Excerpts from Anomia: Fragments Toward a Grammar of Endings.

Christmas, 1998 / No. 2

My dearest Aidan,

How I ache for you. My thighs, atrophied, my breaths shallow, reluctant. My heartbeat dull and irregular, slowed by its attempts to reconstruct the cadence of your voice through my veins. Pores closed tight, shoulders crumpled in, my body tries to close itself in around the last remains of you, the last echoes of your touch. Refusing, still, to admit that touch and truth might share only three letters, to admit the absence of—

I crumple the page. There is no room in this viscous night for reconsideration, the page too dimly lit for revision. Each word heavy with the hope that it will be enough; the threat, always, of melodrama. The dark impossibility of such a letter. I toss the wadded paper across the room to dim its glare. Will I acquiesce to your silence.

Such loneliness to this night, the dark pressed in against me like water. Desire circling me like sharks. Insidious, this darkness, it makes language evaporate around me, words so pendant with sorrow that they sink beneath my reach, and I am left only with the sound of my blood whispering your name through my arteries and the print of your body across mine. There is not light enough to see the page clearly, there is only a mass of forms strewn on the paper as I would be across you.

My dearest Aidan,

How I ache for you, the way you might hold me in so close, how this night holds its darkness pressed so tightly to itself against the threat of dawn

Ache. There is such longing in this word. Onomatopoeic almost, the sustained a, rent suddenly, k. But even this plaintive a will not do. I crumple the page again. Such a language, rhyming ache with fake and take, these resonances always accompany it. Break, quake. Such darkness crowding in under my pen, I cannot see my words, the shapes that might redeem them; the way the c and h kern, huddle in together, inscribing a tiny circle, a sanctuary there.

My dearest Aidan,

How I long

How I

I had hoped to banish Aidan from my thoughts by writing to him, about him, to force his essence through the narrow pen and out onto the paper, condensed, extricable. But in the shape of words he is only more real to me. I have been struggling with this last letter to him for so long; I want to tell him everything and nothing all at once. I thought I saw him on the street yesterday, although he does not live here anymore. The same curly red hair, square jaw, unforgiving gait. And even though I knew it wasn’t him, I felt my blood rush away from my heart into a suit of armour through my veins. This happens so often, still. I’m afraid that all my imaginings of his presence will accumulate and solidify into him, so that one day it really will be my Aidan. I hate that I think this still. If only I could finish this letter, if I could summarize what passed between us, I might be able to excise it. But I’m not sure if I know what did pass between us. Sometimes it is so clear, so lucid I can fit it into a single sentence. Like when your thoughts begin to shape themselves into words and you find yourself thinking not in vague images and blurry paragraphs but in sharp words, and I can almost contain us within this distinct sentence. But by the time I reach the period the beginning has begun to evaporate because nothing is large enough to accommodate this, us. And then I can’t remember what colour shoes he had when we met or what the first movie was that we saw together. It makes me desperate with fear, this failure of memory. Details wrapped in oil, eluding me, and when I grab at them I clutch them so hard I’m squeezing the life from them. Over and over I play back to myself the story of the first time we made love until it has become banal, until I am confused about which parts of it are real and which I have embellished. I try to touch my breast like he would have, but I can’t remember how. I can’t remember what he looked like naked, I have in my mind the pictures, the touches of other men. I try to remember the pattern of red hair on his chest, and I see it clearly at first but then I wonder if I’m thinking of a photograph of someone else. I try to mimic the feel of his hand around my waist because I think I can remember the degrees of possessiveness and reverence in the firmness of his hold, but I always forget to account for the promise of loss contained in that grasp. I want not to care about these things anymore, I want simply to write this letter, to seal it in an envelope that could hold it all and be done with it. I want these memories to fall, like helicopter seeds from trees, spinning gracefully, until they land, a soft cushion on the earth.

I have changed my route home from the library so that every day I walk past the house where Aidan used to live. And then I walk past the café where he used to go to write and I peer in the window every day although I know his red head won’t be there. Every day I leave the library at the end of my shift and I say to myself, don’t walk that way, don’t walk past his house because you know he’s not there anymore, he doesn’t live anywhere near here, and still you’re disappointed. And then I walk that way, and I try to pretend that I have no control over my feet but really I know that I always do and I feel worse for not exercising it. I feel worse because I know that I want to see him in that house because I can’t imagine his new place, his new life, and I like to feel like he is still inside me, within me, even though it is so painful to have him there, and even more painful to know that he is still there inside me because I want him to be. And then as I walk past the café, I say to myself, don’t look in to see if he’s sitting there because you know he’s not, and then I turn my head and I hate myself for my lack of control and I hate him for not being there and I’m relieved because if he was there he would know that I was looking for him. And then I worry because I know that for so long I felt with him that he was eluding me and I thought that if only I could catch a glimpse of him without him seeing me that then I would have captured him finally, and I still seem to feel this way. I think every day that if only I didn’t do this that I would be over him, but then I think what does that mean. How it’s not really about prepositions, that I have been over him and under him and beside him and away from him, and that the only way I would ever be over him is if there were no preposition between us at all. Or just a preposition with nothing, no Aidan, on the other side of it. I am over, under, beside, against. Then it would be done. Meanwhile he is always there, on the other side of some preposition, even when, especially when, he is not in the house and not in the café, and I am always disappointed, and relieved.

Perhaps I can dance you this letter, the clarity of motion in place of my hapless words.

Alone, here, in my cramped apartment. A small movement of the hand, a cursive arch of fingers. Uncertainty viscous as ink. The foot slowly points, an inarticulable memory. My arms reach out, one in front, one behind, the right leg pulls taut and begins to lift. The torso bends into this movement, this…The name of the step forgotten. Thoughts clumsy and laboured, the weight of self-consciousness.

I am bending further and further reaching toward the name of this, toward words of you penché this is a penché and I wobble. The words now, coming to me before the shapes they signify. glissade fouetté assemblé brisé. Faster and my knees begin to ache, my arms can no longer hold themselves up, my feet stepping on one another. Stiff as prose.

A ballet lesson for you, my love.

plié the body rigid erect pried slowly open the knees spread themselves apart

developpé toes pull up into a retiré and the leg slowly unfolds out to the front or side or back reluctantly as though it were being torn away

arabesque one leg lifted out high to the back straining the same side arm following the leg to the back the opposite arm pulling to the front the body forked in indecision

échappé legs together a sharp jump landing feet apart an escape

These steps will comprise my letter to you, their order irrelevant–this is a vocabulary outside of narrative, defiant of semantics. A vocabulary which never acquiesces to grammar. Most articulate in its phonemes, longing spelled out in the angle of the wrist. A tilt of the head a more compelling adjective than “sorrowful.”

Because ballet is about suspension, I show you my heart, weightless and heavy since we parted. The ballerina holds her body, holds her every move as though she were between the up and down on a swing pushed too high, in that moment when the chains slacken, the swing, the heart, the breath all pause as if to forge such weightlessness into tangibility. Ballet asks you to believe in that moment, in sustained flight. To forget how the body finds comfort in symmetry, how every movement of a limb away from the centre is a risk, a betrayal of equilibrium.

But my dance would be a dance not of buoyancy but of indolence, not a celebration of reach but a frightened resistance to flight. The body confounded by asymmetry. No less turgid than all these drafts of my letter. Such a weight to my body that it could never leave the floor, efforts at leaping, at abandon quelled by the density of the flesh. Feet heavy as words.