‘I dreamed that you wound in and out of my life, from the beginning, from before the beginning. You floated through all things, and regions vaster than I’d ever imagined. I stared wide-eyed, and never woke up.’
‘You draw me into you before I can lift my head and look around for you. I’m in your field before I can identify myself. Yet you’re fragile: I can assert myself over you – silence you by talking – any time I choose. But where does my speech come from and what interrupts it? I talk and realise I’m talking with you not apart from you. There’s nothing to assert. All our words are fragile. Hence the afflicted laughter that wells up from creation. Laughter at, with, from, in and through you.’
Another terrible night. It was raining so hard I didn’t dare go to the church. I couldn’t pray. I know very well that the desire to pray is already prayer, and that God couldn’t ask for more. But it wasn’t a question of duty. At that moment, I needed prayer like I needed air in my lungs or oxygen in my blood. Behind me, there was no longer familiar day-to-day life which one can leave behind in one fell swoop. Behind me there was nothing, and before me was a wall. A black wall. Suddenly something seemed to shatter in my breast, and I was seized by a trembling that lasted over an hour. What if it had only been an illusion? Even the saints knew their hour of failure and loss.
– Bernanos, Diary of a Country Priest
‘You’re my loss and my possibility, my lie and my chance to grasp the truth. We seek each other out, we seek completion. But the more I address you the further you fade from me. I’m consigned to make this loss my home, in the outside, and let you come and go. This narrows my life down to a point while opening it up into unimaginable expanses. I live only for you, through you, which is no way to live.’
‘We continued our half-hearted search for another world until we realised we were already there, that the world was other enough as it was, that you’d separated us from it and that we ourselves were other. What changed then? Didn’t we get a little more patient, a little less half-hearted? A little less guilty? Something changed, we were able to laugh a little, talk to you more freely.’
Well done, X tells me, you caught me unawares just like you wanted. You got me in the double bind, the catch-22, you boxed me in, checkmated me, cornered me, well done you.
‘I separated myself from you even as you entered me, I’m already guilty of you, of myself. From time to time your absence is given to me as presence, as grace. You’re everywhere in your depth of absence.’
X tells me he falls back into his little hole every day and drinks to fill it back up. Then I hover above it, he says, grinning like a chimp on a branch while I sense it there below me, in the back of my mind. Will you be my chimp behaviourist, he asks me, will you teach me the words I need? No, of course you won’t.
‘I owe you my life, the life you close down. My freedom, my enemy. You draw me away from the throttling world. Into what? I glimpse you as the world draws me back. I fall further, into the hole, almost beneath language. Who’ll pull me out? You can’t be commanded, I lie in wait for you, for the word that guides or seduces, that pulls other words with it. The word comes, conjures up others, they pull me up and push me down. I’ve fallen into some kind of error, hole or not, and now only you, my error, can open me up. Into what? Into the outside, towards the limit of error.’
‘We made it out of there, where we’d got trapped. But what were we going into? We thought we’d already reached you, or seen through you, but we knew nothing. We talked to silence you. We looked around and told each other we knew where we were going. We were taken further into who knew where. We had our opinions, we weren’t stupid. Strange sounds called and threatened us. We sank down and prayed or dreamed. Mist rose up around us. We fell asleep to what we’d left behind, but we were awake. We advanced step by step, there was danger both ahead and behind now. There was no going back. The wind picked up. A voice, yours perhaps, told us not to come closer. We didn’t know where it came from. That was when we saw the risk and glimpsed our stupidity. Why did you stop us? we asked. There was some immense maze or desert just beyond our reach. Somehow our weakness carried us on. There were warnings and mockeries all around us, women’s voices, sermons. We slept thinly, hiding from you. But what we sought sought us. We made some noises to test the echoes. You came back, stronger than we ever thought. There was no going back and no going forward.’