Could writing be a way of coming to terms with loss?
Reflecting on my recent need to conjure a past ‘love’, in this case an actor: ‘M’ who I met through my recovery meetings, a friend of mine — P — happened to read this blog and sent me an email about her thoughts on the matter.
I had reported that the last time I saw M he ignored me. We were standing at a tea hatch in Dulwich waiting for a pre-meeting cup of tea. He said hello to the friend I had arrived with but ignored me. I had looked over at him, expectant of a greeting, he saw me and looked away. P wondered if a relationship with someone moody would have been a good thing.
P also wondered if perhaps I wasn’t meant to get involved with M, just to ‘explore the idea of it’. I think this is or was my approach at the time. I just enjoyed the fantasy and never worried that much because I had my sights set on someone else. Someone probably even more moody and elusive than M.
I can’t say I profoundly miss him. We were never close enough for that. I suppose I just wish that we had had more of a relationship. It’s just a random type of wish floating about, in part generated by a recent affair I had with my doctoral supervisor, a retired professor who I had had VERY BIG feelings for. A person I never expected ever to see again, let alone have an affair with. I think the unlikeliness of such an experience made me feel a sense of anything being possible in the arena of lost love. That being the case my mind is apt to wander into the land of M, however fleetingly.
Writing is a way to recreate a reality that’s gone, or just temporarily absent. It’s pretty impossible to write about something one feels indifferent about. Then again, sometimes it’s equally hard to write about BIG experiences. Because they are too close or painful. One can stir up the past, rouse trauma from the depths by going over it again and digging it up.
‘Time is just memory mixed with desire’ as Tom Waits says. We remember the things that touched us in some way, for good or ill, and those things make up our lives and subjectivity and identities.
One of the things I loved about M was that he was a Storyteller — an actor. He seemed to have this great curiosity about life and his experiences as they unfolded. I loved listening to him speak. He made existence seem a bit more magical. Nevertheless there was often pain, feelings of betrayal and not feeling good enough associated with M. It would be too tedious to recount them here, but really, I did idealise him and this wasn’t especially reciprocal.
Maybe part of it was that he had done something I secretly longed to have done — trained as an actor. Worked as an actor. I could imagine myself in that role; I grew up in theatre land, and my drama teacher at school desperately wanted me to stay on for A level and go to drama school. She thought I had a real ability. She even attended a meeting with my mum and my head of year to plead with me and mum to take her seriously. I really liked this teacher and looked up to her, but I didn’t take her seriously. I was in too much of a state (alcoholism) to imagine even going to school anymore, hence the meeting. My head of year was reprimanding me for my lateness and absence. After this meeting I dropped out of school.
Through M I was able to envisage an alternative life in which I was wholly other to what I became. I would have been skilled, extroverted and financially successful. I would have had a career I excelled in, instead of all these fragmentary bits and pieces of creative pursuit I appeared to have been lumbered with; paths that leading nowhere much.
But when I knew M I was trying to write. So I also felt an affinity with him as an aspiring Storyteller. Paul Auster was my role model, and M looked quite a lot like a younger Auster. M symbolised the dignity of storytelling as a profession at a time when I didn’t know many artists. He was like a work of art. Every time I saw him on TV or in an ad I felt like I had been visited by an angel (being by nature quite a romantic).
There’s another sense that in writing him I hope to conjure some part of him into my life. To invoke him. As if by the magic of writing I might be a bit like God and be able to influence reality. I had a fantasy of him reading my blog and thinking: Hell yes, I too miss this person. Or just the simple synchronicity of the universe might send him my way. Well, I’m not holding my breathe, but I’ll let you know if it works.
Writing is a box for my dreams, whether or not they are worthy. The alphabet, language doesn’t pass judgement. It just is. It is what it is.