Nobody has ever been so invested in me making good on whatever raw talent I once possessed — not even my parents, for their love was always un- conditional. My dear, your reply is more than I deserve. It made me light- headed, poised somewhere between apprehension and happiness.
Lately, I have begun excavating my memories of Kitty, a process that has been more than cathartic: it has been purgative, purifying. It has taken me a long time to look directly at all the images of her lodged in the undulations of my brain—for years I was stuck on a single, painful frame of her standing at the rim of Vesuvius, a fumarole within its core gently steaming behind her.
That was the ending. In writing about her I am finally able to think instead of our beginning. All I need now is a receptive reader. Perhaps you might like to do something similar for me and dig around in your own past, get rid of whatever it is that blocks you. Forgive me for saying it, but time is running out for you too. I have waited patiently until now for you to fulfill your early artistic promise. Under the right conditions, I believe it is still within your power to alchemize that potential into actual art.
The rewards will be worth it; you know they always are with me. I am, if nothing else, an expert listener, something else we have in common.
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My last voluntary contact with you, seventeen years ago—you could not have forgotten —was a letter saying I never wanted to hear from you again. A request you chose to ignore. I could not afford to vanish entirely, and risk losing those bonus cheques with your spidery signature that arrived every two years like clockwork.
So there was never a clean break, you always knew where to find me. Once the cheques stopped arriving, exactly ten years after my graduation, the birthday cards continued, asking if I was flourishing.http://kendrabrekke.com/track-application-for-lg.php
Novella | Fugitive & the Vagabond
I imagine you still keep a paper diary, ordered from the alumni association of our alma mater, with a dark maroon cover and the crest discreetly embossed on the top right corner. They were useful as beacons of what kind of boy to avoid. On your hand the sight of the ring filled me with pity. Those boys were parading their power in the present, but you were still clinging to old symbols, old associations, to tell you who you were. Mutual confession, the inside view.
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How wonderful to get you in stereo again, Vita. Are you well? Are your parents well? Are you still living in Mudgee, on the olive farm? I write this from a very humid Boston. I have hardly left my air-conditioned townhouse this summer. Usually I escape to the house in Vermont, but the various commitments of dying— of what it does not matter—have kept me sweating it out here instead. The only respite from the heat outside comes late in the evening. If my energy permits I go walking on the Common, past the illuminated softball fields, all the way up to the spray pool at Frog Pond.
Yesterday evening I felt so revived by my walk that I decided to treat myself to a late restaurant dinner. The wait staff were extra attentive. The sommelier spent time taking me through the cellar offerings. It made me think of our very first dinner together. Do you remember? Montaigne, you told me, was the father of cultural relativism and recommended we suspend judgment of those cannibals.
You paraphrased him: while we quite rightly judge their faults we are blind to our own. The sommelier arrived at our table, and poured a neat spiral of wine for you to taste. I must have bored you to tears, going on about the two types of Botrytis cinerea infection in the grapes of the Bordeaux region. Gray rot, which ruins the grapes, and noble rot, which partially raisins the grapes and gives the dessert wine its concentrated flavor. Partially raisined is an apt description of my own appearance these days. I would like to think that, as with all humans who have not been blessed with good looks, my own rot is noble rather than gray.
I have had less to lose to old age. When I was given a place at our alma mater and a financial aid package, my parents were gobsmacked. An American teacher at my high school in Sydney had suggested I apply. I accepted the happy news blithely. Things went right for me all the time in those days.
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Many had three generations of family there to witness the rapture. I turned up alone, with one suitcase, so unprepared for college life that I had to borrow sheets on my first night in the dormitory. My roommates were friendly, and curious at my being almost a year older than them. It was interesting to test what new mantle I could draw around myself in that enlivening novel context, to see what I could get away with.
It was the start of my obsession with my African roots, a phase that I believed would last forever. At first cautiously, then with growing confidence, I spoke about my passion for South Africa to anybody who would listen, and found that my new American friends generally believed anything I said about it, though I had not lived there myself for years. They were the brightest of the bright but not always well travelled, and some of them were a little shaky on the geography and cultures of the Southern Hemisphere.
I was sometimes complimented on my English. I was in no rush. I signed up for an introductory class on portrait photography, an abstract painting class, and a life-writing seminar; I would have a whole new roster of classes to choose from in the spring term, and every term thereafter.
Gradually, over the course of that fall semester, I was disabused of any notions of being a photographer or a painter or a life-writer. Each student in the photography class was loaned a stills camera and taught to develop black-and-white prints. I found I disliked taking portraits of people.
It felt archival, like pinning something dead behind glass. I hated the darkroom, lit with a single red bulb like a brothel, and the chemicals, which burned the insides of my nostrils. Every time liquid splashed from the developing trays onto my skin, I imagined my flesh was sizzling.
In the painting class, I had no aptitude for making marks on paper. To another kind of person, that might feel like freedom. To me, it felt too unpredictable to pursue. Or more accurately, I could not trust that the things I had to say should ever be said, or that anybody would care either way.
When I talked about South Africa to friends, it was with very broad brushstrokes: apartheid, Mandela, elections, democracy, flags, rainbows. But my childhood there was like a speech bubble floating above my consciousness. An empty bubble, containing exactly nothing.
For reasons I was not yet prepared to confront, whenever I sat down to write about my personal experience of that country I literally could not produce a single word. I almost failed the class. So in the spring, I was forced to expand my focus. Fieldwork, she said, was scientifically-endorsed hanging-out, for an extended period of time, in a place you found strange.
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