I have returned after being in another country — and I don’t just mean Germany. My heart’s been in a strange land.
When you have had the kind of week I’ve had — was there ever a “kind” of week as this? — attempting to write it all down in any coherent way feels impossible. How can all the thoughts, emotions, panics, moments of hope, and moments of despair that occurred during my brief (but long), trans-Atlantic (trans-planetary?) trip be corralled into letters and sentences?
James Joyce wrote the strange and beautiful and at often inscrutable Ulysses out of a desire to capture in language what our thought process actually looks like. His assertion was that we don’t think in complete, organized, crafted sentences and paragraphs; it’s thought soup up there. Therefore, in Ulysses, you get sentences that look really strange but also closer, somehow, to how words and thoughts ceaselessly roll and zip and rumble around in our heads. You get sentences like:
“Our souls, shame-wounded by our sins, cling to us yet more, a woman to her lover clinging, the more the more.”
“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”
and this, oh, this:
“Love loves to love love.”
Truth: I have a copy of Ulysses I’ve never read. But it has officially come down off the shelf because I feel sad and empty about love and when you feel sad and empty about love, you don’t need medical attention; you need poetry. You need a great novel like Ulysses or anything by George Eliot. Art heals parts of us that doctors cannot approach. Grief, regret, a broken heart — ask your doctor about these things the next time you have a physical and you will elicit only a strange look. You will not be handed a cure, nor will you be handed a book of poems, though that would be way cool, don’t you think? If your doctor handed you a book of poetry and told you to call her in the morning? We laugh, but this kind of medical care could help a lot of people. It could help me.
Berlin was hard. It was hard because even though Claus and I aren’t together, I think in the back of my mind — truly, I have not been entertaining this thought consciously because I pride myself as having two feet on the ground — I thought we still might be. Or maybe we would be. Could be. But we’re not. Not now. Probably not ever. Sure, sure: Who knows? But after this trip, I feel like I just can’t hang a hope on that. For a lot of reasons. Neither of us are seeing anyone seriously; we talked all about that. It’s not that. We have the most marvelous time together. We love each other dearly. But there are major roadblocks in this relationship — and the Atlantic Ocean ain’t the only one, friends. (It might not even be the biggest one and that’s a very large body of water.)
It’s so sad when reality dumps ice water on a fantasy that kept you warm on bad days. You know?
We visited the Berlin Wall memorial. We toured a Stasi prison in the old GDR. When I say I was in another country, this is partly due to the fact I spent half the week in former communist East Germany and among German WWII memorials. There was a lot of looking at death this past week, a lot of witnessing an entire country’s pain. I didn’t write in my journal. I didn’t write to you. I just had thought soup the whole time; thought soup and heart-sickness.
I’m no James Joyce and even goofing around with his style is something I should probably not even try, that’s how good he was at writing. But the cool thing about writing is that these letters and words and sentences are as much mine to goof around with as they are anyone else’s, so here goes. Maybe these Ulyssean, “thought soup” sentences will do a better job at getting at how I feel today and better describe what Berlin was like than any of the ordered, normal sentences I’ve written so far.
Wet keyboard tears plop splash miss you miss you, oh well, oh well, oh no.
Snow in Berlin swirling round the crashing yes beard scruffy beautiful man this man who is this man who is this man I love.
Hope hopes, hopefully.