Tag Archives: love

2 July 2009: die happy

Another horrible dream several nights ago of perpetual pursuit and eventual death–waiting for the poison to work to its purpose like Act V of Hamlet, and desperately wishing there were something to say to K., something to express love that would endure past death. More and more I consider the moment of death and am left fearful and shocked in a way I never have been.

Last night I lay on my back and looked at the sky, a thing I have not done in so long–yet how much of my adolescence was spent on my back in the grass? Ten o’clock in Oxfordshire, the perfect cool of summer evenings, wisps of clouds in a sky streaked purple, intermittent early evening stars. How shocked I was as a child to learn that that star was not a star at all but Venus, an entire planet masquerading as a point of light that appears after dinner, something that now existed not only in the abstract but became tangible even from our backyard in Pennsylvania. And how impressed I was that my father–my father–knew this. To be on first-name terms with a planet!

I thought last night, lying there beside him, whom I love, aware of my position on the earth as so removed–ocean-removed–from the place in which I entered it, that I do not understand the expression “I could die now” or “I could die happy” as an appropriate measure of contentment. Because what I actually mean is, I am so happy that I do not ever want to die, that I want to extend infinitely my possibility of attaining this feeling again, this treatment to peace, this invitation to live.

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another reason why i love you

Alice, my best friend of yore, sent me this.

“I thought you’d either find it hilarious…or be really offended.”


“The lady at the post office asked if I was sending it to my mom. She thought she was in on the joke.”

Not many people are in on the joke.

Thanks, Alice.

[This is the girl who, when I told her they were gonna cut my tit off, suggested she could make one for me out of a chicken cutlet.]

I’m going to take it to work…and confuse people. The mug, of course, not the cutlet-tit.

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23 April 2009: “How do you justify your existence?”

Oxford’s full of chattering Americans. It was strange, uncomfortable, to step off the train and walk past this, my most persistent milieu, the one place in my life (the world) I’ve not quite managed to leave.

Incredulous at the thought of myself, five years ago–five years–arriving here jet-lagged and terrified. I am not surprised to have encountered the love of my life here, because I almost expected it, or even sort of brazenly intended it. What has surprised me, in the breakdown of my twenties, is that everything did not proceed swimmingly happily ever after. To have ever considered the possibility that I would still be here these years later, walking the streets happy with who I am and yet beset with pangs of jealously at all the effortless youth and brilliance and beauty in everybody else. How free, how clear and uncomplicated everything actually was, and how it seemed so insurmountable, lent itself so freely to despair–

The depression of late’s an after-effect of chemotherapy, mostly–but shocking, terrible days weeping in bed, and wanting, truly then, to die, and what’s worse perhaps–believing I will.

This terror of death is always lurking with me now, set glumly over my shoulder, and must be managed, mediated. Reading Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Dialogue on Love scares me more than uplifts me, as I’d expected. Because she is dead. Because this depression of hers occurs after the treatment is over. Because I do identify with her experience–because I identify with her, and she is dead. At a ‘young’ age, which is twice my age.

It is strange to think of thirty as only a ‘possibility.’ Even Plath had thirty. But then, there is no evidence that any more life would bring any more meaning. Still, hope is the thing with feathers, and all.

Every night I touch the lump in my breast and reflect on the absurdity that something so small should be an obstacle so seemingly insurmountable for the breadth and bigness of my body.

Still, apart from the five terrible days that inevitably follow the treatment, there is such a lightness sometimes (tempered of course by the small Death on my shoulder) as to make it a blessing. I feel none of that old omnipresent panic to (as that strange Finnish man who approached us in the pub put it) “justify my existence.” Cancer’s the trump card, the all-purpose excuse and/or explanation. I feel no more responsibility (as I should) to assess and regulate my life. I’ve suddenly stumbled upon a supreme and unprecedented selfishness that leads, for now, to happiness. Either this life is godless and purposeless and meaningless and I have cancer by the misfortune of my genetic makeup, and therefore have no ontological pressure to live up to the standard set by the divine image of my existence–or else this life is divinely dictated and I have cancer as a blessing toward some self-discovery or revelation. Either way, every problem in my life pre-March-12-2009 pales.

Composed a list last night of twenty pressing novels to get through by the end of June (though it smacks distastefully of the ominous placard in Borders: ‘100 Books to read BEFORE YOU DIE’), and it’s all I want to do–hide in corners of bookshops and libraries and make up for all of this reading I should have been doing all along, feeding my recent deficiency of Joyce and Hemingway and Melville etc.

Yesterday I was startlingly happy for its entirety. So much laughter, so at ease and in love with K.–I must remember this–[& a note inserted July 4 2009 reads, “I do not remember this]. Yet Sedgwick’s book make me worry–will I?

Fifty. I would settle so happily for fifty.

People walk down the street with children and babies and my heart breaks. I have bought so many books for my children; these non-existent beings have amassed a library. They are so completely real to me, realer than the masses of automatons on trains and pavements, Unreal City–

I believe I am beautiful and do not lament beyond reason the loss of my hair. Dead cells already. Meaningless. Absurd: healthy apart from cancer…I delight in almost Whitmanesque splendour at the strength and swiftness of my body.

A loss of sexuality despite this. After our prolonged intimacy, condoms feel so clinical–as if I am contaminated, I said; it’s like being kissed through a surgical mask.

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“I’ve got to tell you
how I love you always
I think of it on grey
mornings with death

in my mouth the tea
is never hot enough
then and the cigarette
dry the maroon robe

chills me I need you
and look out the window
at the noiseless snow…”

-Frank O’Hara, “Morning”

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