I was telling someone about Oscar Wao the other day and so of course you came to mind – how would I have ever had the chance to spend an evening in the company of one of my all time favorite authors ever, if not for you. Then I got to thinking about the evenings we had spent together. When I say it like that, it sounds much more salacious, no? Ironical in that we never were. Mostly, I was thinking about how grateful I am to have had you to be a total intellectual and literary snob with for all my years in the 852. Though I had a few others with whom I could do this there was something special about you. Maybe it was your ability to be upside down – you know I do always advocate for inversion.
I started writing this letter the day after Christmas. I was in San Diego for a friend’s birthday – the same friend for whose birthday I had flown to San Diego on December 26 2004 when the tsunami hit Thailand. When that happened I had no concept of South East Asia at all, now eight years later, in many ways Thailand feels like my backyard neighbor. Anyhow, my point was that I started writing this on the 26th of December, and it is now the 6th of April. Weird how time gets away – and how it changes how I see things, whether Thailand or you or everything around me.
You know, you sort of epitomized the kind of guy I imagined (hoped) I would meet when I went over seas. Wicked smart, adventurous, experienced in many things, open-minded, rather a Renaissance man if I do say (even if you are Canadian… And I did always crack up to hear you call yourself an Americanist, though I know it is totally accurate in professional terms, it still makes me giggle.) But lately I have been facing the reality that what we see is not necessarily not what we get, it just clouds over a lot of other things that we are also getting. Or not. Which brought me back to you and how I saw you as this rather idealized creature, unfair to you more than I me I suppose, and so as I got to know you, foibles and all, they were somehow more disappointing initially. But then, they became important humanizing features. Like a good scar. All this and you and I were really just the definitive platonic friends. Imagine the complexities involved when these realities hit home with those we are intimate with.
And they have for me, as I know they often did for you. One of the great similarities you and I have always had is the incompatibility between the people we like and the people we are attracted to. We are not alone, you know, I know a great many people who suffer this exact same disconnect. It is odd that we can see so clearly in others the disastrous choices that we are blind to ourselves. I would laugh when you would tell me about your romantic woes – in a friendly way of course – but I am not laughing now, you can be sure.
This brings me back to the delay in finishing your letter. Swept away I have been, as you (or Yoda) might say. Overwhelmed with work, and caught up in the hopeful fantasy of what romance has to offer. The burden we place on romance, eh? Another one of the great mysteries of a rational mind. As if an emotion with all the same indicators of intoxication could really be the thing that makes all the difference. What initially hides all of the imperfections of humanity at once exposes them as extremes. Of course I remember one of my yoga masters, I think you knew Samrat, who said to beware feelings that were so high so fast, for the world seeks balance and one such extreme will be met with another. And of course, the gurujis always seem to know.
I wonder if you too have been swept away in some metaphorical way. I miss you and your strange and silly wit, and your semantic aberrations. I miss the simplicity of Hong Kong that in many ways I never did appreciate while I was there. I miss having an accurate reflection of myself in a friend like you, someone I really trusted, quickly and deeply, and it seems rightly so.
I still often go back to the text you sent after we saw each other last:
Damn. You reminded me so much of why I miss(ed) you, and Grad School, ie Western literacy/cosmopolitanism. _My Dinner with Andre_: actually actual, not actually impossible. You remind me why I love books and bookishness above fucking all. Gracias, doctora, muchisima. O to the X.
In so many ways that brief missive sustains me, (especially as I know you and I both continue to seek the actually impossible rather than accept the actually actual we have right before us) and I love how you see me even when you don’t.
O to the X.