On Clarice

There was a flood of emotions this evening. I hadn’t expected it.

It took the form of the last page of a book, that detonated right outside the levee of the nice dam I had built around my heart. My sadness and confusion and compounded interest of despair washed over me blood red, and I was, for a moment, lost in the sensation of orgiastic completion that accompanies finishing a long book.

I finished Clarice Lispector’s Collected Stories; a book on which I attach a series of specific, sad memories, but also a great deal of love. I aspire to the paradoxical humanity, of which Clarice Lispector was a master.

Her word choices make me sigh, and feel exasperated, and slip into me like some kind of Dali painting.

But all I can think about right now was the night I bought the book, almost 2 years ago.

I was at the Harvard Coop, and I was doing my usual dance-insanity-be-awesome schtick when I finally settled on the book with the woman’s eyes in purple about which  knew literally nothing. I had seen the book in various nowhere’s around the store, and finally, on this night of nights, managed to get around to buying it. It was an act of pure chance, as these things are.

I was still very much in a Borgesian phase, having taken a keen interest in his ability to reduce infinity into a 4 page short story, and subsequently blow my mind.

Then I waited in line, staring at the cavernous bookstore surrounding me. I didn’t really notice her until she made herself visible to me.

She shall remain truly nameless, because she’s only a memory to me now, anyway. I shall call her Clarice, though, because it suits her in all the ways I remember her.

She was tall, attractive, and hid herself well. I got to the counter and we exchanged the usual pleasantries. I interjected “I’m excited for this book”.

She took a look at it and my heart caught fire.

She grabbed the book as a lover, held it to her chest, sighed deeply and exclaimed a pleasurable moment so convincingly, I couldn’t help but to develop an interest in her.

I asked her about the book, and she explained – with the excitement of true interest – about Lispector, stirring my excitement. She mentioned that she was Portuguese, and I asked if she was as good as Borges.

Without missing a beat she sad “Better than Borges”.

I was incredulous, impressed, and smitten with an instant crush. Then she pointed to the back of the book “Better than Borges – Elizabeth Bishop” and I looked at this girl again. It’s amazing how such a spark of could ignite such powerful feelings.

I became acquainted with her, and I left. Thinking about Clarice, on a wave of giddy joy at having met someone who was familiar with Experimental literature, who not only knew good writing, but reveled in it with all the ferocious presence of now that you would expect of an empty calorie rom-com character.

Unfortunately, nothing ever came of it, and though we kept up for a while afterward, she disappeared into the Aether. I have reached out since, vainly, but I’ve never heard back.

Reading Clarice Lispector awakens all the feelings that this girl did. Quixotic glee, unreal longing, and a sense of my life being a mirror in the feverish surrealism of daily life. The image of that meeting is seared in my mind; and it makes horribly sad.

It’s probably why it took this long to read. I didn’t want to lose that connection to someone so compelling, who interested me so much.

And now, like Lispector towards the end, there is this sense of empty automation. The what next is the what next is the what next; and the what next is nothing. The flowers in the vase have withered, and all i’m left with are the ghosts of phantom-longing. A sorrow that I forgot I was able to countenance.

I’m so inelegant tonight it makes me feel like a young child, blushing at the remembrance of beauty. It makes me feel chubby, and not quite sure on my feet. It makes me feel that loneliness that happens when the silence that’s always around gets turned up to deafening volume and you’re suddenly aware that you’re so, so small in it.

It’s the sound of crystal falling, or some mild epiphany.

And the blood red crimson fell over me awash, and I let myself carry away on the wave of via crucis. There was something honest about it.

Clarice Lispector broke my heart, in the good way, and I feel so empty tonight.

But it feels so good to know my heart throbs with life, and my tears of salt are honest.

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