‘Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak
Whispers the o’erfraught heart, and bids it break.’
— Shakespeare, Macbeth (IV.III.209-10)
When he finally knew — when it was finally enunciated, explicitly — the Past fell on his face in liquid shadows that only he could see; like a curtain call after a tragic play, the curtains descended, crushing beneath its velvet weight the courtiers, the jesters, the masquerade. A dark silence passed from stage to audience — the only audience: he, who had stayed when he was supposed to leave, and watched as Romeo imbibed his vital poison — again, and again.
It has been said: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. But it didn’t make sense; it shouldn’t have happened again, because he remembered, all the time — in the theatre of his mind, where all the dead do is die and the living mourn, because it is their dramaturgic destiny. He staged the tragedy with different actors, in different spaces, and at different times, but all permutations spoke the same tragic narrative. At first it was remembrance, then it regressed into compulsion, and it was only after the compulsion turned to habit, and habit to ritual, that he understood the meaninglessness of the repetition — the repeated staging. The signifier, once so inextricably intertwined and enmeshed with its traumatic signified, was finally cleaved asunder from its transcendence, which had, in fact, long vanished behind the devouring mists of a Past that was always rushing forward to meet the Present; the (first) meaning died with its genesis — the rest was the work of a Memory that refused to abandon the dead, but instead held nightly vigil beside those empty graves. Resurrection? No, they have returned to dust and only dust, or else they have always been — dust. Those gaping subterranean spaces are the resting place of convenient projections, ghosts — (im)materializations of the unattainable — of those we wanted to love but never could reach.
This is grief, you say? No, it is merely an emotional inconvenience, and its destabilizing force but a faint echo of a tragic Past. There is here no ruined castle, nor burning pyre, nor flame-seared banner, nor placid death. There is here only the silence of knowing.
When he finally knew, the Past returned to him like his own face in the mirror, in the dark. There was a blinding horror, and because he was blind he could not run away. There were invisible hands — clamps, cold and calculatedly placed — which held the gaze and forced it on the glassy abyss, in which he saw a forsaken cadaver, the body of abject pathos — his own — emerge from its watery blackness.
He looked, and he by looking knew. But even as the hopelessness fell in silver-black drapes around him — even as he could not turn away — he did not shut his eyes. He stared at the face of horror, itself horrified; he blinked, and he blinked. And for the first time he felt, if not a material oneness, then at least a specular communion with he who peered from beyond the glacial surface. That is me, said he — and suddenly, there was no mirror.
That is me, said I. Yes, I have once again felt the full force of tragic inevitability that one feels when confronted with loss, but by feeling the fatalism in its visceral completeness — by owning it, I expended — I consumed — the feeling, and by many orders dampened it. No doubt there still lingers the familiar existential weight that one grapples with in the aftermath of loss, yet this time the only object of mourning is the absent one, and not the one that could have been.
This time, I think I will not put out the sun by shutting my eyes against its blazing light. We have done that in the Past; we, wanting in our naivety to preserve and contain the Fall in its full presence, monumentalized the loss by willfully catastrophizing it — by suddenly abandoning the world (the person) that had abandoned us. The self-shattering trauma rounded off that narrative perfectly, and petrified it in bloody amber — a tragedy in three acts, the last being the most momentous. But what followed was an indefinite, damning eclipse that left us crawling and clawing, on all fours, in the shadow of a colossal loss that no amount of light could dispel.
But neither am I going to gaze myself blind, trying to take in at once the total philosophical intensity of this/that recent loss — to attempt in vain to come to terms with the fact that the sun I see is no longer there and shining.
I think, I shall simply sit on some forgotten rock by the coast, and watch the light of that phantasmal sun die — from glorious high noon, to funereal twilight.