A Letter to Be Opened in the Event of My Death
December 10, 2006
As I write this, I am sitting at my desk in the back bedroom looking out at your studio across the backyard full of blue evening snow, everything is slick and crusty with ice, and it is very still. It’s one of those winter evenings when the coldness of every single thing seems to slow down time, like the narrow center of an hourglass which time itself flows through, but slowly, slowly. I have the feeling, very familiar to me when I am out of time but almost never otherwise, of being buoyed up by time, floating effortlessly on its surface like a fat lady swimmer. I had a sudden urge, tonight, here in the house by myself (you are at Alicia’s recital at St. Lucy’s) to write you a letter. I suddenly wanted to leave something, for after. I think that time is short, now. I feel as though all my reserves, of energy, of pleasure, of duration, are thin, small. I don’t feel capable of continuing very much longer. I know you know.
If you are reading this, I am probably dead. (I say probably because you never know what circumstances may arise; it seems foolish and self-important to just declare one’s own death as an out-and-out fact.) About this death of mine—I hope it was simple and clean and unambiguous. I hope it didn’t create too much fuss. I’m sorry. (This reads like a suicide note. Strange.) But you know: you know that if I could have stayed, if I could have gone on, that I would have clutched every second: whatever it was, this death, you know that it came and took me, like a child carried away by goblins.
Clare, I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust. Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you.
I hate to think of you waiting. I know that you have been waiting for me all your life, always uncertain of how long this patch of waiting would be. Ten minutes, ten days. A month. What an uncertain husband I have been, Clare, like a sailor, Odysseus alone and buffeted by tall waves, sometimes wily and sometimes just a plaything of the gods. Please, Clare. When I am dead. Stop waiting and be free. Of me—put me deep inside you and then go out in the world and live. Love the world and yourself in it, move through it as though it offers no resistance, as though the world is your natural element. I have given you a life of suspended animation. I don’t mean to say that you have done nothing. You have created beauty, and meaning, in your art, and Alba, who is so amazing, and for me: for me you have been everything. After my mom died she ate my father up completely. She would have hated it. Every minute of his life since then has been marked by her absence, every action has lacked dimension because she is not there to measure against. And when I was young I didn’t understand, but now, I know, how absence can be present, like a damaged nerve, like a dark bird. If I had to live on without you I know I could not do it. But I hope, I have this vision of you walking unencumbered, with your shining hair in the sun. I have not seen this with my eyes, but only with my imagination, that makes pictures, that always wanted to paint you, shining; but I hope that this vision will be true, anyway.
Clare, there is one last thing, and I have hesitated to tell you, because I’m superstitiously afraid that telling might cause it to not happen (I know: silly) and also because I have just been going on about not waiting and this might cause you to wait longer than you have ever waited before. But I will tell you in case you need something, after. Last summer, I was sitting in Kendrick’s waiting room when I suddenly found myself in a dark hallway in a house I don’t know. I was sort of tangled up in a bunch of galoshes, and it smelled like rain. At the end of the hall I could see a rim of light around a door, and so I went very slowly and very quietly to the door and looked in. The room was white, and intensely lit with morning sun. At the window, with her back to me, sat a woman, wearing a coral-colored cardigan sweater, with long white hair all down her back. She had a cup of tea beside her, on a table. I must have made some little noise, or she sensed me behind her…she turned and saw me, and I saw her, and it was you, Clare, this was you as an old woman, in the future. It was sweet, Clare, it was sweet beyond telling, to come as though from death to hold you, and to see the years all present in your face. I won’t tell you any more, so you can imagine it, so you can have it unrehearsed when the time comes, as it will, as it does come. We will see each other again, Clare.
Until then, live, fully, present in the world, which is so beautiful.
It’s dark, now, and I am very tired. I love you, always. Time is nothing.
this is the last letter written by Henry to his wife, Clare. as the title of the book suggests, Henry is the one who time travels. he time travelled all the way back and even met Clare at the age of 6 (he was an adult when he met her at 6). and so they started knowing each other and meeting through their brief yet vivid encounters. i dont really know how to go about explaining how i feel about the book…
Clare met henry when she was 6. the Henries that she met are the Henries that have already met her in Henry’s present life. but Henry only officially meets Clare when he was 28 years old. and at that point Clare already knew so much about Henry but Henry didnt know who Clare was. (i know i suck at describing. please bear with me, haha).
i feel that Clare is really great. patient, loving, caring, always there. she had to wait for 20 over years before Henry met her officially in their present life. how she tolerates (?) or maybe accepts the fact that Henry time travels and is always waiting for him to come back, worries about his whereabouts when he’s gone.
and even for Henry, can’t imagine how difficult it is for him to time travel and being thrown here and there during the whole lifetime. it just feels so disorientated. the worst thing is he can’t control where he’s going, he can’t bring anything with him, not even money and clothes. the fear of having to steal clothes to wear, or landing at some dangerous situations. there was one part in the book where he stated that he felt so so tired instead of feeling like his actual age, he felt years older than that because of all the time travelling.
though the story was a little too draggy, and i took a break in between from reading the book cause i was bored. but it’s still great 🙂
“Long ago, men went to sea, and women waited for them, standing on the edge of the water, scanning the horizon for the tiny ship. Now I wait for Henry. He vanishes unwillingly, without warning. I wait for him. Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting. Why has he gone where I cannot follow?”
“Don’t you think it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”
“It’s hard being left behind. (…) It’s hard to be the one who stays.”
“I won’t ever leave you, even though you’re always leaving me.”
PS. i still prefer nicholas sparks 🙂