Julie’s Heart


Sitting in this dark room in Jaipur, beside a lamp that scatters light like stars from forever ago, it seems to me as if time has vanished, that each date I have ever seen or heard of has been nothing but the creation of an absurd mind, each boundary has been nothing but a fevered dream, perhaps my own but maybe someone else’s – who’s to say – and that suddenly, in this feebly cold midnight, everything in the world exists right in front of me, tangible and solid, in a moment of rare clarity: nothing is out of reach.

In a swirling of all divisions I’ve ever known, I suddenly can see the mother crying for her crucified son, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater playing in the background — ‘stood the mournful Mother weeping, close to her Son to the last’, suddenly I understand Latin, and suddenly in the middle of my room, the site of Christ’s crucifixion tonight, I can feel this deeply and I am drowning in a dark blue grief : I have always wondered what being able to breathe underwater would feel like until tonight when I realize that it feels like breathing, no less and no more, as if a weight has been lifted – that the struggle we feel inside water is exactly like the struggle they feel outside it, maybe I am being poetic, but sometimes I like to believe that there is no difference between two struggles, two sorrows, they differ, yes, but they’re the same in that both are sorrows, that death is death whether you’re dying because of water or its absence – and I feel like I am drowning still, blue still so blue and heavy, like Julie’s heart – Julie, from Kieslowski’s Bleu, Julie my mother’s friend whose son died at 25, Julie that woman from the corner whose smile can’t be seen even from a distance, Julie all the women who are named Julie and all those who could have been named Julie, everyone who is Julie and everyone who isn’t – like the taut sky over the burning ghats of Varanasi, where men light local cigarettes from the buried embers of just burnt bodies and you remember, you’d never really forgotten, but you remember that in this part of the world, death really means nothing – and I don’t mean it in a modern political kind of way, but spiritually, essentially – there is an inevitable return, tragedies and deaths belong to the elusive West, here death is a pause before the next line, the end to your life doesn’t matter because there is another beginning not too far away – for a moment, I think breathing – but then there is the inescapable release from this cycle, there is an end, after all, that we never discussed in our literature class and no one ever talked about what happens if something dear is lost in our last life, who will make up for it, in which life (what if, I shudder at the thought, Dushyanta couldn’t return to the Earth?) – there is sometimes no next chance (remember, remember Carson who wrote : “this is our one chance to amaze each other.” It might be our last.) – and I am drowning, deeper now, in a blue beyond blue, in a rocking lullaby sadness : a sadness that repeats itself like the desert landscape, a melancholy that doesn’t stop happening, and what if it never does, what if abysses keep appearing like news, everywhere and forever? – the lullaby sadness is rocking me to sleep, my eyes are getting heavier, and now my body feels blue and it suddenly hits me, right before the end, too late, as always.

This life: our chance to feel love, but not just love: heaviness, too, and gravity, and betrayal, and skin, and grass. This strange life: our chance to be ourselves but also everyone and everything else. And suddenly tonight when everything is clear and every scene appears before me, I realize that, all along, we have been taught the wrong meaning of ‘I’: the word that we thought meant self, actually meant everyone. I realize, suddenly tonight, that in any part of the planet, it is possible to feel every grief; that I never really had to choose between the many sorrows of the world. You know, no one had ever told me.


(this was first published in Kindle Magazine, where I write a monthly column on cities and memory, etc.)

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