“Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering, in order that they may have existence.” ~Leon Bloy
In Lawrence Durrell’s Justine, the first of The Alexandrian Quartet tetralogy, the narrator recalls having once been told, “‘There are only three things to be done with a woman…[y]ou can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature.'” Perhaps, though, these are stages or different ranges on the same spectrum of light.
Ever since she first walked into one my classrooms two years ago, I have been joyfully burdened with her charm, exceptional beauty, and intelligence. What a fool was I to think that the gulf in age, native language, and culture could be bridged by my will to love. Given who she is, not much was needed to give this man enough pieces to construct something akin to hope.
She claims that I know her well and that she trusts me, and this emotional couplet scares her. She tells me that she wants distance, and I tell her that she will have it. Cyril Connolly writes, “There is no pain equal to that which two lovers can inflict on one another. This should be made clear to all who contemplate such a union. The avoidance of this pain is the beginning of wisdom.” She must be, at her young age, far wiser than I ever will be.
Connolly continues, “[W]e should marry only when the desire for freedom be spent.” My desire, after years of half-hearted dissolution is spent; hers must continue to burn.
Not having been given the full opportunity to love her and refusing to suffer for her without the consolation of her warmth, I will turn her into literature. Not that I intend to model characters after her, but her large, luminescent brown eyes and animated facial expressions will leave their indelible impression–a stamp of the heart–upon everything that I do. At an age now that leaves me little energy and desire to feel this way about someone else, she may benefit from the accidental nature of time to remain the one that I continue to carry with me for the remainder of my life.
Through the alchemical process of art, I can transfigure her through literary permutations, into a love that, for all my longings, would never have been realized had we actually come together as lovers. Returning to Durrell, he writes, “For us artists there waits the joyous compromise through art with all that wounded or defeated us in daily life; in this way, not to evade destiny, as the ordinary people try to do, but to [fulfill] it in its true potential–the imagination.” I can idealize her in a way that I would not dare do were I with her.
The only problem with this: you cannot hold an idea.