The 16th of December 1953 – Cornish, New Hampshire

(found at the foot of a long, sloping, gravel driveway)

Why, Margaret?
You always ask me why I do this, why I sit here and “torture” (your words, never mine) myself this way.

I’ll tell you why. See, Margaret, this stuff is coming out no matter what. I feel it inside me, this bubbling, this curdling, this turbulent slop, these thoughts and these ideas. They’re in there, and they’re coming out no matter what.

I feel it just beneath my skin. It’s scurrying around and bouncing off my insides. When I look for it, I can almost see it, and if other people can see it too, well then, that’s why they keep their distance, I guess.

And it’s just bound to come out, Margaret. It’s just going to. Sometimes I can control it. I force a little belch and a little puff of it, like cigarette smoke, floats away from me and gets trapped in my notebook. Sometimes there’s nothing I can do to stop it, and the whole lot of it just runs out of my mouth like a river and paints paper black with ink.

And then, sometimes, I just have to get it out of me. Sometimes I stand over my typewriter and take a penknife in my hand. I trace a smile across my stomach and let that coagulated goop drain out and splatter over my desk and splash over the keys of my typewriter and fill the page with these thoughts, these ideas.

And it does hurt, a little, just at first. It hurts just to get started, but then it all starts flowing out of me, and I can relax just the slightest bit. And it flows and flows, and I feel such relief, relief compounded by the greatest, most glorious bout of exhaustion a man could feel, I think. When it’s all finished, I’m completely drained, Margaret, of thoughts, of energy, of ideas, of pretense. Then I slump my shoulders for a minute.

And when the ink has dried on all of these pages, there is one last thing to do, one last “torturous” (your words, never mine) thing to do. I send them off, away into the world, into the dark night. I send them off, and I hope they bring something back to me, as I recover, as more thoughts come back, as the stuff inside me starts to bubble and roil. Maybe it’ll be a genuine response. Maybe it’ll just be an echo of my own wailing, but hopefully it’ll bring something back.

So, Margaret, that is why.

Thoughtfully,

Jerome

 

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