the whole day it laughed.
Don’t go to sleep. Keep your eyes open. Look at me keep looking at me don’t stop looking at me. Look at me please look at me and stay. If you go now you won’t be able to come back so stay please.
He was drenched all over and staring at me blinking slowly. What’s your name? Jack. Stay Jack. For some reason I let myself think he would be ok. He was shivering and the rain poured as if on purpose. He’s dying, you have to come you must come. But no one came, no one came for hours and hours we just sat there, he lay on my knees and I cried. I saw his whole life and what it was going to be. The time passed like the hour hand on my watch. I squeezed him to me and I told him they would be here any minute.
They thought I was hurt. I was covered in his wounds and I was crying. I couldn’t control it anymore it was pouring out freely. So they took me aside and they asked me things and they took him away. I screamed at all those people who did nothing. At all those houses who were silent and turned out their lights. They left us by ourselves and they didn’t care. I knew they didn’t hear. I knew they were snuggled up at home; but I also knew they could feel it like I did. Like those invisible strings that drag you out of bed but you’re armed with scissors and cut yourself free.
I’m going to see him today. I know it was because he hadn’t seen the man’s face that he was allowed to stay. I’d seen the face, I saw the eyes.
Friday, January 28, 2011
I hope when you read this you can understand. I know what you mean now, when you were telling me about really knowing someone.
I visited him after the accident. He was delirious most of the time. He had caught hypothermia from lying in the street for so long. When he woke up he remembered who I was. We talked. He tried to convince me that zoos weren’t all that bad. He took me to one of those safari-like ones after he left the hospital. He told me all about the research and work being done there. I continue to dislike them, but he tried.
I forgot all about our conversation, the one where you told me about finding the real person in someone; through their eyes, their nose, their entire face as a whole; as a composition of characters. I forgot because I became infatuated. I love him.
Last night he came to my house and he brought me my favourite chocolates. He talked to me about his job, his projects, his rickety old slippers; he was real. While he spoke I looked at him and everything you said came back to me. I understood what had happened that evening. I feel as if now I can see everybody at once; their entire face, their entire them. I have seen all of them for what they are. For all of the horrible things they are. For all of the lovely things they can be. I only have the right to see it once. I don’t want to see anymore. That’s all I have a right to. That’s all anyone should have a right to.
I know this and I know that I love him and that soon I’ll forget everything I saw. I know this because nobody can claim to see through the world. I’ll soon forget that everything is horrible and that everything has the potential to be beautiful. I can’t let myself forget. I’m sorry.