Dearest Ms. O,
This is what one could call a goodbye letter. A letter that is not sent,
for many, many reasons.
I am writing to you in this formality because I think you would appreciate
the irony behind it. It might've made you laugh. I also think you would've
liked getting letters addressed to Ms. O.
I could tell you that I did not try to make you laugh earlier because I thought
it to be inappropriate but the truth is, I didn't think about it the past months.
I was too much consumed with myself.
When I knew earlier this week that you had left, all I could think of was that it
has happened as per the illocutionary force that you had been uttering so
nonchalantly for so long. It happened and then was announced to us in a
sentence, in a virtual void. It happened and it was just like that line from
Mrs. Dalloway: "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." She did.
Perhaps, no one believed you Ms. O when you said you yourself would conjure
up the event for bringing flowers. Perhaps no one wanted to. Anyhow, there
were no flowers or roses for that matter. There was, though, a good and gentle
Death makes us think of ourselves somehow my darling Ms. O. It makes us even more self-centered than we already are. Even the guilt, centers around ourselves, although in theory it is a feeling addressed towards another. It is all somewhat like a circle, it starts at a point to go somewhere to end exactly where it all starts.
I was sleeping when suddenly I was in this house. It was dark and almost black. I could however see the furniture. Yours. Your drawers, your locked secrets, your corners. It was a task assigned to me to get across your three cats and to find out answers. Women dressed in black and moving in the darkness of the room, controlled the space and my movement in it. They asked me questions. Your cats stared and waited for answers. I had none.
Even when I dreamt of you, it was about myself, my quest for answers, my
yearning for understanding which paralyzes me and makes me wake up in fear many, many mornings.
When I woke up startled from the dream, my conclusion – one I was probably afraid to utter in the dream itself – was that you are somewhere swimming, and that there were no answers to be sought in this house because it didn't feel like it was yours. It seemed like a place you wanted to leave, unanswered.
Since you've gone, I see you in these infinitely open geometrical shapes: your room which expands to engulf all that you need there, a swimming pool all for yourself that goes as far and as deep as you need it to be. And you, you are swimming or smiling, or both.
There you are, there I see you, on the edge of a turquoise swimming pool. Ready. Swimming bonnet and all. Goggles. Toes tipping into the cool of the water. And all I can think of is: "What a lark! What a plunge!" as you splash into the deepness of it. You don't need to come up right away for a breath. Your back no longer hurts. You no longer need to do the exercises on the mattress. The water carries all your pain away.
I see you wearing the little black swimming suit that fit no one else. It hugged your hips perfectly and curved around your shoulder blades well. Ready for that plunge into blue. I do not feel guilt, my dear Ms. O, but I feel that we should have went for a swim together. It might've eased some of what lay between your shoulder blades, pinning you down to a pillow where there is no water to make you move in lightness. The summer was hot and long and I didn't take you for a swim. That is all I feel.
I am unable to think. I do not want to make this about me, it isn't. I am writing you a letter because you are gone and because of something I cannot explain that nibbles at my mind whenever I remember our last conversation. My questions are more than ever now. My answers are multiple. My feelings are beaten. The contrast between your smile in your living room the last time I saw you and the defeat of the white shroud – the tip of it – makes no sense.
There is an issue with timing I think. This is a lesson we will all learn. We went to say goodbye, but I think you had said your goodbyes earlier. Maybe, maybe my feeling is wrong about that. But it felt that we had just missed your passage, like sliding doors that never really meet.
I felt that you had left us something to edit. Something to gnaw at without maybe meaning to. There are many who are hurting now, yet there were none of us there I think.
Timing, is at the essence of it all, even when editing, timing is the punctuation, the breaks in every story.
There you are. Your mind is glowing. Your eyes giggle under your glasses which function as swimming goggles. "What a lark! What a plunge!" For so it had always seemed to
when, with a little squeak of the hinges, with the meowing of a
calico cat, which she you could hear now, she you had
burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton wall of your
living room and stepped into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than
this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the
kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then
was) solemn, feeling as she you did, standing there at the open window, on the diving board that something awful was about
to happen always lurking around the corner; looking at the flowers,
city, at the trees buildings with the smoke winding off
them and the rooks beating of your heart rising, falling, you
pounced lightly on the diving board, and jumped into coolness, into endless
water, into a pool marked in your name: Olga's pool. It is yours and no
one has a claim on that but you.
And so, as summer ends, and as the coolness in the air comes along to mark its end –some end – I know that the last swim of this season goes out to you. A swim in the middle of the metropolis which knows no kindness, and shows no promise of some.
I will do my laps and you in my mind will move gently, faster than anyone can catch you. Your body races in the blue of your pool in lightness. Your body swims past the city's frozen cars. Your back curves like a cat which thrives – to everyone's surprise – in water. You meow and curve your way away from the city, which like a still born metropolis, you've left behind.
The city has lost this time, dearest Ms. O. It has lost your shadow, the most you wanted to offer it. The city has lost and the score remains at love: all.
What remains it this issue with timing. Only if, only if, Ms. O.
All quotes are from Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. Images are a collage of Maria Svarbova's photographs from her project on swimming pools.