As I lie in bed
Waiting for the husband
To put down his book,
I think of the words,
Imagine them flowing,
Hearing the sound,
Savoring each syllable.
As soon as the light is off
I wait a little more
For the eventual snore
A sign that I was free
To get up
And to be
With my lover.
I check on the little one
Sleeping like an angel,
And then, quietly, I go
To meet with my lover,
For my lover makes me feel
My lover heals me
And comforts me
And helps me move on.
As I step into the room
And walk towards the table
Will soon commence,
I say to myself,
Now I can do this.
I can let the words out.
I am in love with words.
And writing is my lover.
If it isn’t obvious yet, it’s written tongue-in-cheek. A reaction to the questions asked of me recently: what I’ve been doing with my time and why I like being alone. 🙂
Why do you write?
One of the many things that I like about Dostoevsky’s style is the distinct voices of each of his characters. (Perhaps credit is also due tothe translator who understands the nuances of the Russian language.) If the character is highly educated, then he or she can speak eloquently in long, complex and profound sentences on a variety of subjects with numerous allusions to literary works. Such as the narrator of White Nights, who speaks so eruditely, that Nastenka, who considers herself a simple uneducated girl has to say to him: “You describe it all so splendidly, but couldn’t you perhaps describe it less splendidly?” The narrator’s language is reflective of a person who is used to internal monologues, and not that of one accustomed to conversing with other people.
Nastenka, on the other hand, simple as she is, expresses herself in the simplest way possible. Her sentences are short, even incomplete sometimes reflecting a very conversational use of language.
White Nights, a sentimental story from the diary of a dreamer
It makes a huge difference that Dostoevsky included “a sentimental story from the diary of a dreamer” in the title, because then the reader can excuse the sentimentality of the story, for are we not prone to sentimentality ourselves, albeit only in our heads?
The narrator, a 27-year old dreamer, who hasnever been with a woman, meets an 18-year old heartbroken woman, and they become friends and each other’s confidant. The woman, Nastenka, asks of him only one thing — not to fall in love with her, which of course, is impossible, she being the only woman (beautiful at that) to ever spend time with him, and listen to him.
Nastenka is distressed because the man who promised to come back to Petersburg to marry her has not come to see her yet even though it is past the date they have agreed to meet. The narrator counsels and comforts her, until he falls in love with her and finally one evening tells her. Nastenka does not turn him away, saying she will learn to love him as she already loves him as a friend. They walk, holding hands, happy with life when the man she has been waiting for, appears and she runs to him. And they walk away, leaving our poor, poor hero behind.
Days later, the young man receives a letter from Nastenka that says, “We shall meet, you will come to us, you will be for ever a friend, a brother to me.” And she asks him to forgive her, and to continue loving her because “when one loves a wrong is forgotten.” Then she tells him she is getting married and wishes for him to be there at their wedding.
Our poor hero ends his story with these words(only in his head):
“But to imagine that I should bear you a grudge, Nastenka. That I should cast a dark cloud over your serene, untroubled happiness; that by my bitter reproaches I should cause distress to your heart, should poison it with secret remorse and should force it to throb with anguish at the moment of bliss…. Oh never, never! May your sky be clear, may your sweet smile be bright and untroubled, and may you be blessed for that blissful happiness which you gave to another, lonely and and grateful heart!
“My god, a whole moment of happiness! Is that too little for a whole of man’s life? “
I know very few women and not a single man who could love that way.
Apart from parents, how many people can truly love selflessly? To wish nothing for oneself but to see the happiness of another, even if it means being neglected, abandoned?
“I don’t know how to be silent when my heart is speaking.”
The narrator says these words to Nastenka as he tells her about himself.
These words remind me of the biblical verse, “Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Rare is a person who can keep his secret love totally secret from everyone but himself.
When one is in love, why is it difficult to keep that to oneself? Even if one does not admit he is, he will not be able to stop mentioning the subject of his affection in every conversation, and he will always find a way to keep in touch with the same person no matter how mundane it is that he says to her.
But indeed some secret feelings are better carried to one’s grave, especially if they will not do any good to anyone.
If the narrator were my friend, I would have advised him to keep his feelings a secret, then he would not have had the unwanted pity that Nastenka must have felt for him. And he himself would not have felt guilty for making Nastenka worry about him, and their friendship would have remained pure and unsullied by knowledge of romantic feelings one had for the other.
To keep a friendship one has to be silent sometimes. Or even silence one’s heart.
Restraint is key.
For as long as I can remember I have always said to myself I could never be a Writer. But, I can always be an aspiring writer. My uni professor had my story, a tale I wrote for his Creative Writing class, published, and it was then I started to hope to become a writer.
To hope to become a writer.
That was over twenty years ago, and I am still hoping. I have had a few of my short stories published in literary journals back home, but having them published does not make me a writer. How do I know I am not a writer? I still depend on inspiration to make me write.
Recently I watched a movie called The Words. I would never have heard of this movie here if not for my best friend #3 who knows I’m crazy about Bradley Cooper (I know I’m 42 and married and have a child, so what?) And he was right about me liking the movie because gorgeous Bradley Cooper plays a writer in this movie (a gorgeous writer!)
I keep digressing.
Although the movie is about making mistakes, trying to correct them and redeeming oneself, what moved me most was a couple of lines uttered, not by gorgeous Bradley Cooper, but by Jeremy Irons.
The old man (Jeremy Irons) spoke about that period when he wrote the novel, how he forgot to eat, how the words just flowed from nowhere, and he just kept on writing. He was inspired. The muse came to visit him, but never came back after that. That’s my favorite scene.
When I watched that scene, I felt like it was I telling the story. I experienced those same feelings over twenty years ago when I wrote my very first short story –a love story– at two o’clock in the morning. Earlier that evening I saw a scene from a romantic movie, the silhouette of a man and a woman standing on the beach, watching the sunset. That scene stayed with me even after I fell asleep. Then in the middle of the night, I woke up and felt the need to write something. And I did. My hand shook as I was writing, and I was writing so quickly as the words just kept coming, flowing, and I was afraid I would lose them if I failed to write them right away, like sands slipping through the fingers. When I finished I felt exhausted but at the same time relieved that it was over. That was the first time the muse came to me. And it never came again.
Last week I could not write anything. Or I could have, but I did not and still do not want to write about anything depressingly sad and those were all I encountered last week: a friend getting divorced, a friend thinking of breaking up with his girlfriend, a young person I know passed away (RIP). When I told my husband I could not write anything, he just said “Don’t force yourself to write or you will just write something that says nothing.”
And he’s right. I cannot will myself to write. I always need something to make me write. I am not a writer.
But I can always be an aspiring writer.