by Rachel Kempf
November 1, 2008
So I guess if you’ve been waiting for the other shoe to fall here it is… serves you right for sleeping with the “quiet girl,” huh? Not a word all week, then blammo! turns out she’s a total psychopath (kidding!).
No, I’m not crazy and this is (hopefully!) not the letter you’ve been dreading, although I can definitely see how you might think that, suddenly getting a letter like this, like “oh no, this guy I barely know took my virginity and it turns out we’re not soul-mates—freaking boo hoo, guess I’ll go and write him some sappy love letter,” but of course, that’s not what this is. Yes, we did sleep together and yes, you were my first (!) but let me assure you that I am not sorry that it happened and I am certainly not sorry that we haven’t talked since then (except for that day I borrowed that cigarette from you—thanks!). I just have a few quick things I want to say and I promise I’ll try to make them as painless as possible.
I bet it’s pretty weird getting a letter from someone you see in class all week, huh? Like, “who is this Alison girl and why can’t she just talk to me like a normal person?” Well, to answer your hypothetical (maybe?) question, I guess I should tell you a few things about myself first. Obviously, my name, Alison Winterbourne (which you’d better know!) and my major, philosophy/English, like you. I guess you probably know by now that I’m a freshman… yikes, huh? No wonder you had to tell me that “this wasn’t going to lead to anything”—weird as it may sound I totally know where you were coming from with that. Us freshman girls, I guess we can be a little needy/naïve/lonely sometimes. And who the hell wants to get dragged into that—always having to rescue us like some damned Orpheus? Oh, boo hoo, the snake bit me, but listen: I’m okay. And for all the other dumb college girls who sleep with you and then try to lay some pretentious Intro to Mythology guilt trip on you, just remember, it’s all just bullshit—no God, no underworld, right? And you can tell that to my Christian Fundamentalist parents… (though maybe not after you tell them you slept with me…) Yikes—I guess there are some things my college-educated, liberated woman brain needs to get used to, huh?
On a deeper level though, (since we are philosophy majors) what else can be said for sure? I guess that, like you, I really feel that “there’s nothing really at the center of me holding me together—just a bunch of loose associations and vague ideas.” (Can you believe I remembered all that from class Monday? When you said it I totally wrote it down.) I really liked it when you said that, Michael, I mean it really got me thinking because that’s pretty much how I feel all the time. What does this say about who we are? I mean if me and you (and, like you said, people in general… postmodernism, blah) are so susceptible to the “gaze of the Other” or whatever, it really complicates where you leave off and where I begin so you see it would be hard for me to say all this (or anything) to you in person—it gets into all these really complicated questions of how much is me and how much is you, etc. etc.
Like right now, I’m writing this letter but I know you’re going to be reading it so in a way it’s like I’m not even writing my thoughts but writing your thoughts—do you ever get this feeling? I ask because some of the things you’ve said in class, like about how malleable people are, are things that I, like I said before, think all the time and it’s really opened me up to this very intense mental connection we have together. I try to send you little messages throughout the day sometimes, like, “cheer up, Michael” or “good luck on that French test!” (don’t ask how I know) and “sweet dreams—hope you can get to sleep!” but I never know if you get them or not. I actually tried this last one just last night when I was walking by your apartment building… I thought I’d check to see if your light went out when I did it but it was a while before it happened so I can’t say for sure. Do you get my messages? Do you send them to me, too? The other day I thought I got one from you—you were walking across campus and when you left your cigarette in the ashtray outside Flaherty Hall, I knew you really wanted me to have it (thanks!).
I guess this has been a pretty strange week in a lot of ways. I’ve really been doing a lot of thinking, making connections etc. and even remembering things that I haven’t done or thought about since I was a kid, like when I first learned how colors work. I just couldn’t get over the idea that there aren’t really any colors without light so I took all my crayons and stuck them in a box at the bottom of my toy chest because I liked the idea of all those colors just vanishing into the air and I wanted to see if I kept them in there long enough if they would forget they were supposed to be colors and just this week I remembered that I never took them out. Of course I realized this and made the immediate connection to myself and how I am really just absorbing and reflecting other people so I did the same experiment, standing in the bathroom with the lights out and looking at myself in the mirror, totally separated from other people. After I had been looking for several hours I realized I couldn’t even see myself anymore, and to test it I turned the lights back on, but nope, nothing. Turns out I totally do not even exist without other people. What I am especially curious about (and we could maybe try sometime? But I guess you wouldn’t want to “get involved” or anything) is whether or not when I am talking to you and you me, if our reflections will switch, my face for your face, but I have no real way of knowing yet.
I keep coming back to the idea of “craziness” and what it means because this week when things have been getting “different” I have to wonder if most people would interpret it as a liberated consciousness or just totally nutso, weird or dirty or insane somehow. I simply cannot understand how in this postmodern world anyone can think of anyone as crazy. I guess a hundred years ago or so there was more of a moral center or whatever but if people would just think more about the world we live in they would realize that you can sleep with whoever you want to sleep with and not some a sex-crazed nympho psychopath who needs to be locked up.
One reason why people may not understand what you and I are trying to do is because we are all locked inside a prison of words that we are constantly trying to free ourselves from. In this way I think there is a lot of truth to the Pentecostalism I was raised with because even though there is no God, there is unity and the closer we get to it, the more language deconstructs itself so when they are speaking in tongues they are speaking the language of oneness, emmi ella lamma gamma, like the so-called insane, like babies, who are, after all, closer to oneness having just emerged from the womb, unity with the mother, but before that, the Eternal Unity we are all coming from and heading to.
Michael, you were so drunk when I saw you at that party, you were with your dumb friends and kept saying “who ate the apple, bitch?” and giving high fives. And at the time I just thought it was something guys say but then you saw me, we slept together, and now that that’s happened I keep coming back to it, thinking about how true it is and I know that there are no coincidences. Obviously woman ate the apple, the “fruit of knowledge” and in doing so I think some glimpse of Eternal Truth was imparted to her, to me, to all women and in turn, all people, only you have to fuck women to get it out.
In a way, of course, this comparison is probably very scary because of the Satanic connection—God representing oneness but not advocating biting the apple, the key to oneness and unity. The bleeding of woman—menstrual blood and also the blood from penetration (and wow did I bleed a lot! I think I am still bleeding in some ways) is the expansion of this Truth to Man, only God calls it The Curse of Woman, which suggests it is not truth but some sort of Hellgate and in fucking me you have opened the gates and all my thoughts have poured into you unannounced and you are Orpheus, I was bit by your snake, I am drowning and pulling you down to the underworld with me.
Michael, I hear your thoughts all the time and you are so scared, so worried that you are losing it, that I have ruined you and we have spoiled ourselves with our great destructive love but I want to remind you that whatever is happening it is happening to me, too. You didn’t want to get involved, didn’t want to look back because you were afraid you would lose me and I want you to know I understand, don’t look back, don’t say a word to me and I will do the same, we will silently love each other to save us both. But silent as we are, I am with you through all of this and so you’ll think of me and remember that neither of us can be weird or wrong because in our silence is the other saying I am with you, I connect, I am here and you are loved, you are not alone, you are not crazy.
(3rd seat from the left, back row—Postmodern Philosophy)
Rachel Kempf was named one of the "Best New Voices of 2006" when her essay "Tricycle" was included in the collection Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Authors (Random House, 2006). In addition, she has had several of her short plays produced in New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and various cities throughout the Midwest. She is currently at work on her Master's Degree in English at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri where she spends her free time writing screenplays and watching horror movies with her husband.