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TotD: Written On the Body

I’d nev­er heard of Writ­ten on the Body by Jeanette Win­ter­son (or of the author, at all) until I was brows­ing through some of the quo­ta­tions at Gaia1 a while back. This bit is too long for my quo­ta­tions file, but I love it too much to just delete it.

Written On the BodyYou’ll get over it…” It’s the clichés that cause the trou­ble. To lose some­one you love is to alter your life for ever. You don’t get over it because ‘it’ is the per­son you loved. The pain stops, there are new peo­ple, but the gap nev­er clos­es. How could it’s The par­tic­u­lar­ness of some­one who mat­tered enough to grieve over is not made ano­dyne by death. This hole in my heart is the shape of you and no-one else can fit it. Why would I want them to? I’ve thought a lot about death recent­ly, the final­i­ty of it, the argu­ment end­ing in mid-air. One of us hadn’t fin­ished, why did the oth­er one go? And why with­out warn­ing? Even death after long ill­ness is with­out warn­ing. The moment you had pre­pared for so care­ful­ly took you by storm. The troops broke through the win­dow and snatched the body and the body is gone. The day before the Wednes­day last, this time a year ago, you were here and now you’re not. Why not? Death reduces us to the baf­fled log­ic of a child. If yes­ter­day why not today? And where are you? Frag­ile crea­tures of a small blue plan­et, sur­round­ed by light years of silent space. Do the dead find peace beyond the rat­tle of the world? What peace is there for us whose best love can­not return them even for a day? I raise my head to the door and think I will see you in the frame. I know it is your voice in the cor­ri­dor but when I run out­side the cor­ri­dor is emp­ty. There is noth­ing I can do that will make any dif­fer­ence. The last word is yours. The flut­ter­ing in the stom­ach goes away and the dull wak­ing pain. Some­times I think of you and I feel gid­dy. Mem­o­ry makes me light­head­ed, drunk on cham­pagne. All the things we did. And if any­one had said this was the price I would have agreed to pay it. That sur­pris­es me; that with the hurt and the mess comes a shaft of recog­ni­tion. It was worth it. Love is worth it.

After read­ing about the book, I was sur­prised to find that it isn’t about the obvi­ous sort of loss. The nov­el is described as an erot­ic homage to a lover’s body, but one of the intrigu­ing aspect is that the author nev­er gives the nar­ra­tor a gen­der. I’m going to try to find it to give it a read.

1 Yes, I’m Tech­noMom there, like most places.

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