I mainly write posts on OK Cupid because I’m still a bit nervous of writing anything here, but the weaning process has begun, and there must be something to say that isn’t general castigation of fat dwarves with no IQ trying to persuade me to waste time with them. OK Cupid is a dateline for degenerates but it is free and I do understand the layout, and before, when I actually had hope and was interested in the erotic, it was fun to go on there and chat away, in fact that is how I met Shaun, and everyone wants to meet him, at least once, just to have a picture of something uncouth in one’s physical vocabulary. Of course it’s Mendel I mainly think about. I think of him the way one thinks of a lost springtime, a tree long dead that blossomed once, once, once upon a time in a lovely land, like a beautiful phrase of poetry in a boiling vat of hell and violence. A single branch of flowering cherry that ever groweth despite the horror.
I sometimes think - in fact only too frequently do I think this - that this is my lot in life.
Perhaps we should insert a picture here. I actually have a painting above my head that I did when I was fifteen, of apple blossom, but I’d have to pull it out of the frame and scan it in, and that’s too tricky, especially with my printer broken, and my aversion to moving anything, so we’ll have to be content with some other picture that gives the same impression of something impossibly beautiful that could never really exist, and yet does, and always will, that persists, even in frailty, a commencement, against the roar of disillusion. Most of my pictures are meant to say something a little like that because that is how I mostly feel.
I tried to give you four different and more appropriate images but they were all rejected, too high a dpi I suspect, so you’ll just have to deal with this one but it’s as good as any. It’s Ophelia, her flowers, and pretty much how I feel most days. She will drown with her flowers at some stage, but now they’re safely in a glass. The water represents her madness, or at least how distorted everything gets to look when under glass and stuck inside refracted light - she becomes more assured when in actual real water herself and unconfined by the manmade, swallowed up into the body of nature. This is a slightly Bell Jar picture, in fact. The word summer’s disappeared so you know it’s all about winter, as Hamlet is. I wrote an essay on it once, on this picture.
I wonder if you feel unrequited love a great deal that it ends up true, the story of your life. What was once to do with other things, a quietness of purpose and perhaps maybe a sense of worlds incomprehensible even to you yourself – at any rate something that keeps you distant from the group – later on governs your romantic life too? But I think it is a little more dangerous than that. I don’t think personal quietude or inner solitude predicates itself on harrowing loneliness for the rest of your life – lots of artists get married and relate fairly well to other people, so I think it’s something else. Aside from the general doom I always feel anyway. I’ve felt doomless only once, and that was with Mendel. This was rather a nice feeling so I’ll tell you about it. I may not dare to publish the post but it’s important to think about anyway, and I am sure that the next picture I draw, whatever its actual content, will be a picture of this because it’s much on my mind at the moment and because I feel such gratitude for it, too much gratitude perhaps. Though some say there is no such thing as too much.
It was a day like any other, except it was the summertime which always makes things more cheerful, and I was back from holiday so still had a sun tan, and I’d drawn a picture there, of trees, a very good picture, so was feeling quite happy. My flat was tidy, which it isn’t now, and people seemed to be taking me out and wanting me to go to parties with them, and I was still quite young and wore sunshiny frocks. I’d decided that maybe it was time for a new love in my life as I’d not had one for ten years. I wanted something important to happen, and it did.
I think I won’t write about this in a plot driven way because that’s for a book and only talk about the emotions, which would be better described by music, or indeed in paint. Everything about this was in watercolour – everything felt like water. It wasn’t the first time I’d been in love but it was the first time anyone had been in love with me. It may be the only time, too. I think it’s just too difficult to find someone who connects up with you rhapsodically, there’s too much of a downer on it in society, and it requires a certain kind of brain to ever feel it, not even counting they have to feel it for you in particular, you need all these psychological symmetries. I remember telling him, when things started to go wrong, when he started to make them go wrong, ‘I want the harmonies.’ Since I’d finally seen them, it was all that interested me. He wasn’t interested in that. I think harmonies were not so precious a matter to him, but I suspect he’d known such things many, many times before, and would do so over and over, whereas I was just going to get them once in my lifetime – once that is with another person, for I do feel the same things alone, looking at the sea, or drawing, particularly drawing flowers. I feel occupied by a world of loveliness and beauty that is quite beyond me yet has condescended to allow me to see it. Drawing pictures is very like that: I start with not really knowing what I am doing, and there’s a tree or a forget-me-not in front of me – I dream sometimes of flowers, wild ones, in the fields, and I say to my friends, ‘we will not pick them now because we have all this work in the print room and they’ll die, we’ll pick them later on the way home and remember where they are’ – nice dreams, about flowers and art, though they get nightmarish later on – anyway, I don’t understand what I am doing to begin with, and think: ‘this is pointless; I can’t see how I can get this right, this is impossible. What I see isn’t what I am drawing, nowhere near.’ But I persevere, and something starts to happen on the page – not that I am exactly so very accurate – and even less so now I work on copper plates because no pencil so the whole thing is an adventure into nothingness – this thing that happens is to do with shapes, a record of the way the flower grows, its grace and supplication, about what it is, what it feels like. And this often works, a great deal of the time. I think it is to do with love. I can’t see what else it could ever be. I don’t structure a picture aside from a few blobs, a rough shape, and I am not someone trained at all, or even capable of getting everything precise, but I try very hard. And when something goes wrong, I see that even so, it could still be that way, and a mutual justification seems to go on between the plant and me, and I feel entendrilled by forgiveness. I would say that I am urgently condemned to a curious form of humility all the way, and it’s something I would love to feel in real life also, but whenever I do, it is not a flower I am dealing with but a person, so this particular correspondence between absorption and surrender and creativity just never happens and I get ripped off instead. The world is just far, far too dangerous. But this is the feeling I most want to feel. And it feels as if the flower is actually communicating with me, telling me all about itself. Not in a human way of course because flowers reflect perfect stages of being, but they are alive, so they’re not static, which is why there’s this music about them, and this relationship can occur, something you do not get with drawing a chair, for example, or a house. And time becomes interesting too, because you have to get on with it, that flower is going to die, or wither, or change, and you have to anticipate that, and draw at the correct speed – and that sort of imploration is there in the picture, this kind of begging them not to die too soon. Someone said my pictures of flowers were about life and death, and they are.
Anyway, that’s how I felt about him. I felt transfixed in the same relationship with him as I did when drawing a flower. It was an unselfconscious fascination that human beings cannot tolerate, they cannot tolerate that kind of scrutiny, and they cannot be lovely like that, nor do the rhythms of the universe seem to go in these delectable patterns around them; where every move seems natural and elegant, where there are no interruptions. It’s about purity, and it is about Nature, but it is also about love, it’s just that before him, it was a love I felt on my own. I didn’t really feel it was ever possible to enter this sort of trance-like state with a human being, they didn’t seem to want it, it had no meaning for them. And of course most human beings I have met don’t draw, or don’t draw the way I do, so how would anyone ever understand, still less provide me with a counterpart? It was better, really, than drawing flowers.
I appreciated the magnificence of the event. It was an outpouring but one of infinitesimal grace, not at all like opera. Or even, really like Shakespeare, though everything is about Shakespeare really. It must have been a deep form of compatibility, because it’s just too hard to fake, not with me around who draws flowers the whole time, so has an inscrutable standard. And if it was a fake, it was faked by someone who had at one point felt it genuinely, so almost not a fake at all – I don’t really think it could have been faked – such an odd thing to happen, and I would have noticed anything ungenuine, as I later did, of course. God, I could not stand it when the beauty was being mashed around, the insincerity started crawling in, Christ it was like watching a flower speed up dying right in front of you and turn into a monster. The grief I felt was sublime. I will never get over it. This is more than human betrayal, this is a betrayal of beauty itself, a beauty most people never even get to see, let alone be a part of. And no one understands. They concern themselves with all sorts of things that bear no relation to the exquisite and the loss of that, and this my only interest, my one interest.
Of course now I am ruined for life, because there is now that one thing there and around for me, the thing I have experienced in my actual, real life, which is this capacity for sliding creativities to actually psychically flow into each other and become like art in the making in human form – and after that, you have to have that. Anything less is death and devastation, or just wrong.
You’ll think I’ll be in love with him for ever after that, but it is the feeling I am in love with. He can’t provide that any more, it is like talking to a stranger or someone else, one of the ones who’ll never understand. I am bereft even when he’s in the room. It’s all artificial and sick. It’s like drawing a picture when you don’t care about the flower, can’t see it properly. You might pull it off – to the satisfaction of other people – but you’d know, all the time you’d know, you’d know: no, I did not get into the soul of the thing, I was detached, just doing my job, I did not create an immortal harmony, it’s a fake. This has happened to me once or twice with my pictures, and I felt so bad I couldn’t believe quite what I’d done, and gave up drawing for a while. I don’t like producing fakes, something evil about it. And then, you get a real sense of what is fake and what isn’t, you become averse to it, allergic to it, and thus more and more isolated in an entirely inward, interior way, something that few notice because of human animation and personality. But inside, there is a need for this other type of connection and it sits there saying, loud and clear, however quietly: this isn’t it. And so it goes on, or so it went on for so many years. Until that was answered, and became a living thing, and was, quite unbelievably, repeated, time after time.
This sort of thing can actually happen, and I suspect doesn’t have to end. It doesn’t have to end. It just has to end if you are dealing with an artist who does not hold the destruction of the thing in quite such tragic contempt as you do. Betrayal is impossible, it’s like watching the world shrivel and die. I simply cannot face him. I can’t take another meaningless phone call. I can’t take it. I cannot watch death where there was once life. That’s why I made him go. You’d do the same, can you imagine. It’s like someone bringing you the same flower, and it looks identical, smells the same, same colours, an exact reproduction but it is not real. It’s artificial. And how do you know this? Because it can’t grow. It isn’t alive. It looks so similar you don’t believe it possible, but it is true and the death is everywhere. I think it’s in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, people started being replaced by doppelgangers, and the other characters said, ‘it looks like him, but it isn’t him,’ and this was true because they’d had their bodies taken over by pods. That was a horror film and so was this. Except that was meant to be a metaphor for the cold war and 1950s America and the McCarthy witch-hunts whereas what was happening here was less political. It was, I suppose, a simple lack of attentiveness, but that is death to me. It’s as much death as I can take. I was right though, because he was just trying to murder me anyway, he told me so.
And that’s it. That is the story of my life, maybe the one story of my life that actually exists in any valid way in the world of the human. That is what humanity gave to me and that is what it took away from me. I haven’t really explained it at all well, and I may never be able to, but it does have to be explained like that and not in terms of some man or other finding it hard to commit or being a swine or hurting one’s feelings. To simply notice this atmospheric change, this collapse of the – I suppose it is some kind of mental joining – to watch the thread break, and them acting as if nothing has happened and you’re meant to continue with a zombie – and then they say stuff like you can’t tolerate mundaneity when you have tried, just hanging in there waiting for them to come back and re-inhabit the body they have left and leaving you with a plastic flower – is this the price of love? Is it? Having to walk around in a mist of death the whole time because this person keeps cooling off and bartering his soul to the devil? I took it for four years and then I made him go.
And now I have flowers and they never let me down. They never let me down. They die as nature planned, they have no tricks up their sleeves. They do not make me pay by forcing me to look at a fake one minute and reality the next: they are always real.
It is also quite difficult to hold the two things in any sort of balance because real love cannot betray itself, it’s as impossible as that cyclamen over there turning into polystyrene. It can’t. It will always just be a cyclamen, even if it dies, its organic basic compound is unaltered. Therefore the love was fake all along.
And you wonder why I’m so unhappy? I’m unhappy EVERY DAY.
Sarah says I mustn’t be destroyed by the negative, because what I am dealing with is not rational, it’s part of the underworld, the supernatural.
‘Mendel practices dark arts,’ she says.