I began reading The Second Summer of the Sisterhood late last night and finished it about half and hour ago. The title to this post is something I picked up from the book – it was something e.e. cummings wrote. Although too many things happened today (most of which I will write about in another entry, probably), this was what I wanted to share, at least for tonight…
“…She used to read Kostos’ letters so often she had pulled out every possible nuance, every meaning, every drop of emotion. She had sucked them so dry she was surprised they didn’t burst into powder. She remembered the joy when a new letter would arrive – full of potential, unread. She remembered thinking that the multitude of fresh, unfelt feelings made the new envelope sit heavy in her hands.
She perched cross-legged, hypnotically opening them one by one. In the beginning she had often been struck by the formality of Kostos’ writing, constantly reminding her that he wasn’t an American or a teenager. The it had all fallen away and he was just him.
The first one was from early last September, soon after she’d left him and Santorini for home.
The memories are so close I feel your presence everywhere. And I see forward so clearly and sadly to a time when the memories will be distant. I won’t be able to picture your painting things scattered on the flat rock in Ammoudi or your bare feet soaking up the sunshine of Valia’s garden wall. Now I see them. Soon I will remember them. Long after that I will remember remembering. I don’t want any more hours to pass to separate me from you. Tonight I was packing for London, hating to leave this place where we were together.
The next one, sent later that month, had a postmark from England, where Kostos had moved to study at the London School of Economics.
There are five of us in a three-bedroom flat. Karl from Norway, Yusef from Jorad, and a couple of Brits from up north who’ve barely moved in. London is loud and shiny and thrilling. I’ve waited for it for a long time, and still, it’s startling to be here. Classes begin Tuesday. Last night I had a couple of pints (cupla is the term – no matter how many) with Yusef at a pub on our street. I couldn’t help telling him about you. He understood. He has a girl back home.
The next letter was from October. She remembered her surprise at the Greek postmark. It had been written just after Kostos’s grandfather had his heart attack. Kostos had dutifully gone back home to Santorini. Instead of studying macroeconomics with world-famous professors, he was making boat fittings in the archaic family forge. That was the kind of person Kostos was.
Lena, please don’t worry about me. It was my choice to come back. Really. The LSE isn’t going anywhere. I’ve already received a deferment. It was no trouble finding a guy to take over the flat. I’m not sorry about it. My bapi is recovering quickly now. He sat in the forge with me while I worked today. He clams he’ll be back to full schedule by Christmas and I’ll be back in school for the new year, but I don’t need to rush. I’ll take care of Bapi’s business first.
I went swimming in our olive grove the night I got back. I was delirious thinking of you.
He’d originally written making love to you, then crossed it out about a thousand times. But when Lena read the letter from the back in the perfect light, she could read the censored words. And as many times as she read them, their impact never faded. Each word burst like a firework in her brain. Longing. Agony. Bliss. Pain.
Had he made love to this new girlfriend? The thought seared her breain like a hot coal, and she tossed it out as fast as she could.
The next letter she pulled from the pile was from December. The letters from this period still evoked a throb of Shame in Lena’s chest. She was only lad she didn’t have possession of her own letters.
Your last letter sounded so distant, Lena. I tried to call you on Monday. Did you get the message? Are you feeling all right? How are your friends? Bee?
I tell myself your spirits were down the day you wrote. You’re fine and we’re fine. I hope it’s true.
Then came fateful January. Whatever courage had bloomed inside her last August had withered in the cold winter. She’d become huddled and impermeable again. She’s written a cowardly letter and he’s responded.
Maybe it’s just too far. The Atlantic Ocean seemed small in September. Now, even the Caldera looms for me like the edge of an uncrossable distance. I have dreams where I swim and swim and I always end up on a different shore of this island. Maybe we’ve been apart too long.
And then she’d broken it off completely, promising herself she would be whole again. But she wasn’t whole again. She was still missing him.
Of course I understand, Lena. I knew this could happen. If I were away in London, working hard in university, it would all feel different to me. Just being here on this island, longing to be somewhere else… I will miss you.
Such sad letters of longing and love and loss. The entire book made me cry – and the passages I copied were just part of it. I wish I could write it all down here… But that would be too tedious and take too long. It’s late and in two hours, I will begin another week, albeit a short one this time.
Time… I wonder why I always feel I am running after it, forever begging for a little more. There never seems to be enough.