Words For Everything describes me well. Leo and I are one and the same: we spend time alone reflecting on life, trying desperately to connect with the strangers we encounter, conjuring deep meaning and connections in our head, all the while trying to understand, and describe life. We marvel in the small victories, in crazy coincidences, and we put love above all. We do not let go, but love from afar, forever with our hearts exposed to the harsh elements of life.
By heart, this is not an expression I use lightly.
My heart is weak and unreliable. When I go it will be my heart. I try to burden it as little as possible. If something is going to have an impact, I direct it elsewhere. My gut for example, or my lungs, which might seize up for a moment but have never yet failed to take another breath. When I pass a mirror and catch a glimpse of myself, or I’m at the bus stop and some kids come up behind me and say, Who smells shit? – small daily humiliations – these I take, generally speaking, in my liver. Other damages I take in other places. The pancreas I reserve for being struck by all that’s been lost. It’s true that there’s so much, and the organ is so small. But. You would be surprised how much it can take, all I feel is a quick sharp pain and then it’s over. Sometimes I imagine my own autopsy. Disappointment in myself: right kidney. Disappointment of others in me: left kidney. Personal failures: kishkes. I don’t mean to make it sound like I’ve made a science of it. It’s not that well thought out. I take it where it comes. It’s just that I notice certain patterns. When the clocks are turned forward and the dark falls before I’m ready, this, for reasons I can’t explain, I feel in my wrists. And when I wake up and my fingers are stiff, almost certainly I was dreaming of my childhood. The field where we used to play, the field in which everything was discovered and everything was possible. (We ran so hard we thought we would spit blood: to me that is the sound of childhood, heavy breathing and shoes scraping the hard earth.) Stiffness of the fingers is the dream of childhood as it’s been refund to me at the end of my life. I have to run them under the hot water, steam clouding the mirror, outside the rustle of pigeons. Yesterday I saw a man kicking a dog and I felt it behind my eyes. I don’t know what to call this, a place before tears. The pain of forgetting: the spine. The pain of remembering: the spine. All the times I have suddenly realized that my parents are dead, even now, it still surprises me, to exist in the world while that which made me has ceased to exist: my knees, it takes half a tube of Ben-Gay and a big production just to bend them. To everything a season, to every time I’ve woken only to make the mistake of believing for a moment that someone was sleeping beside me: a hemorrhoid. Loneliness: there is no organ that can take it all.
(from The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, pages 10-11)
It’s perfect, really. He’s often invisible, but ever present. He’s always chasing Alma (the sun), but she’s always just barely out of reach. When she’s around, she lights up the sky. She fuels him, and ignites the light inside him.
Maybe the reason I am so caught up in emotion is that emotion is tied to memory. You know that quote…
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
It’s true. Maybe I’m obsessed with feeling because it’s the only true way to hold on to something in the long run. Maybe that’s why our real friends are still close to us no matter how much time or distance has kept us apart. Emotions connect us to one another, to the world, to ourselves.
Leo Gursky, the main character in The History of Love by Nicole Krauss, is always searching…
“You, especially you, who might have found the words for everything.” (p. 6)
“When I got up again, I’d shed the only part of me that had ever thought I’d find the words for even the smallest bit of life.” (p.8)
“It didn’t matter if I found the words, and more than that I knew it would be impossible to find the right ones. And because I accpeted that what I’d once believed was possible was in fact impossible, and because I knew I would never show a word of it to anyone, I wrote a sentence:
Once upon a time there was a boy.” (p. 9)
“When will you learn that there isn’t a word for everything? (p. 11)
“Words often failed me. (p.17)
“Hard-earned wasn’t the word for them but something else, more bittersweet” (p.22)
Words For Everything title of Leo’s book (p. 33)
“…follow the pages of crossed-out words (p. 44)
“By the time he’d settled on an answer the person had gone on his way, leaving him standing alone.” (p. 70)
“So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves” (p. 111)
“This time it had been necessary to rise to the material, to struggle to find words for a man who had been a master of words, who had devoted his entire existence to resisting the cliché in the hope of introducing to the world a new way of thinking and writing; a new way, even, of feeling.”” (p. 113)
“Where he saw a page of words, his friend saw the field of hesitations, black wholes, and possibilities between the words.” (p.116)
“…mouthing the words as if they were not an announcement of death, but a prayer for life” (p.117)
“A bitter joke came to mind. Words failed me. And yet…” (p.119)
Because of that wife who got tired of waiting for her soldier, I lived. All he had to do was poke the hay to discover that there was nothing beneath it; if he hadn’t had so much on his mind I’d have been found. Sometimes I wonder what happened to her. I like to imagine the first time she leaned in to kiss that stranger, how she must have felt herself falling for him, or perhaps simply away from her loneliness, and it’s like some tiny nothing that sets off a natural disaster halfway across the world, only this was the opposite of disaster, how by accident she saved me with that thoughtless act of grace, and she never knew, and how that, too, is part of the history of love.
— The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
Tags100 birthday cakes Agerola and the Amalfi coast animals art & design baking big questions biking books & prose Brussels chicago cooking eating Europe-India-Maldives garden Geneva Greece happiness India komorebi life lessons love Maldives mindfulness music my home my thoughts nature NYC pain Paris people I love pictures quote quotes revelations Rome sewing soloing The History of Love travel ttmmhs unity video who am i words for everything