Grief leaves you aware that you’re occupying a palimpsestuous temporality, some part of you living perpetually in the repetition of past encounters with your loved one while the rest of you stumbles through the present on damage control. I took the bus over to St Andrews for the funeral, repeating a journey I made so often during my undergraduate years, and the fog of that time dirtied the mess of my chronology ever further. Who am I to myself? Sometimes I feel like I’ve dreamed great portions of my life, had them lifted from my memory by the fairies’ herbs dusting across my eyelids. Did I ever live here? How did she really feel about me? How will this present endure? Other times I’m so distracted I can’t think at all, and marvel at the compressed time of memory. I have no conclusions for this letter, no answers. I have been overwhelmed again and again by life’s strangeness, its demands for constant adaptation. I think I’m meeting them, but sometimes it’s worth taking the space to work through how you’re changing – what you’re trying to resolve.
I didn’t feel Nora at the funeral, but I did feel the strangeness of the limited version I knew of her life, the different versions of ourselves we put forward for different people. I’m stuck on Derrida right now, going back again and again to Fors. The task of memorialisation is an impossible one: we want to protect the sacred alterity of our other, but we can’t – it’s always our own projection, our own authored version of them; they can no longer talk back to us. Maybe this is why I felt so compelled early after her death to print out all the emails we sent one another, to buy a copy of the book I knew contained an essay of hers. Sooner or later, I’ll have to face the limitations of what correspondence I have, but for now it’s enough. A crypt I can build external to myself, to ward off the worst of the melancholia.
(The only certainty I have: I miss Nora.)
Subscribe here for the full letter, and for future correspondence.