"Letter to J" printed here with permission from the addressee.
February 27th, 2022
Your hand over my eyes does away with the question of prophecy.
My first memory is of this dream I had when I was four. In it, the garden shed’s full of machines with arms to hug. One plucks a star from the sky, hooks it in my speech. Then, I know there are bones in that shoebox beneath my mum’s favourite eucalyptus tree. I was eighteen years old before I learnt I have a stillborn elder sister.
And when you make a fist, just there at my waist, you are making the same fist, ten years older, and I in white muslin, in a woods somewhere. I don’t want to tell you I will be sure of you in favour of telling you I am sure of you. But do you remember that when I was nine, I said there will be a man in the woods, instead of the word ‘want’. My prophecy is my language of want. It’s how I articulate the sadness that’s certain my mum and I know each other only for what the other could’ve been. It’s how I articulate that there is no safe place. Its question is ‘how will you say want without saying it?’.
Then you put your hand over my eyes, and I wouldn’t speak of want. What has this to do with eyes? To argue Teiresias lost eyesight and gained foresight is inaccurate; to become μάντις (mantis, soothsayer; Apollodorus, The Library) has to do with a change of the mind (the word is from PIE *mń̥tis, ‘the act of thinking’), not only of the eyes. In this moment we are choosing, for a moment, that I cannot see. It’s not that I don’t want, because I want you, but I don’t have to explain it away in shoebox and making up a childhood love or two. I want you like I want you. I’m not looking for any other ways to tell you that. I trust you to let me not look.
I’ve not told anyone I want them before, like no-one has seen me smile as much, or with such cruelty, as when you pull back the left corner of my upper lip with your thumb. The word ‘confession’ comes from ‘to speak in admission’, that is to say: say to let in. I don’t confess I want you. I say I want you like I want you. I confess cruelty when the part of the word that is like rue pulls back the left corner of my upper lip. Speaking the word has let in the expressions your hands have lent me. Somewhere between speech and your hand over my eyes, I’ve become willing, no, I have wanted, to hurt in all the ways you’d want me to. ‘Cruelty’ contains its own regret, and I don’t regret that—I’ll take back everything you and I agree I could. The compassion to raise a fist, and too, the compassion to forgive myself for wanting.