by Caridad Svich
Night finds us again. Tide turning against all, we warm to the space between the shores of our correspondence. The last time we spoke (in lines across the page, breath to breath) we proclaimed the power of Euripides, and how his dissonant plays seemed right for these chaotic, uncertain times. But tonight, as yet more senseless tragedies are reported on the evening news, we look to Aeschylus, because the depth and severity of his plays may be exactly what we need to face the hard truths of our lives head on and without apology.
A friend tells me that they have been practicing the art of saying “I’m sorry” as a way of coping with the alternating waves of kindness and sheer neglect they encounter every day. But that lately the phrase has been met by others with increasing indifference, and they think it has lost its purpose and meaning.
Forgiveness takes time. Yet, if the great tragedies of the ancient days in Greece teach us anything, it is that humans are woefully inadequate at allowing time to work through their bodies enough for forgiveness to find its true voice.
Perhaps this is where we can begin today.
I write to you because sometimes I think you are right here, nestled between the folds of the duvet, sipping tea whilst designing your next ‘zine. I pretend your voice is exactly as it was the last time we met, and that you still wear red as a form of resistance against the tyranny of dullness that has infected our society. I know you know it is not “ours” and that maybe the social animal has long since stopped being of much use when it comes to matters of capitalism, but we both say “ours” because we perhaps naively still believe in the power of social interaction and its possibility for goodness.
The weather is shit. But then again you told me this. Last time we met. Last time our shores were close and we wondered whose scent was felt in the afternoon breeze. The weather has been shit for some time.
I wanted to tell you then that I actually had an issue with the weather, or better put, talking of it as if it were outside us. If humans are to learn how to live in harmony with nature and animals, we have to stop thinking ALL THIS is not part of who we are, or better put, that we are not part of it somehow.
You wore sandals in the heat of summer, and I had the habit of leaning in, just close enough, to feel your sweat against mine. Maybe it wasn’t a habit. Maybe I was trying to learn who you were by studying your shape. Maybe I was just lost and completely unmoored and wanted nothing else but to change the temperature of our days so that we could walk through the pale breeze forever.
Euripides used to amuse us. He was our pal, as we raced through the rooms filled with statues, vases, ornaments and masks. We would pretend that pitcher there, in the dark corner of the golden room, had been his once, and we wondered what kind of wine he drank from it, and how it rested against his lips after he finished writing The Bacchae.
“It’s important we understand they were human once,” you said, “that these writers that have outlived their time were indeed just like you or I – with the same appetites and quirks and mad pangs of loneliness and doubt we all feel on a daily basis. Otherwise, they are not with us. They are merely figures in some book, and we can say they have nothing to do with us. But isn’t art, writing, ALL THIS, the thread of being?”
The rooms were cool, and offered respite from the heat. Your red against my shabby black. It was a time of learning, although we both knew lessons are learnt daily, if one is to be alive. The old writers, men and women (though the women were less visible in these rooms), whispered their dreams to us. We sat on the bench before the massive altarpiece, and bowed our heads in mock reverence, but also real reverence. Because who were we kidding? We were here in halls of antiquities and we knew these rooms didn’t get much attention past the tourist season, and even then…
You told me a story about grief. I told you one about the way the sunlight came in through the balcony when I was a child living in southern climes. We shared what used to be called confidences, but now is merely called “chat”. I said your red was daring. You said my black was hiding. And I said yes, admitting more with one word than I would to others in reams of poetry.
At some point, your story of grief turned to one about cooking and how we forget to talk about our love of food, its smells, and the way it placed us inside and among cultures. I thought about how neither of us ever really wrote about food, except sparingly in prose, when we wanted to juice up a metaphor, and how maybe we both were hiding, each in our own way. But I didn’t say this. Not then. Because some things, many things, we do not say to each other.
And it’s okay. It is. Not everything has to be spilled. Sometimes we can be with someone, even across oceans, and we can say we know them, because we do.
Because in the dead of night, at this odd hour that catches us both singing to an old song made famous by Frank Sinatra when he was really, finally, learning how to phrase a lyric and giving it his heart as well as his mind, we are both sorry that the space between us isn’t smaller and more forgiving of our company.
Caridad Svich is a text-builder and theatre-maker, though most people call her a playwright. She received the 2018 Tanne Foundation Award, 2018 NNPN Rolling World Premiere for Red Bike, and the 2012 OBIE for Lifetime Achievement. Her works are published by Intellect UK, Seagull Books, Eyecorner Press, TCG, Manchester University Press and more. Her newest piece is STAND, and she is also currently working on a seven-play cycle entitled American Psalm.