The Letter

 

 

He sits in a chair reading a letter from home. I am not with him, but the scene is too familiar to me.

He has just received a letter sent from England, but unlike me he lives in the 19th century. It took 6 weeks for the letter to reach him from England. In the doorway stands an Australian Aborigine. The reader’s companions are present but not part of the reading.

He is fixed in time in a print. It is an image drawn in Australia by the painter Harder S. Melville, and printed in Great Britain by George Baxter.

I watch him and his companions, remembering what it was once like to receive letters. Something once called ephemera but now treated as personal history: a thing to be saved.

 

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On Silence

 

On Silence:

An absence of something.

An absence of sound.

An absence of motion causing sound.

Charlie Chaplin on the screen.

Marcel Marceau standing on the stage.

A presence with no sound.

A presence of no sound.

 

Historical:

I was transiting through St Louis airport. On the TV screens was the announcement of O J Simpson’s acquittal. Everyone looked at each other. No-one knew what to say. No-one knew what they should say. No-one knew what they could say. People just looked at each other in silence.

 

Personal:

I am having a conversation with someone. It is a good conversation and I feel we are both engaged. I say something and there is no response. Just silence. Is it something I said? Is it something I should not have said? Is it something I should have said? It is the time when the relationship changes. The silence marks the point between the old relationship and a new relationship.

 

On Silence:

The space between noise and more noise.

The time between the tick and the tock of the clock.

The time of anticipation between what was and what will be.

 

 

 

That Look Away.

That look away, silence, turn of the head that indicates that the conversation is at an end and you may have said something that was inappropriate out of unawareness of something unstated.

 

One of the students in the class decided to write about Tiffany’s and about owning objects and whether owning objects also meant owning people. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was mentioned. One of the other students mentioned that her mother knew the manager at Tiffany’s because she was a customer, and had had breakfast there with the manager. End of conversation. Someone just revealed that she was in a different class and financial situation to the rest of the students.

Went to pick up ID at GMU. Interesting conversation with the person issuing ids. We were talking about the 60’s. I mentioned that I was lucky not to have been drafted. End of conversation. For some people, joining the military is an economic necessity or a family commitment, not a choice.

 

That silence. That look away. That end of the conversation. The unknown.

 

 

 

 

How I met your Mother: A Letter to Children who never were

 

When I met your mother:

We were both in one of those non-relationships: you know that kind of relationship long dead that really is just waiting on someone to put it out of its misery.

 

Why I met your mother:

When I met your mother, I realized that she would be your mother because I think we really wanted more than a non-relationship. We realized it could work because we realized that being together was not a major effort of compromise or pretense.

 

Where I met your mother at:

The art gallery of the Museum of Americas in Washington D.C.

 

How I met your mother:

We were both invited to show in an art exhibition and talk about our work.

 

The night I met Theresa, I went home and called my sister and said “I’ve just met the woman I’m going to marry”. I never said that to Theresa because it did not need saying. I had spoken about marriage with my previous girlfriend. My previous ‘girlfriend’ said that was a great thing to say when things were going well, and a stupid thing to say on the many, many, many other occasions. My prior relationship was one of those relationships that my mother describes as just sliding into marriage. The relationship is just so dead that it needs something to add excitement, and marriage appears to offer that excitement. However, it provides excitement but no passion. It would have been simply the continuation of the pretense of a relationship.

After our initial meeting, your mother and I became friends. We both went back into our non-relationships, each thinking that the other was committed elsewhere.

I suppose the transition into a relationship came when we went to New York for the day and I realized that I  actually preferred spending time with someone who offered something more than a grinding unfeeling disconnected pretense of a relationship, that had stopped being even a friendship.

We went on a couple of extra ‘dates’ before declaring that we were a couple. Each date was an art related venture, so we were really doing something that we both enjoyed. Theresa and I still cannot define our first date. As she would tell you, she read a book about Australian men and it is impossible to tell what is a date and what is not a date.

So, finally the non-dates became a relationship replacing for each of us a non-relationship with dates.

 

I think for me, the final realization came when my ‘girlfriend’ asked me who this woman was who I was planning on showing with (we exhibited art together after meeting, and have shown together several times). I realized that if she asked me why I was with her and not this other woman, I would be unable to answer the question honestly. I would have to have replied “I have no idea why I am with you”.

 

 

Anyway, my children who never were, that is how I met your mother.