Sometimes I wonder if you're really getting these letters. True, I put no return address on them, but I have a confession to make: I do that deliberately, as a sort of test, to see if you've figured out where I am, and whether or not you'll care enough about these letters to write back. By telling you that I suppose I've destroyed the whole point, but maybe my intentions and meanings aren't always as clear to other people as they are to me, and I need to explain exactly what I'm doing. What do you think?
There's an airport very close to me. When I first arrived, the near-constant roar of jet engines drove me insane, but I've sort of tuned it down into the background, something you barely notice unless you think about it, like the way your pants feel against your legs. I think that when I return, that noise is what I'll miss the most. When I was little, I'd keep a fan on at all times, while I slept, because without the humming of those fan blades I couldn't get to sleep at all. The room would just feel still and stagnant and I'd have trouble breathing, like the darkness was going to envelope me in that eerie silence, and I'd think this is what being in a casket must be like. The rise and fall of jets coming and going sort of serves the same purpose to me now, and without that I think I'd have to go out and buy a fan to keep in my room.
Some days, when I have the time, I go to this airport and pick out a spot and just watch people. Sometimes I'll sit in one of the gates, and other times I'll be in one of the lounges or bars lining the terminal. The nice thing about doing this at the airport is that nobody notices you, and there isn't much risk of being spotted by a repeat customer, or labelled a regular. They're all there for specific reasons, not to slouch about, so to them I'm just another lost face in the multitudes to be ignored, which is fine by me. Most people getting off these planes have a disoriented look on their face, like they need a few minutes to get adjusted to the fact that they're in a new city. The ones who are boarding always have this world-weary expression, the same way they probably look at five o'clock when they go home from work. When their time comes to board they either spring out of their muzak-induced stupor as though the plane might leave without them, or they might have to fight someone for their seat. That, or they drag themselves to a standing position with a lot of dramatic groaning and shuffling about, like the burden of travelling is too much for them to bear.
During the day this airport is teeming with people, wall-to-wall masses of them trying to navigate their way around each other, laden with rolling luggage carts and handbags. The flow never evens itself out, either, and there's too much cross-traffic for any patterns to assert themselves. Even if they did, the occasional carts that wheel by, carrying the elderly, fat, or lazy would completely decimate the pattern as people scramble out of the way, and it would have to start all over again. When I'm sitting off to the side in the lounge with a glass of Stoli and fruit juice none of this bothers me; it's just another emergent system to watch, albiet one that never quite emerges. But getting to that lounge is another story. I can't deal with slow-moving people who get in the way and seem to anticipate my every effort to get around them. So I much prefer to visit the airport at night, especially because if I'm sitting at a gate, I can look out the window and imagine that the blue landing lights spreading across the tarmac are stars, which you can't see from this city.
I know you can't see stars at home, either, especially from your building, lit up by streetlights and glaring into the sky. Do you ever miss the stars, Alexis? Do you ever think maybe you'd like to go somewhere far from industrial pollution and artificial lighting, so you could see them again? I have a friend who lives in Arizona, and every now and then he'll go out to Gila Bend, lean back in the bed of his truck, and he claims he can see the Milky Way from there. But I know you better. You'd like to see the stars, Alexis, but the thought of being so far from what we call civilization, of neon and steel and glass, isn't worth it to you. It's okay, because I feel the same way. After all, I'm the one looking at a mile of concrete with blue lights embedded in it, pretending it's the night sky, even when thousands of tons of metal are rolling across it. Taking a little bit from both worlds. Sort of an elegant solution, don't you think?
I wish you were here to see exactly what I mean, but I know you've got a lot of thinking to do yourself. Sometimes I think of calling you, so you can agonize to me at length about your situation, the way you used to when you were feeling low and needed to get something off your chest. But for now, I need to be where I am, and you need to be where you are, on your fire escape overlooking the highway, where I know you go to read these letters -- assuming you're really getting them, like I said. Does it surprise you that I know that's where you go, and how much time you spend there with your laptop perched on your knees? I'm not supposed to know, but don't worry; I won't tell anyone. You can trust me.
Do you remember the time last winter, when you asked if you could cut me? Just a small cut, you said, a few inches across between my shoulderblades, and the razor you held was shiny and perfect. When I let you, I didn't really understand why you said you needed this, but I think now I do. And in case you're wondering, the scar is mostly gone, but if you look closely you can still see it, and I don't think it will ever fade away completely -- which is just what you wanted. Back then, neither of us were in a place to take the exploration further, especially to the more delicious side of pain, but you should know, if you didn't already, that I wanted to. Late at night I can sometimes feel it across my back, if I'm laying in bed just the right way, and I wonder if it has anything to do with the way you're feeling at that moment. I can't say, but I do know that it keeps my thoughts with you, which is also what you wanted. I don't regret it and I'd let you do it all over, if you ever needed to test my trust in you again.
I'm going to go now, Alexis, and I hope that you're dealing with your own fears and desires in the right way. I know you are, because I have a lot of faith in you. Maybe it surprises you to see that word, faith, from the pen of someone like me, but I'm using the word anyway, for you. Think about it, and think too about the words of John Donne, from his 14th Holy Sonnet:
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,If you give it enough thought, I think you can understand what that means. I'd like you to figure it out for yourself, but maybe I'll tell you more in my next letter.
Except you enthrall me, shall never be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.