Friday, February 2nd, 2007 (Clare is 35)
CLARE: I sleep all day. Noises 1)flit around the house—garbage truck in the alley, rain, tree rapping against the bedroom window. I sleep. I inhabit sleep firmly, 2)willing it, 3)wielding it, pushing away dreams, refusing, refusing. Sleep is my lover now, my forgetting, my 4)opiate, my 5)oblivion. The phone rings and rings. I have turned off the machine that answers with Henry’s voice. It is afternoon, it is night, it is morning. Everything is reduced to this bed, this endless slumber that makes the days into one day, makes time stop, stretches and 6)compacts time until it is meaningless.
I breathe slowly and deeply. I make my eyes still under eyelids, I make my mind still, and soon, Sleep, seeing a perfect reproduction of himself, comes to be united with his 7)facsimile. Sometimes I wake up and reach for Henry. Sleep erases all differences: then and now; dead and living. I am past hunger, past vanity, past caring. This morning I caught sight of my face in the bathroom mirror. I am paper-skinned, 8)gaunt, yellow, ring-eyed, hair matted. I look dead. I want nothing.
Kimy sits at the foot of the bed. She says, “Clare? Alba’s home from school…won’t you let her come in, say hi?” I pretend to sleep. Alba’s little hand strokes my face. Tears leak from my eyes. And then Alba crawls into bed with me. She wraps my arm around her, thrusts her head under my chin. I sigh and open my eyes. Alba pretends to sleep. I stare at her thick black eyelashes, her wide mouth, her pale skin; she is breathing carefully, she clutches my hip with her strong hand, she smells of pencil shavings and 9)rosin and shampoo. I kiss the top of her head. Alba opens her eyes, and then her resemblance to Henry is almost more than I can bear. Kimy gets up and walks out of the room.
Later I get up, take a shower, eat dinner sitting at the table with Kimy and Alba. I sit at Henry’s desk after Alba has gone to bed, and I open the drawers, I take out the bundles of letters and papers, and I begin to read.
A Letter to Be Opened in the Event of My Death(December 10th, 2006)
As I write this, I am sitting at my desk in the back bedroom looking out at your studio across the backyard full of blue evening snow, everything is slick and 10)crusty with ice, and it is very still. It’s one of those winter evenings when the coldness of every single thing seems to slow down time, like the narrow center of an 11)hourglass which time itself flows through, but slowly, slowly. I have the feeling, very familiar to me when I am out of time but almost never otherwise, of being 12)buoyed up by time, floating effortlessly on its surface like a fat lady swimmer. I had a sudden urge, tonight, here in the house by myself to write you a letter. I suddenly wanted to leave something, for after. I think that time is short, now. I feel as though all my reserves, of energy, of pleasure, of duration, are thin, small. I don’t feel capable of continuing very much longer. I know you know.
If you are reading this, I am probably dead. (I say probably because you never know what circumstances may arise; it seems foolish and 13)self-important to just declare one’s own death as an 14)out-and-out fact.) About this death of mine—I hope it was simple and clean and 15)unambiguous. I hope it didn’t create too much fuss. I’m sorry. (This reads like a suicide note. Strange.) But you know: you know that if I could have stayed, if I could have gone on, that I would have clutched every second: whatever it was, this death, you know that it came and took me, like a child carried away by 16)goblins.
Clare, I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the 17)thread through the 18)labyrinth, the net under the 19)high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust. Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you.
I hate to think of you waiting. I know that you have been waiting for me all your life, always uncertain of how long this 20)patch of waiting would be. Ten minutes, ten days. A month. What an uncertain husband I have been, Clare, like a sailor, 21)Odysseus alone and 22)buffeted by tall waves, sometimes 23)wily and sometimes just a 24)plaything of the gods. Please, Clare. When I am dead. Stop waiting and be free. Of me—put me deep inside you and then go out in the world and live. Love the world and yourself in it, move through it as though it offers no resistance, as though the world is your natural element. I have given you a life of 25)suspended animation. I don’t mean to say that you have done nothing. You have created beauty, and meaning, in your art, and Alba, who is so amazing, and for me: for me you have been everything.
After my mom died she ate my father up completely. She would have hated it. Every minute of his life since then has been marked by her absence, every action has lacked dimension because she is not there to measure against. And when I was young I didn’t understand, but now, I know, how absence can be present.
If I had to live on without you I know I could not do it. But I hope, I have this vision of you walking 26)unencumbered, with your shining hair in the sun. I have not seen this with my eyes, but only with my imagination, that makes pictures, that always wanted to paint you, shining; but I hope that this vision will be true, anyway.
Clare, there is one last thing, and I have hesitated to tell you, because I’m 27)superstitiously afraid that telling might cause it to not happen(I know: silly) and also because I have just been going on about not waiting and this might cause you to wait longer than you have ever waited before. But I will tell you in case you need something, after.
Last summer, I was sitting in Kendrick’s waiting room when I suddenly found myself in a dark hallway in a house I don’t know. I was sort of tangled up in a bunch of 28)galoshes, and it smelled like rain. At the end of the hall I could see a rim of light around a door, and so I went very slowly and very quietly to the door and looked in. The room was white, and intensely lit with morning sun. At the window, with her back to me, sat a woman, wearing a coralcolored cardigan sweater, with long white hair all down her back. She had a cup of tea beside her, on a table. I must have made some little noise, or she sensed me behind her…she turned and saw me, and I saw her, and it was you, Clare, this was you as an old woman, in the future. It was sweet, Clare, it was sweet beyond telling, to come as though from death to hold you, and to see the years all present in your face. I won’t tell you any more, so you can imagine it, so you can have it unrehearsed when the time comes, as it will, as it does come. We will see each other again, Clare. Until then, live, fully, present in the world, which is so beautiful.
It’s dark, now, and I am very tired. I love you, always. Time is nothing. Henry