It's good to get in touch with you at last. A proper chance to thank you for your hospitality. Your home felt as
my own and I will surely be sick for it, as I was for mine during my stay in yours.
I trust I haven't left too many traces behind. As you will have noticed by now, I did take the liberty of fixing the chair that was taken apart and standing by the door. You must have planned on throwing it out, but I just couldn't let the wood go to waste, even though it was a challenge to rearrange the parts. The new design fit my needs, but please don't feel you have to keep it if it doesn't suit you likewise. I won't mind, after all, the memory remains as I left it.
Again, many thanks.
An unexpected surprise to read your letter. You're the first to have gone through the trouble of seeking me out.
Usually, I remain completely unaware of the person I lend my home to. Though I'll admit that every time I return,
the presence of another is still sensible, lingering in the rooms for at least a few more days and nights until
it disappears. (Either that or I get used to the feeling, which then simply becomes part of any other feeling).
Of course, I'm pleased to hear you had a good stay. And thank you for the chair — I will keep it.
All the best.
Thank you for your reply.
Must say, the thought of you still sensing my presence makes me feel strangely exposed. What then, is lingering? What part? What sense?
Speaking of presence: I just moved into my new appartment in Amsterdam and have been busy thinking about the furnishing. I've noticed that the memory of your house is constantly affecting my decisions. For instance, that image you have above the door, could you please tell me more about it? I can't seem to recollect it entirely, but at the same time I can't get it out of my head.
Love the chair picture.
The image you're referring to has been there ever since I moved in. I do not know its past or what exactly it depicts, but have become quite attached to it occupying the space above my door. The colour has totally faded, all I can say is that it seems to be the detail of a building, with Chinese(?) signage on one of the walls. The building could be either tiny or huge, made of cardboard or concrete — strange how I can't figure that out. Taking a closer look I discovered there's some kind of megaphone attached to the tower on top of the highest plane. Who would put an attribute like that on their scale model building? Then again, who would put an attribute like that on a real building, either? Who would be in such need or want to be heard?
Wish I could translate the symbols for you, but am unfortunately completely mute when it comes to Asian languages. Anyway, hope this helps.
Yes, those symbols are definitely most prominent in my memory. China has been on my mind. Trying to finish Jia Zhangke's Platform for months now, starting over and over again, but never getting passed half way through. Enough to confront me with the fact that I know very little of the country, though. (Confession: if someone would try hard enough I could easily be convinced that Mao is still alive and ruling. That's embarrassing.) And then there's this: biking back to your house on a Tuesday evening I was surprised to hear what sounded like a saxaphone playing from underneath the railroad tracks. The music dissolved me, so I had to stop. Someone was playing from the black hole of the alcove under the viaduct that had been fenced off by construction workers weeks before. The reverb of the hollow space made the song pour into the street, where the rumbling cars turned a deaf ear to it. So, it was only me and the song (or at least what was left of me, dissolved, and what was left of the song, over all that traffic). After a while the boy noticed me and stopped playing. When I didn't leave he stepped out into the light. I thought he might have been annoyed by me so I thanked him unduly through the wire fence (placing my hand on my heart, finding the words for "Very beautiful!" in German, English, Dutch — no wonder he stared at me bleakly). "From China," he said, which was already on my mind then so of course that stirred me especially, as you can imagine. "Ah, please, haben Sie Konzert irgendwo?" He shook his head. "Probe. Ich übe." "Shade, shade. Sehr schön." I loitered awkwardly under his equally awkward gaze and then just took off, pulling myself back together from some place between Beijing, Berlin, New Orleans and home. And when I turned the corner I had already forgotten him, even though moments before I was still completely lost in his song. That's how it goes sometimes, I guess. Lucky it all just reoccured to me now.
Without a doubt, I pass that very same railroad every day on my way to work. I think I know which alcove you mean, but up until now I've only heard silence there.
It's a pleasure to read your memory.
I wish you well.
Apologies for contacting you again — just realized I might have forgotten one of my books in Berlin. I suspect it to be lying somewhere in the bookshelf. Could you check the third row from the floor up, on top of the collected stories of Lydia Davis? (Which, by the way, I read from cover to cover. Come to think of it, I should get a print of The House Plans. I might've even bookmarked that page, sorry for that... Then again, that's definitely one to reread.) It should be either there or close to Point and Line to Plane, which I was also leafing through regulary. Actually just found back a quote from there that I'd jotted down on a note. Some of it has become illegable because it was in the pocket of my pants coming out of the wash, but this is part of it: "We look upon the geometric point as the ultimate and (?) union of silence and speech. In writing it signifies silence." Reading your last letter again, I thought it a nice footnote to what you said.
Anyway, the book I forgot is about Pierre and Marie Curie and written in German, which is probably why I held off reading it and then didn't think of it when I left your house. It was lying on a doorstep in your street one evening, propped up on display with at least a dozen others. I guess someone was cleaning up their closet and imagined passersby might be interested in the leftovers. The sight of those books on the steps was endearing. It must have been the blueish, blazing star on the front of this particular one that caught my attention. And finding a book does feel like a trophey somehow, even if the previous owner put it out there just because he or she was too lazy to bring it away.
Will you let me know if you find it?
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find your book. Could it possibly be somewhere else? You obviously have an extraordinary detailed memory of my house, which is remotely eery to say the least. But both Davis and Kandinsky are standing as they always have, without your book on top or behind or next to them. Of course, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for it nonetheless.
You're right, it is eery. I've even been dreaming about your house: a few nights ago I dreamt I was wandering through it, but when I stepped outside I was somewhere else. Instead of your street there was a circle of houses, or rooms actually, or houses turned inside out in fact. The rooms were very tall, like towers almost, and without walls. I could walk right into them and when I did I realized they were deserted and filthy and tagged. Looking up to the sky there was a thunderstorm raving. Black clouds billowing and surging like in a timelapse video with the sound turned off. Don't know what to make of it. That aside, I have to say that the least I would want is to unsettle you! On the contrary, I very much enjoyed our correspondence...
When I got your letter in the mail today I was reminded of my mother, and spent the rest of the afternoon thinking of her. It was the colour you gave the parrot's feathers that set me off, remembering the patchouli perfume bottle she kept in her study. The scent of a younger her, maybe even from a time before she had me (who, I guess, in many ways, is also a younger her). I took that bottle with me when I left home and have ever since cherished the faint perfume like a piece of jewelry. But how to polish the scent of your mother? Such a volatile heirloom... The colours are still bright though: two snakes entwined, painted on the dark blue glass. It's the only print on the bottle — no name, no brand, no experation date. I just recently learned that it is said the caduceus would wake the sleeping and lull those awake to sleep. For the dying it would give a gentle death and the dead would be returned to life. Come to think of it, I have become my mother in many ways. An older younger her.
Your story impressed me. Is that you in the picture? I have to admit, we've been writing eachother six weeks now and your presence is everything but fleeting.
Should we meet?
Celina C.F. Yavelow
+31 (0)6 489 234 67
celinayavelow at gmail dot com