I recently picked up a book that I had not read for many years. It is called A Madman’s Diary by Lu Xun. I have a translated copy. It is an interesting book and one which is rather relevant but that is not the purpose of mentioning it.
It was, as I was leafing through to find a particular section, the place where a piece of neatly folded paper slipped from the pages of the book and nestled on the floor.
Interested by this runaway piece of paper I set the book down and stooped to pick up the piece that lay beneath me. The paper was cream and of a decent weight and I smiled as I recognised where it had come from. It was the only thing that she had in common with my mother but she also knew the value of writing on a quality piece of paper.
I unfolded it and there was my confirmation of the author as her neat, copperplate writing spread out before me. She always wrote with a fountain pen, a Mont Blanc and she kept a pot of ink at my house as she preferred to draw the ink from the pot into the pen rather than use the cartridges.
I used to enjoy watching her as she carefully applied the nib to the dark liquid and then applied the mechanism to draw it up before cleaning off the oozing nib with a piece of blotting paper which soon became stained in a way not unlike the cover of the book which I had just put to one side.
She used to hold up the blotting paper and invite me to comment on what I saw. I played along, since Rorschach was familiar to me. I always invented something spectacular though so she would comment and do so with her eyes with impressed admiration.
“I see a lion eating out a bison from behind,” I would say slowly and she would twist the blotting paper and peer at it to see if she accorded with my view.
“I see a crow stuck in the branches of a tree.”
“I see a dented crown.”
“I see a conflagration about a baby.”
“I see dumb people.”
Each time she filled her elegant writing instrument we would have this little game of me looking at the blotting paper, with its splodges, dots and streaks and without very little hesitation declare some imaginary image which left her both intrigued and confused.
It must have been some time since I had last recalled us doing this together as her memory would rarely ever invade my consciousness and it would take something like this to restore that which had once been. I shoved it back into the depths of my memory where it was best kept.
Thus I turned to the letter and read its contents. It was her last letter to me. I think that is why I placed it in this book since I had been reading it at the time and I decided to use her letter as a bookmark rather than place it with all the others that I have received. This is what she wrote:-
“My dearest HG,
This is not some lengthy treatise. We have spoken for as long and as often as we could already and there is no need for repetition. I know I have offended you most gravely and that is something I have never intended nor wished upon your gracious self. You have taught me many things and you set me higher than anyone else and for that you will always have my thanks and eternal gratitude.
You truly are a prince amongst men and you always showed the grace of princes whenever you dealt with me. I think, more than anything else that it was your nobility, both in standing and purpose that drew me to you the closest. Even when you became both base and abominable you still exacted that majesty for which I have always loved you and I can only look to my own failings as to why you did as you did.
I have issued a thousand sorrows for that which I did not do and that which I did not say. I offered you everything that I had but it was not enough and I remain ashamed of my failure, it is not something I often encounter.
I think of you often and that will never change, I am sure of that. I remain willing to help you overcome those obstacles. I still regard them as surmountable and I am saddened that time was against us in terms of addressing them, but I remain hopeful that somehow we shall do so, in whatever form we decide and I will be by your side come what may.
I will take this time you have designated as a sabbatical from you and I as one for reflection and improvement, you know how I am. Thank you for once again for our time in the sun, I know you have described it as no more than a howling wilderness and I would be lying if I said that such a description does not upset me.
For me, it remains a place of safety and sanctuary and I firmly believe we can achieve it once again, should you decide to give me a further chance. I shall respect your request and not contact you again but I remain always open and amenable to you reaching out to me and indeed I would welcome it. All I ask now is for your forgiveness in the full knowledge that I deserve none.
As I read the letter once again a show reel of images filtered through my mind. Memories re-surfaced some of them not having been resurrected before. I felt those shared memories and those shared occasions stir something once again.
In accordance with the recent instruction I have received I allowed this to wash over me, rather than reject it and lock it away again. The sensation flowed over me and it was familiar to me. I recognised all those traits that had caused me to seek her out all that time ago. I recognised the feeling of the fuel that flowed from her.
That was what I felt. This piece of correspondence, elegantly written and delicately composed encapsulated the powerful allure that we possess. I need not detail what I put her through once the golden period ended. You have you own experiences of that to draw on which will allow you to comprehend the brutality that such denigration exacted on someone who could write in such terms.
Notwithstanding the cruelty and malice, her charity remained undiminished and stood as testament to the very things that I saw when our paths first crossed. This letter indeed reinforced what I knew. I was right. I folded it up and returned it to its rightful and appropriate place in the folds of the book once again, sealing it inside, placing her back in her tomb.