All I Was Doing Was Breathing (Part 02) - A Daft Punk Fanfiction
Pairing: Thomas/Guy, Thomas POV.
Warnings: Extremely depressing. Hedonism, fundamental character death, drug use, philosophy, angst, sexual themes, plenty of sexual situations/fantasies, deep-seated emotional instability, screwy formatting (diary), and most of all, based on a real life event. I am only thankful that things turned out okay in reality.
It's me again.
I'm sorry for what I said a month ago. I really am. I was so sad and angry with myself and...
Enough self-pity. I don't deserve it.
The truth is, I was... I was frightened of continuing this diary, for the fear of making some overblown literature out of it. Sure literature thrives best on truths like those, and on loss and sorrow and all it connotes, but there was no reason why this loss should have resulted in any such thing. There was no art in what happened to you; the very thought horrifies me. No art is so unobtainable, so unspeakably beautiful, that it justified losing you for it.
But I'm back now. My fear was overcome. I am not a good enough writer, nor egoistic enough to want to make art out of this, and no one else will see it anyway; if I am to cope with my feelings properly I ought to stop thinking of them as pretentious, unjustified, or some other inauthentic device. I'll carry on.
Just thought I ought to tell you that.
I saw your brother today.
Both of us have lost weight, it seems. He was wearing his hair long, like you did, and when I saw him he was wearing an old white Primal Scream shirt. You remember, the long-sleeved one you had? The one you saved only for special occasions and concerts. In fact that's why I saw him to begin with. That familiar, yet uncommon flash of white caught my eye while I was coming out of the butcher's - I turned - and there he was.
(I don't think he saw me.)
I confess that the very first emotion I felt upon seeing him was a kind of mild outrage that he should be wearing something of yours. But then I thought: well, why shouldn't he? You and I swapped clothes sometimes, too - you and he must have done so far more often - and that was when you were still here. Even then you were generous with most of your clothing; there was no real reason to protest the fact that he was wearing that shirt. At least he gave it an owner again.
Besides he wasn't wearing that shirt as if he felt himself entitled to it - no, he walked carefully along that pavement with a plastic bag (groceries?) in hand, slower than his usual pace, edging around everyone who came too close. The last time I saw him, which was at the funeral, something had been gone from him; I saw him depart today and knew that whatever it was remained acutely gone, but even so, he was taking care not to ruin that shirt.
I can't confirm this, but if he has been more graceful with his mourning than I have been - I wouldn't doubt it.
He carried himself like he had purpose, though his usual sprightly walk had slowed, and he didn't look happy.
A part of me was tempted to stop him and talk to him - say hello - but a tidal wave of guilt washed over me the moment I thought of him turning around to face me, and I realized that I had no idea what kind of expression he would regard me with. So in the end I let myself lose him in the crowd. Maybe he blames me. No, not maybe - almost definitely. I didn't think I would be able to handle that.
I'm not sure when I will be; perhaps never, even though I know you would call me cowardly for admitting to this.
Spurred by the almost-encounter yesterday I tried calling your house.
They really haven't changed the answering machine message. Hung up in tears.
Violent outburst. Went out to dine with family; the waiter came around with a large plate after we placed our order and the wine had been poured, he set it down and exclaimed: amuse-bouches.
You'd sometimes say you would cook for me, then return bearing only a plate of delectable but tiny snacks, nowhere near enough to fill me up. Just to tease me. I used to find that anywhere from amusing to totally infuriating, but the point is you used to announce yourself and those snacks with that exact same phrase and I startled so bad that I tipped over my glass, and then when it was cleaned up I had to excuse myself to the bathroom, and there I sat and cried and cried until the person in the stall next to mine knocked and asked if I was all right.
Do I sound like I'm all right, I asked right back. Then there was nothing.
Awful. Couldn't finish the meal either. There was a metallic, salt taste in my mouth all the time.
I have to stop using this one word.
Don't say that I am mourning. That word is too psychoanalytic, and we all know that psychoanalysis isn't real.
I'm not mourning. I'm suffering.
Listening to Glenn Gould playing Bach. The records from 1963-65 in a row.
Under his fingers the clavier is exquisitely well-tempered. I hear them herald the sixteenth fugue, your most beloved, then my heart is filled with a terrible sadness and I bury my head in my hands to cry.
When are my tears going to dry up, when is this going to stop hurting?
I promise to visit in the next week or two. I will visit. I will.
Mourning has made the act of shared enjoyment very difficult. I wasn't here to tell you about it, but returning, briefly, to around three weeks ago; the first of April. I had hoped, faintly, that for that one day some semblance of normality might resume. If we couldn't be light-hearted that day, when else? I even went out that night with some people from class, just for the sake of it. But it appears that I've been too blatant in my sorrow; all day and night I received not a single absurd jest nor a poisson d'avril, nor attempts to pin one to me, even though I usually get plenty of both.
I think they did this to not upset me, but really, I just became more sad.
How fast one becomes that person, the killjoy in every party, all from the natural act of grief...
'Thomas Bangalter suffers from his death.'
Groceries: candied peel/pistachios/lemons (x2)/mascarpone/chocolate (dark)/two white roses from the garden
Resume reading Les Thanatonautes.
Maman baked a cake today. I helped, briefly brought out of my mood by this mystery having been solved. Admittedly that last reminder for groceries baffled me even as I was writing them down, once I got to the roses I couldn't fathom what could be made with those. But the roses were mostly for decoration - far more innocuous than I thought.
First she ground the pistachios, then mixed them with breadcrumbs, sugar, baking powder, oil and eggs. This mixture she then baked to produce two delicate sponges, which she left to cool before making the filling: ricotta and mascarpone beat together with icing sugar, lemon zest, candied peel, lemon juice, chocolate and some leftover pistachios. (I licked off what was left behind in the bowl after.) It was a splendid two-tier cake, dusted with sugar and whole rose petals, light and soft-looking like spring.
But why do I detail this? You know this already. It was a favourite cake of yours whenever you came around.
I helped her shell the pistachios, spread the filling on the cake, and cleaned up afterwards. Despite knowing that this was a cake you liked - I do think this was partly why she made it, she misses you though probably not as intensely as I do - we spoke nothing of this, and because of it we were able to work in comfortable silence. I felt okay for the first time in a while.
When I finally left to go upstairs she cut a slice from the cake and gave it to me on a plate. I would have eaten it the moment I was sat down and settled, if not for nostalgia hitting me at that very moment. Why it couldn't have come earlier, I don't know. I closed the door behind me - sat down on my bed - and just looked at the cake for a long time, admiring its softness, imagining its taste. When I held my hand over it I could almost swear that it was still warm from the oven, though that was surely impossible (the filling wouldn't have held up otherwise), and then my thoughts drifted to you again. I naively wondered what angels eat or if they eat at all (childish concerns really) and felt rather sad that you weren't here to enjoy this with me.
But I wanted you to look at it, anyway. I wanted you to know that this cake was made for you, anyway.
I wanted to believe that you were watching.
So in the end I left the cake on my desk, this diary set next to it, and withdrew for a few hours' nap. I wanted you to enjoy it first, in whatever way you could. One may call it a variation on shamanistic offering, if they were so cynical; honestly speaking, though, I think such an attitude is not far off the mark. There are countries where they still offer a feast to their ancestors or loved ones long since gone, and keep a respectful silence for the needed period, before partaking in the feast themselves as a shared ritual. To think that the dead can enjoy the taste of food, or that they can resent, or that they inhibit certain places to watch over their family - such things are not myths or superstitions. They are a way of understanding the differences between the living and the dead before reconciling both worlds into a natural whole; everyone is connected, everyone dies, and this is neither something to fear nor treat with disdain.
Easier said than done, but today I wanted to believe.
I woke up feeling well rested and relatively peaceful. Short-lived, I'm sure, but it was a nice feeling.
The cake was still moist and soft when I finally dug my fork in.
I am either lacerated
and occasionally subject to gusts of life
I went back to your grave today.
I was carrying a fresh bundle of red roses with me. But when I got there I saw two sets of flowers from your family, probably no more than a few hours old themselves, already lying atop your grave. One was a full basket of lily, rose and chrysanthemum; one was a carnation wreath woven through with irises.
They looked beautiful. Pure, soft, just the right amount of melancholy. I didn't think that they were you - the realm of the florist couldn't be further away from yours, I remember your blindness to the language of flowers ever so clearly - but they were put together with the utmost care, and weren't out of place at all. I can only imagine what they would have thought and said to you as they laid those flowers down.
I wondered which one was your brother's. One seemed to be from your parents and one from him, but there was no note nor letter attached to either, so I couldn't tell. I was careful to not dislodge the flowers as I sat down in place and gazed at your headstone for a very long time.
My poor friend - did you ever imagine that this would be your fate, lying here smothered in flowers as white as the falling snow? Spring has come and yet where you lie it feels as if the past season has never gone at all. You took your leave in winter, but at the same time you have held it fast here upon this small grave, as if you would remain tethered to earth if you clung on.
I stayed there until the breeze became too chilly, then I left. Three hours exactly by the time I caught the train.
I went home with my bouquet, by the way.
I said above that the flowers already on your grave wouldn't have been your thing, but neither were mine. No, they aren't even half as good as your family's tributes - my roses are selfish. These roses are a manifestation of my feelings towards you, guilt and adoration and all it connotes, rather than anything you'd have genuinely liked for yourself. The flowers you liked were few but I actually know them; there's no excuse.
I did leave one rose for you. It's nestled between the other flowers, out of sight but occupying some significant spot. I'm coming back as soon as I can, and I'll have a properly thought-out bouquet then, I promise.
Please still like me.
Exam 9am-12pm in usual hall, 9th May.
Exam 9am-12pm in Room 12F, 10th May.
Exam 2:30pm-4:30pm in Room 34GD, 13th May.
Exam 9am-11am in Room 12F, 15th May.
Library opening hours extended, from 8am-10pm to 6am-midnight, make use of this.
Meet up with friends, 15th May.
Le Monde for Maman. (I will read after.)
Groceries: Boule/apples/avocado (x3)/aubergine/eggplants/shrimp (shells on)/milk/jam/chocolate.
Outing with Maman.
It begins with a trip to buy a new butter dish. Do we go for a standard butter dish with a lid on, or shall we be adventurous and choose a cloche à beurre? Porcelain, bone china, stoneware, glass, or stainless steel? This visit soon turns into a hour-long browsing of the cookery shop, and even though we leave without the butter dish (or even a consensus as to what the dish should be made of), we are in good spirits and decide that we don't want to go back home just yet. So we head to a nearby restaurant for lunch; omelette for me, onion soup for her. We sit outdoors. The rest of Paris drifts busily around us as we eat. For dessert I take a sip of sweet icy coffee, look at her across the table as the warm spring breeze caresses my hair, and just for a moment I can pretend that I have found some peace.
Are you having a good time, she asks.
Yes, I answer. I liked looking around - the food's good, and it's nice weather.
You look happier than you've seemed in ages, she says, and pauses. Are you still writing to him, she asks.
Yes, I reply. She gives me a long look and I realize for the first time how much she looks her age. Maman has always looked five or four years younger than she truly was. The past four months has aged her more thoroughly than two decades of raising me, and I hardly claim to have been an easy-going child.
Not that I want to stop you now, she asks, listlessly reaching for the sugar cubes, but why.
I look away. Faintly, from the inside of the restaurant, a lieder broadcast over the sound system - how sad!
But why, that is the question, though she made it sound like a statement and not an inquiry. From that I make the selfish assumption that she 'asked' more out of exhaustion than of a genuine need to know, and that I am not in any way obliged to provide an answer. For there is no utility in it. It is a long and complicated answer with a simple essence of four words, but those words carry with them a tragic gravity that I myself have not begun to puzzle out. This answer will have consequences that I am not yet prepared to face.
(The four words in question: because I loved him.)
Does it matter? is my eventual answer. We don't speak again for the remainder of our stay; I make no attempt to explain because I don't feel that she will understand. I don't think that she would be unwilling to accept the fact I could be in love with another man; that is not what I mean. What I fear she will not understand is the process by which all of this occurred, because in full honesty, there was no special or notable reason why I fell for you. The after-school walks, taking the long way around, sharing soda during lunch, the way you scolded me or praised me (sometimes within minutes of each other), the world-weary look in your eyes, seeing your date casually take your arm, all the records and the cigarette smoke and the flashing neon lights and your sacrifice and the memories of a lost love that never really existed...
It was all done for anyway.
She speaks my name and someone else has died.
Victoire. First without you in a very long time.
Made myself a potato gratin with cream and slowly ate it over the course of the day. Opened a red wine to go with it and have been downing it ever since. Dessert is maybe blueberries if I'm still conscious by then. The colours of freedom.
(It was your presence that stopped me structuring my life around such ridiculous rituals.)
I may be absent for a few days as I finish up my exams.
Please forgive me this, as well as all you can forgive; I can't ask you for much more in good faith.
This is the way I grasp my agony.
Not directly in solitude - not empirically etc., - granted, I have not been graceful in my suffering, so everyone generally knows how in pain I must be when I am out and about. But at least I have control enough to not show it overmuch most of the time, certainly not enough to merit worried questions. But it comes over me when my love for you is torn to pieces once again, just when I was thinking that there was nothing left there to tear, the most painful point at the most abstract moment...
I should not have come to this meet-up.
Today I had my final exam, so I was already mentally exhausted as it was. This was a meeting with some friends from Carnot whom I hadn't seen in a long time; they had all heard the news about you, and wished to give their condolences, though that was not the initial point of the night. I had expected some quiet words of comfort and a simple evening spent all together - Laurent was there too, he was my support for the night - and if the mood was right I'd even have liked a round of fond reminiscence. Because despite it all, grieving over you is difficult; because I do wish to get better at some point, and who better than others to help me through it? There is no shame in admitting that you can't go through this on your own. But then I began to hear this kind of talk:
"The world is poorer for his loss..."
"He had all his life ahead of him..."
"Did I ever talk about the time I had a crush on him, it was unexpected and I thought it was so wretched at the time, but something about the way he spoke... captivating..."
"Well, I don't mean to downplay your experience, but I think we were all a little in love with him. I think it'd have been difficult not to be, not after hearing his voice or seeing him write. You all remember his handwriting, right? How he was always the one who got asked to write up announcements on the board, or the time when he did the lettering for those posters in the library?"
"He was like art personified..."
"I asked him out once, he turned me down... somehow coming from him, it didn't really hurt at all..."
"He and Thomas made such a good pair together, I sometimes thought..."
"How did he go? ... Drugs, they said?"
"Yes," they were all saying nodding solemnly and eagerly - an awful contradiction. "we were all a little in love with him."
If you will pardon me for getting angry.
They thought little of you in Carnot, regarding you as more odd and stoic-faced than likeable before the two of us became friends. When you grew up to become a dreamy-looking, beautiful teenager, then they couldn't get enough of you. Then we left school and they cared very little for keeping in touch with either of us until this happened, and now they speak of abstract love as if that alone meant that their connection to you had any meaning whatsoever - while I sit here with my entire world thoroughly snuffed out. This is nothing to compete over, this is no joke - this is a life! I don't care what they think. Who the fuck do they think they are?
[Postscript: writing before bed, feeling calmer]
Laurent rescued me, thank God; from the look on my face he seemed to have noticed something that no one else did, and pulled me aside to ask what was wrong. My non-reply spoke volumes to him, apparently, because immediately afterwards he made an excuse to get us both out of the building. We did not speak again, nor did we look at each other, until he had settled us down in a café two blocks away. He ordered us an espresso each that neither of us drank, and only when the drink arrived did he begin to talk, albeit with a slow, almost guilty hesitation. But for ten minutes or so I could only register the world around me as a distant roar, my pulse pounding in my head, and I regretfully don't remember much of what Laurent said or what the surroundings were like. I can guess, however, and I picked up enough to briefly retell what he said:
I had feelings for you, Laurent knew that I had feelings for you, but he hadn't known just how intense those feelings were.
He too was incensed by the talk that was going on, but he'd never expected me to be so furious.
He was even more worried about me than ever, and he wanted to help.
He stopped there to await my response. I did not give one. I was too busy staring blankly in his direction.
"Thomas, I think you should see someone-"
"Don't," I said before he could finish. "I'm fine," I said, knowing it to be a lie. He shook his head, for I had misunderstood him.
"I think you should see someone new," was what he finally said, and we both knew as soon as he had said it what he meant. "so let's set you up on a date, Thomas. This isn't making you commit to anything, and I know you're too decent to ever hurt or use someone else, regardless of how lonely you might be feeling. You're not the kind of person to lead on somebody for weeks on end. But I can't bear to see you so sad. A few dates here and there might help, you know, just being out and talking. Getting used to knowing new people."
I regret to admit that my first impulse to hearing this was to walk out, or to bury my head in my hands, or to throw the espresso (by then cold) in Laurent's face. It was a singular, violent, directionless impulse that faded away after one white-hot second. Then I had to start thinking, and had to concur that while the time hadn't been right, nothing Laurent had said was bad advice. There probably wasn't any kind of right time that he could have said this in, anyway. I'm here and you're not. Practically speaking there is nothing I can do about that fact, but I am able to make other choices. I thought about the distant future ahead of me and saw that while I mourn you intensely, I could not see myself doing this same exact thing five years on, ten years, twenty. I am appalled by that idea. I think you would be appalled by that idea, you would not have wanted me to suffer for so long.
I am doing this to heal. And tonight, Laurent was sitting in front of me, offering me another method of going about it.
What harm could come of it other than it not working?
"Okay," I said. "what the hell. I'll do it."
He said he'd try to set a date two weeks from now. Until then I wait.
Now that I have finished my exams I have more time ahead of me to read. I've just closed off the final page of Les Thanatonautes; beautiful story, but too sad for me in hindsight. What wouldn't I give to journey beyond death myself, and see what lies there! Perhaps I might even encounter...
... None of that thought, now. It is as Laurent implied. I must try to be realistic.
I must go and visit the bookshop at some point. Maybe a touch of classic wisdom, Maupassant perhaps, or Montaigne. But hopefully nothing that will take up all summer to read, like Hugo for instance.
Hugo! Who could stand to read him?
[On the radio, Trois Gymnopédies.]
Now everywhere, in the streets and in the café, I see all individuals under the same umbrella of irrevocably having-to-die, that being the reason we called ourselves the Mortals - at least, according to Arendt. And yet at the same time they can be grouped underneath another state, that of not knowing that this is so.
Aside from that contemplation - sometimes the urge to make music. I hope that is not a betrayal.
I have talked of betrayal immediately above this entry; despite this, it is hard not to resent you sometimes.
I have been feeling this way for a while, but I blame our fellow lycéens for lighting the fire.
With you I almost wish to revert to vous; that is a soft word, exhaled like a breeze or the faint buzz of a diligent honeybee. It is distant, it is gentle; it is impersonal, skimming the surface of someone's being purely as a matter of politeness. But tu, that is a hard-sounding term, tumbling off the tongue like the shot of a pistol, cutting right through to the quick. Whereas vous is a mere inquisitive whisper of a breath, tu is immediate, a figurative tap on the shoulder - that one denti-alveolar syllable demands a response. It is unfair to me that to refer to you truly - to refer to the relationship that we had - necessitates that I talk to you as if you were still here and capable of responding.
What I feel from that is not sorrow but rather a faint, shameful annoyance. Hence the resentment.
But to consciously use vous is to make you a stranger, instead of letting you settle into a place of acceptance - unthinkable!
Last night I had a dream that I was in a swimming pool. Doing my thing. Swimming. But the only thing was that the pool wasn't filled with water, or any other liquid, but it wasn't empty either. It was filled with syringes. Filled and used, tips burnt and blackened, powder stuck to it, fresh out of the pack, all kinds. Heroin needles. Not sure why anyone would go swimming in a pool filled with syringes in the first place, nor where all of those syringes came from, but there I was. No logic needed in a dream and all. My dream began with me falling, down, down, down through the darkness before the glinting needles broke my fall and pulled me into their embrace. Landing face first, I shield my face. Every stroke, every movement, intensified - pain and pleasure mingling together into a combination so unreal that I think I could chase that feeling forever and never reach it. Hundreds and thousands of sharp needlepoints stabbing through my skin at awkward angles, tearing at my skin, my flesh ripping in agony but the venom following it so beautifully numbing, I reach out towards the sky and my arm has dozens of syringes stuck in it, and when I raise my head the needles mark out a dotted line against my throat as if to say CUT HERE, and something surges in my jugular and I'm suddenly higher than I've ever been before, floating in a pool of syringes that I can't even feel, and the heavens open up and more needles shower down in me at the same time as the pool lurches and starts growing bigger and bigger. Syringes raining down from all sides and corners, straight down, impaling me directly from the top, so much that I would have been crucified a hundred times over before even the rainfall begins to dull from the sheer weight of all that metal and powder and rust pressing down upon me while the pool just gets bigger and bigger and never stops growing i am head down under completely fucking losing it, it's getting harder and harder to breathe and what little euphoria that got me going at the start is gone now replaced with complete fear and helplessness and it's only then that I realize that I'm going to die, and the realization causes me pain harsher than I have ever felt, even though by now it is not an unfamiliar guest in the abode of my soul but that's besides the point, acceptance never washes over me even as my death does and after I die no one cares nor misses me in the slightest I just disappear into the nothingness and fade to nothing and then I woke up.
Ever since that night I promised to never again touch another drug. It was a resolve made too late to save you, but it was something (at least I felt it to be so) and I hadn't felt much of a withdrawal the past few months. No urge to sneak out and score something, no urge to swallow a pill, nothing. The nightmare yesterday, therefore, came out of basically nowhere. Disturbing. Even now I feel the phantom prickle of the syringes upon my skin and can't help but shudder.
But it was good that I had the dream, in the end. Was offered a joint tonight, just outside a darkened bistro. The memories came flooding back in and I declined, hurriedly making my way back home. So what if they might have laughed? - I refuse to perform against your memory.
Dialogue with Papa:
T: Yes, Papa.
D: Have you practiced the piano recently? Or even played it for fun?
D: (Pause) You have to move on, Thomas.
T: I know. I will. One day.
D: I'm not saying this because I just want you to take up the piano again, or because I think you need to be working. This isn't really about the piano at all. I'm saying this because I can't bear to see you so unhappy.
T: I need time. It's been four months. That's far less than the time I spent knowing him, and it wasn't as if he was just a friend.
D: There will be many more people in your life who will be more than just a friend. In time you will have to deal with the loss of them, too, or they will lose you before that. Eventually people go away, whether to follow their own path or due to factors beyond anyone's control. There is nothing you can do about that fact, Thomas. This is not something that you must let consume you.
D: Everyone is precious to everyone else. No one should remain so hurt like this for so long.
D: You can't let it rule you forever.
(But empathy isn't coal, Papa, we're hardly going to run out...)
Laurent's call: would you prefer to meet a boy or girl?
I said the former. He sounded quietly relieved.
Date on the 29th.
Recipe for a basic mayonnaise:
Stir egg yolks with a wooden spoon or whisk to achieve a creamy consistency.
Into this, slowly pour 225g of oil, whisking vigorously all the while to disperse the oil.
Once the emulsion has been made, add 20ml of vinegar, salt, and preferred spices.
The key to good mayonnaise is temperature; the egg yolks and oil must be mixed at the same temperature.
15C is ideal.
(If the emulsion is ruined, put in a teaspoonful of mustard and slowly whisk the oil-yolk mixture.
This cannot be hurried. Go slowly.
If you aren't just as (if not more) careful than the first time around, this will not work.)
I hate mayonnaise. I only learnt to make it because you liked it with your frites. The things I did for you...
... and the things you did for me.
(Entries above spurred on by the visuals of a patron eating moules-frites next to me, in the corner café, approx. 1pm.)
Sad day. Was overcome with a sense of deep malaise from the very moment I awoke; no dreams, bad or otherwise, but rather a dormant feeling that has forced out its release. To try to assuage the feeling I attempted to clean my room, for in the past months I have been rather negligent, only to find an artifact from years ago: the first ever mixtape you made for me. You made me others, too, but I thought I had the whole collection tucked away with my other tapes, not wrapped in tissue paper and tucked away in the bottom drawer amidst old sweaters and socks. And that wasn't the end of it. The moment I recognized the tape, I was seized with the absurd but absolute certainty that you had left me a message in that mixtape. It was a ridiculous notion, because I'd listened to it when you first gave it to me, and I remembered nothing of the kind. If you could record an intended message and give it to someone that easily, what would the point of a mixtape be? The very nature of a mixtape is to create something private and customized for the recipient. If whatever message you were trying to convey can't be told through the tracklist, or the content of the songs themselves, it's not a very good mixtape. But I simply couldn't shake off that conviction today, and desperate to hold onto any bit of you, especially your fading voice, I put the tape in and listened all the way through. I didn't dare skip anything, obsessed the idea that your voice might be hidden somewhere in the middle of the tape, if not the end or the beginning. Halfway in my tears started falling and they still haven't stopped, though why I was crying, I wouldn't be able to explain coherently. They were not tears of sadness; they conveyed more a delayed humiliation. They were directed not wholly towards you, nor the loss of you, but to myself for not being able to get a grip - so much that I was resorting to grasping at years-old memories better lost to time, when the two of us were only just beginning to mean something to each other.
I scoured the tracklist for hidden messages, acrostics, acronyms, anything at all. No success.
Your mixtape was made purely to cater to my favourites, with no regard to your feelings nor intentions.
And how bitterly I resent you now, nearly a decade too late, for not being more selfish with me.
Nineteen years old / Engineering student / wearing a red plaid shirt / blond hair / 2pm at the Le Sancerre.
It almost feels sordid to talk about a date I had with someone else in this diary.
But out of some strange feeling, of what could be anything from a desire to be reassured to mild spite, I'll talk about just a little.
He looked nothing like you. I was glad for it.
Glasses / nice wrists / well-manicured nails / short tousled hair.
He was well-spoken but shy.
The cheesecake I had was excellent; he only finished half of his piece.
(Something about not liking sweet things. I was not glad about this.)
The weather was nice. Lots of people milling around.
He had no interest in music besides classical, opera, and maybe a little Baroque. Slightly problematic.
We both enjoy Bernard Werber and Jules Verne, so that was a plus.
We were polite to each other, and the date was pleasant, speaking purely in terms of interaction. I didn't think there was more than that, though. As we were coming out of the café he asked if I wanted to meet again.
Now on most dates I've been I could feel a connection of some kind, even if purely in innocent terms, like liking the same books or having been to the same concert the previous year without knowing it. This was not one of those times. We didn't share all that many interests, and maybe it was just my mood, but even those harmless connections based on the things we did have in common refused to form in my mind. So really, I wasn't very convinced... but nevertheless I agreed to another meeting, around two weeks from now, hoping that something more would come of it.
After these arrangements were made, I walked him back to his dorm. On the way back home I bought a small madeleine.
Sometimes after I walked you back after a sleepover I would return to my room and the bed would still be warm from us.
Raining. Went back to the piano for the first time in months (much to the relief of Papa).
Beethoven, Sonata No. 32 in C-Minor; I took double the time needed but managed to play it through.
The most important composition for the piano ever written, and besides, it was better than Moonlight.
Still raining. I am setting the date for my visit. I'd have liked it to be today, but if not...
I think it will be the ninth of June. I've called up the florist, here's hoping all goes smoothly.
On a different note - Phantom of the Paradise was on TV today. Managed to watch all of it without crying, or even all that much melancholy for that matter. I think it would even be appropriate to say that you came only as an afterthought and not a dominant force for once. (A good film is a good film is a good film, Stein would have said, despite anything else.) When I came upstairs, the nostalgia of watching it with you rose up and enveloped my thoughts at last - but I felt it only as a soft caress, not a stifling grip. This is the embodiment of what I have previously described as you offering me light. During those times I do not feel guilt that I am forgetting you, because I know that to be untrue, but at the same time I am capable of being at peace with your memory. Those times are rare, but I believe that having those experiences outweigh the pain is the ultimate goal of healing.
... It would be nice to feel like this all the time.
Attempted a little Satie today, encouraged by hearing him on the radio a couple of weeks ago. Papa stayed to hear the third Gnossienne as I was playing it through. He said nothing but sat there with his eyes closed for a long time even after the last note had faded. A rare compliment.
(Not that I am trying to flatter myself.)
It's a tactless thing to want, so I've never talked much about this, nor have I dared to think much of it. But in truth - a part of my soul hopes that dealing with your loss will eventually lend it an air of tragic maturity, that je ne sais quoi that draws tears and soft sighs from an audience listening to a performer who has been enlightened in such a manner. Might I hope for it as a part of my growth, if all I can do to handle your absence is to learn something from it, whether I want to or not?
(Never mind. This is just as tactless written down as it is in thought. Please forgive me.)
Jeder, der fällt, hat flügel.
- From Bachmann.
(I'm writing this by your grave.)
I'm sorry it took so long for me to come back. Just over a month. It took me that long to sort everything out and fulfil my promise; exams needed finishing, final assignments handed in, thinking about jobs, and all of those quite unimportant things had to be done. Then the flowers I promised needed to be bought and arranged - but here I am now. It's quiet here, lovely really, away from the heat and crowd of daytime. I've been sitting here for maybe three, four hours now.
I hope you like the flowers: sunflowers woven through with baby's breath, primroses, and a heart of red rose. You liked sunflowers, but I don't think you cared much for the mythology; here's hoping that you don't mind the fact that I do. My bouquet is the only one lying by your headstone now - the other flowers were cleared away - that, and a letter I wrote you a month ago.
It's in English. Call it a measure of secrecy. I didn't know who else would read it.
Maybe that only makes it more likely someone will, I don't know.
Before you, cemeteries were liminal zones for me, separate and to be avoided for as long as possible. I never feared them, but there wasn't an appeal in them, either. But you can get used to anything, and really, the peace offered by a cemetery is second to nothing that the rest of my life can offer. I like it here. They chose a nice spot for you - maybe it's a good thing that I can make this judgement now, it surely says something about how my pain has dulled. I might have resented that you were not closer to me a few months ago, but then I think no cemetery in inner Paris would have lived up to your beauty. Too expensive or too crowded. Here you lie undisturbed, but not isolated, and with plenty of space. The sun shines on your headstone, polished black marble with gold lettering - you might have thought it grim, we won't ever know, you left no will because you were too young and you had no time - and when I lean against it, it's comforting. Solid.
Here the universe is quiet. The breeze rustles the flowers and your headstone is warm and soothing against my back.
A tendril of sunlight creeps down the side of my face - a ghost of your hair, brushing my cheek during the hot months.
I do not move as the world moves around me and I can dream I am leaning against you, just one more time.
The night is summered. We're warm.
And there's nothing wrong or fake.
je voudrais que mon amour meure
qu'il pleure sur le cimetière
et les ruelles où je vais
pleurant celle qui crut m'aimer
'He suffers from the death of his acquaintance.'
Failed date. He didn't turn up.
But a mixed blessing in the end, because I spent a very nice few hours alone in the Jardin du Luxembourg, discreetly feeding the pigeons. So in a way - not a failure at all?
The picture I found of you in March.
Back then, angry and frustrated with myself, I exiled that photo back between the pages of my textbook; I didn't even have the grace to return you to where you had been for a whole year. Well, no more. I have rescued the photo and have given you a proper home. You now reside in my room, framed elegantly behind glass and black mahogany.
This was back in May. I'm sorry I am so disorganized with my recollections and my time.
Don't think that I don't hurt looking at you, still. It was just the right thing to do, and maybe one day I'll be able to accept the presence of this picture as naught but a sweet, long-gone memento. But right now, all I'm doing is dusting the frame every now and then, and saying hello and goodbye whenever I come in or leave. Sometimes I feel funny about getting naked in front of you when I take my clothes off to bathe, so during those times I gently turn the photo away from me and hope to God that you aren't offended by what glimpses you might have caught.
Siesta. Dream: exactly your smile, all the midsummer sky contained in your eyes.
Dream: complete; successful; memory.
Even now, five months later, I can still see the skidmarks on that stretch of the road.
There was a man I loved, a long time ago. I can no longer remember his name.
For the longest time, the thought of us as men was embarrassingly quaint to me; we got to know each other when we were still boys in every sense of the word, and when we could see us being nothing else but that for a long time afterwards. He'd been twelve years old, and I a year younger, when we met. We cared about having fun, innocently enjoying each other's presence, and sneaking into cinemas to watch outdated films after school. I used to think he was odd, friendly but odd, and the feeling was wholly mutual, I am sure. It wasn't until a school trip to Somme (a treat for those who finished the year with excellent grades) - when on the bus, his sleeping head came to a gentle rest upon my shoulder - that I realized that actually, one day I was going to kiss him, and ask him if I might love him forevermore.
I could never be sure whether that feeling was ever mutual on his part.
But much to my despair, it had to be him, or it would be no one.
Even when I grew up and was forced to realize that such wants cannot always be fulfilled, nor should one expect them to be, my longing for him remained. I have often wondered whether it'd have changed anything if we had met as men first, if we had never known of each other's existence before a chance meeting in a club, or a bar, or in the library - whether we'd have shared awkward lunch dates where we tried to get to know each other over cakes and coffee, if we'd have made careful adjustments to our schedules to make time for each other's preferred activities, whether we would have come to a slow, gradual understanding of each other's quirks and foibles before we accepted them. As boys we treated each other so matter-of-factly, without having the capacity to understand why we had to be that way, and I think this has been a regretful consequence of what were still the happiest years of my life. I had loved and wanted him more than anything, but I never asked him that one important question - whether he could feel the same for me - even when I ought to have done.
Sometimes I look up from the breakfast table and imagine him sitting across me, and something inside me curls up and whimpers at the memory of his smiling, sleepy gaze - but that doesn't mean a thing.
That man is gone now. He has irrevocably vanished from my world, and only when I am in quite another realm altogether (sleep) do I have any chance of seeing him. Last night I was lucky enough to encounter him at his best, and for a long time we lay together, sharing each other's warmth. We undressed and held each other, though that was all. (I did not ask for much else.) Most of the time there is nothing particularly interesting happening in those dreams, but they are nevertheless lovely and I wouldn't trade them for all the other sweet dreams in the world. And last night, when I could feel my soul beginning to stir, I couldn't bear to tell the man whom I loved that he was merely a figment of my imagination so I actually bent my head and kissed him - and as the world lost its colour, I slowly woke up.
But aside from those occasional dreams, I barely ever think of the man who I'd wanted to share my life with.
(This might be a lie, but if it is, it's not one worth bothering about.)
Miserere mei, Deus.
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum, dele iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea, et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco, et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Evening at the Saint-Sulpice, the strands of the Miserere haunt me so. This is the place closest to that feeling.
Every December the choir sings it here, I hope I will be able to come here to listen to it.
The Madonna gazes down at me from where I am sitting, her stony face blurred in the dim light - beautiful sculpture, with a hint of the Rococo perhaps - you'd have been known better about those things. For now I will merely describe her as beautiful (a poor substitute for the emotion).
Some days ago I mentioned how you could still see the marks left behind by the accident. Before that day I'd staunchly avoided going near there, but we'd had to drive past and I found myself staring at the road until the lights changed, we turned a corner and were gone.
Due to some morbid chain of thought I went back there again today, this time on foot. Same uneasiness and nauseous terror as before, but this time, I was kind of seeking it. Maybe I believed that it'd be cathartic, I don't know, even if it ended up with me turning around and vomiting liberally on the pavement. (This did not happen.) The rubber skidmarks are burnt into the asphalt still - as I said - and during the half-hour I was in the area I looked around for stains of blood or a discarded shoe, despite knowing how ridiculous it would be for those to have stayed around.
There was nothing of that sort left.
I would have liked to leave flowers or carve a few words of remembrance, but I thought it best not to.
No sign of recognition from nearby shopkeepers or passers-by either, either of me or the scene of the accident.
How fast a tragedy is forgotten, how one man's tragedy becomes a matter of no consequence to another. We are so unempathetic a species that I wonder how we ever manage to categorize tragedies at all, when they occur.
The almost: used widely to connote 'never quite', 'just shy of', 'inferior to', 'nearly', etc.
A disappointment by definition. Dreams are the best example of the almost - I often dream about you but the you I see in them are never quite you. Sometimes I will be blissfully lost in a dream until I notice something off about the situation - it is always something minor, things like the clothes you wear, something playful or casually misplaced, an off-handed remark of yours - that you in reality never would have done, said, or embodied. Even when we are close in body, I never quite see your features (but do we see in dreams, or do we just know?).
I dream about you. I do not dream you.
The photograph of you that I rescued is another case. I shan't go into detail about it again, though I do acknowledge that the first time I described it, I was unfair to you. You were aware of yourself being photographed and adjusted your expression and posture accordingly; no matter how casual you were, what I see in there is not an authentic image. (I don't think it would have been much better had you not been aware that your picture was being taken, either. A single printed photo is never enough to capture the duration and breadth of human action. A photo of you walking, for instance, can only ever be a photo of you pausing, or readying yourself for another step, or putting your foot down, instead of you walking.)
I despair over this preserved, beloved face of yours nevertheless. This is far from the only photo of you that exists - but knowing that those shadows are all there are, that is agonizing. You never liked being photographed all that much, anyway, and my heart breaks whenever I remind myself that every time you willingly placed yourself in front of the lens, it was with great courage and a genuine want. You did not suppose yourself; in those rare times you did not struggle with your image as I do with mine.
Exam results came in the post: passed everything, though not with exceedingly brilliant grades (not my goal anyway); approved to continue on to the next year. But before then, the holidays.
Papa woke me with the envelope around half past nine in the morning. Once we'd checked the results, and had celebrated quietly, I fell back into a brief nap until lunchtime; dreamt of you, a younger you, sitting at that well-worn school desk that was yours for over two years. The fountain pen poised in your hand, your notes aesthetically attractive, a lock of long dark hair pinned neatly behind the shell of your ear.
You looked up at me. Our eyes met. You pressed into my palm a note, and smiled. But before I could read it, I woke up.
Lost in the state of sleepy, sweet, intensely sad longing.
[On the radio, Erika Köth's interpretation of Mozart, Das Veilchen (lines 7-10):
'Ach, denkt das Veilchen, wär' ich nur die schönste Blume der Natur... ach, nur ein kleines Weilchen!']