Beloved Reader, here is my weak attempt at producing an epistolary short. Be wary that it has no proper structure, plot or character, no definite beginning or a fitting end.
I know not what to write, for the physician that oft calls on me, prescribed this as an effective cure to my present ailment of which I know nothing of. I cannot recall his exact words for I was weary and disconsolate from the night before, but he did press on me to write whatever I pleased in this diary. Shall I call it a diary? Perhaps it is too hasty of me to call it so for I know not if I shall confide my secrets in it. Is it a journal then? I may take to noting down the daily proceedings but I know not how it will do me any good. I am fatigued now, and shall attempt to write tomorrow.
Today the physician inquired if I had made use of the diary he had graciously thrust into my hands upon his last visit. I cannot recall my reply, perhaps I was too drowsy to compose an answer, but he was positively assured by my dear brother that it was taken care of, that he shall make it his duty to keep a watchful eye on me daily and that I wrote daily even if it were a few mere sentences. I feel like I’m in school again, and that my dear brother, whom I adore very much, has taken on the role of our headmistress Mrs. Phenimore.
I write this, under my darling brothers ever so watchful eyes, even though he is not present in the room beside me, yet he keeps sending his daughter to check on me regularly. Dearest Lizzy calls me “Aunt Jenny” for that was a friendly name bestowed upon me by her mother, and she has kept to it, which I do not mind at the least. In fact I shall fancy acquiring it as my first name. I have found my first name, that which was given to me by my parents, very tiresome indeed. I know not what they were thinking to have me named Begonia, for I was much teased in school. Upon my enrollment, due to an unfortunate accident, the spelling of Begonia were altered to Beggonea, which made it all the more bothersome and the girls were insufferable in their constant taunts. “Beggonea, be gone!” was chanted whenever I passed through the halls or entered the grounds. I do wish to alter my second name too.
All this incurable writing has left me exhausted. I shall return tomorrow.
It did not occur to me that my physician could take it upon himself to open my diary and read it, word to word, for after all it is his notebook. He has not acted so, but I suspect that his imprudence wouldn’t stop him. And if he does so, I fear not if he reads this that I find him terrible insolent for he always walks into my room without knocking at the door, or seeking permission, which every one, save Lizzy, sees to in the most civil fashion. I also find it most indecent that he allows himself to sit on the chair beside my bed. He pulls it up next to me on his accord, without ever saying “May I sit beside you?”, or “May I pull this chair next to you?” His impertinence shall cost him one day, if he is to ever call upon a fairer lady than myself, the kind which demand a certain respect from other. And if he shall make himself comfortable in her company without seeking permission from her Ladyship, she shall have him dismissed at a moments’ notice. Perhaps I should approach him with this matter next time he visits me. I shall, with utmost caution, make him realize his discourteous behavior towards me and forewarn him as it is most ill-suited to his profession. Yes, I intend to make him see through his misconduct in the most kindest of words.
We are to move to a lake house in the upper West side of the country for a brief period of time. My dearest brother is of the opinion that the right climate shall provide me with an instant cure to my extant condition, an estimation he came to quickly after the physician left day before yesterday. I had not had the chance then to speak to the physician about his misconduct, as I was too weak, but I shall when he visits me in the lake house, for he has assured my brother that he shall visit me twice every week, and that I was to keep having my present dose.
My dosage has been doubled, which fatigues me greatly. Dearest Lizzy has been packing my belongings most arduously. We are to move to the lake house in a week. I haven’t seen my dear brother since the physician last left. I suspect that he is gone out of town, but he has never not acquainted me with his plans and left the house. I worry not for I have sent a message to all the servants to notify me as soon as he arrives, that he is to come see his sister immediately. I shall of course not get angry at him for having failed to inform me of his plans, but I shall make him a pleasant request to kindly do so from here on.
We are traveling towards the lake house in a carriage my dearest brother purchased for me especially for the occasion of traveling so distant. The horses driving the carriage are of the finest breed available in the entire country, for I have felt not a single bump throughout the journey. I surmised from the map that Lizzy drew for me, that we are about fifteen miles away from the lake house and shall arrive there by twilight.
We have arrived. I am yet to explore the splendors of this beauteous place, which I shall do tomorrow at the first break of dawn. The room apportioned to me by the dearest brother, is on the ground floor and quite spacious but I have taken a sudden dislike to the charcoal gray bar grill that creeps along the entire length of the window. It is quite plain which for some strange reasons, revolts me greatly. It also hinders my full view of the garden and I shall have it removed soon.
I have cried disconsolately for much of the morning today, to my darling brother’s great alarm. Lizzy tells me he has sent for the physician immediately along with the carriage and a chestnut horse from the stables. I know not why my heart sinks immensely and I have not yet plucked up the courage to look at the garden from my window which I know is let wide open. Here comes brother dearest!
I am quite weary despite not having gotten out of bed at all. Lizzy reads to me from a book, I fail to recall the name of. The tonic prescribed to me to be ingested at noon every day makes me a great deal sleepy. The physician is to reach our lodgings today. I shall ask him to be polite.
Today I came to know that the physician goes around by the name of Jonathan Swissburne. I find it quite odd that up until today, I knew not his name even though he has been my dearest brothers childhood friend. I quite like his name, it is very befitting his profession. So I shall call him Doctor Swissburne from here on. When I inquired as to what ails me, he looked at me with his somber blue eyes and whispered “Only nothing my dear.” I was quite amused by his reply and when I pointed towards half a dozen tonic bottles on my side he retorted, and quite mischievously I might add, “Just a caution, my dear.” About an hour later, as I fell in and out of sleep, I heard him faintly, at a distance talking to my dearest brother and another person who I could hardly make out. Their conversation, which has fallen out of my memory, more or less went like this:
Dr. Swissburne: This is the first time she has conversed with me
Brother dearest: She shall be in grievous shock
Third person: She mustn’t be told, I can continue with the dosage, I know what he has prescribed
Dr. Swissburne: Of course, you may continue with the medicines
Brother dearest: You shall go immediately to the city, borrow one of my horses and purchase two months of supply.
Dr. Swissburne: That won’t be required
After which I heard the third person leave the room. The candlelight has begun to cast great shadows on the walls. Ever since my arrival at the lake house, I have not had the strength to visit the great outdoors. From what I’ve picked up from whispering servants, there has been a death in the neighborhood, that my brother dearest has hired a gardener to tend to the flowers and landscape the property, that the chestnut horse has been gravely injured and will have to be put down soon. The candle light flickers and shall be out in a moment. I bid adieu for I shall write again. Dr. Swissburne was in the right all along.
As I woke up today, I found Lizzy by my side, puffy eyed and red, looking down at me with a piteous stare. She immediately ran outside but I did hear her sob as she closed the door behind her. I know not what affects my darling Lizzy, perhaps it is my present state which has caused her much anguish. Or perhaps the death in the neighborhood but I know not why it would affect her so for she knew them not, and from what I hear, the nearest house is about a mile away. I can assuredly say that she has grown tired of her aunt’s wretched condition, that she hopes nay prays that I be well soon so that we can resume our walks together in the park.
Dr. Swissburne was kind enough to accompany me today as I wept bitterly but quietly on the bed. From the corner of my eye I saw brother dearest open the door to catch a glimpse of me. If I’m not mistaken, I saw him with swollen eyes which I shall, with every certainty say, is chiefly owed to his daunting work. For last night, I could hear him ordering men around all night, and despite a heavy sleep, his voice kept echoing of whispered commands, of men going in and out of the house all night, of the doors creaking open and shut. I later asked Dr. Swissburne as to what was causing him distress to which he gently smiled and said “Only nothing, my dear.” I know not what came over me but I assured Dr. Swissburne that I no longer wished to be the cause of worry to my family. Then I quietly resolved with myself to appear in high spirits whenever brother dearest or Lizzy provided me with company. As to my sudden reversal of temperaments, and bouts of dejection, I shall, for now, exercise as much restraint as I possibly can muster.
I have woken up in much better spirits today. I intend to visit the garden and walk with my darling Lizzy as we used to before her mother passed away.
My plans for yesterday were thwarted when I saw both my brother and Lizzy dressed in black. I deduced that they were going to the funeral in the neighborhood but before I could place a request to my brother regarding assigning me a maid who could assist me with my stroll in the garden, I had fainted. I woke hours later with Dr. Swissburne by my side who informed me that the house was empty save a few servants in the adjacent room whom I could clearly hear were busy playing cards. Dr. Swissburne looked pale and I shall attribute it to his ill-habit of eating late in the morning and going to bed without dinner for when I had asked him to help himself to the bowl of fruits placed by my bedside for my benefit he had said “Nothing, my dear” and months ago when he was invited by my brother dearest to dine along with the family, he had refused then too. Tomorrow I shall remind him that his constant reminders to me to eat properly, fully at all meal times were rendered useless if he was himself evading that which he suggested.
A very peculiar thing happened today, of which I am trying to seek a justification of but simply cannot arrive at a conclusion as to what triggered it. Today, as usual, but with slightly less sore eyes, Lizzy visited me for a while. She apologized for not having come to me for two days straight which I find odd because I remember her reading to me in my sleep after Dr. Swissburne had left. All this while I kept quiet as she then proceeded to draw out the curtains, open the window and pull up the chair beside my bed. When she was reaching for the book that was always placed by my bedside, of which the name I cannot ever seem to recall, I happened to ask her if Dr. Swissburne was being invited to dinner every day. I noticed her facial expressions turn first into slight shock and then her cheeks colored, and her eyes watered and she excused herself. She did not return the entire day except at evening with brother dearest who looked so solemnly at me as if I was on deathbed. He then inquired if I had been writing and I assured him that I was. He smiled at me and left. I must take to bed now, for the candle may die out any moment.
I woke up to the mechanical shrills of a cutter as some men worked their way to remove the window grill. I’m ever so thankful to brother dearest who has always taken care of me. I cannot recall if I ever expressed the desire to get rid of the ghastly grill. But no matter, I shall be able to view the garden fully now. I look forward to Dr. Swissburne’s visit.
I woke up to Dr. Swissburne walking across my room in a fervid manner. I was much too drowsy but I clearly heard him say to himself “Begonia, my Begonia, my dear.” What does it all mean? For when I was about to inquire, he had left the room with the door ajar through which the maid then peeked her head and closed it fully behind her. I later heard her rushing upstairs.
Owing to my continuing ill health and my inability to exercise restraint over tumultuous emotions, I was told that I had been assigned a new doctor, a certain Dr. Nathaniel. I am assured that Dr. Swissburne shall not stop visiting me from time to time, even though his visits shall now be rare. I will remember to ask this of brother dearest to allow him. I have taken a great liking to his second name and his blue eyes. I shall also remember to ask him to have a proper meal so that the color can return to his cheeks. I shall also remember to thank him for his kindness in giving me his diary.
I am much exhausted owing to Dr. Nathaniel’s interrogation which lasted for hours and despite having answered all of his questions, at the end, he still complained to my brother dearest of having failed to coerce a single word out of my mouth.
Do they not hear me when I speak? Or do I not speak at all? Dr. Swissburne has assured me that he can hear me just fine.
My dosage has increased and I’m required to take daily walks in the room, only that I wish to walk in the garden with Lizzy and not be confined by the walls or assisted by the maid. I shall communicate my concerns to brother dearest tomorrow who continues looking graver every day.
The most peculiar thing happened last night. Dr. Swissburne came to my room without knocking at the door, a habit which hasn’t bothered me lately, for I am getting quite used to his unannounced appearances. He looked quite sullen with dark marks under his eyes. His cheeks were hollowed out and his thin, stately demeanor reminded me a lot of Lizzy’s mother. When I inquired as to what was his purpose for visiting me at this late an hour, he gave a very faint smile, that which contrasted heavily against his pallid face and simply said “Let it be, my dear.” He then helped himself on to the chair and thereby I noticed a strong putrid smell and made a mental note to notify the maid the following morning to look under the bed for a dead rat.
I quite enjoy the days when Dr. Nathaniel does not visit, for then I can sleep as much as I wish to, and hear Lizzy reading from the book. But most of all, I am not expected to talk against my will which burdens my poor nerves greatly. These past two days have been quite troublesome for me for I was made to walk the length of the room twice, with Susan’s arms flung around my shoulders, and she is a broad-boned woman. Seemingly, I carried not only my weight but hers too. And once again, Dr. Nathaniel pressed me for answers to the most absurd questions one can possibly think of. I worry if he is a fraud, which seems the likely possibility, but I have not conveyed this concern to my brother yet. I shall ask Dr. Swissburne if his persistent questions will do me any good.
I know not if they combed the room for a dead rat. I cannot recall if I had instructed the maid to do so or not.
I am quite fatigued. I know not what to write, and at times I think that I must stop writing altogether. I shall seek advice from Dr. Swissburne, since I owe this pleasure to him. But he has not paid visit for the past one week or so which worries me greatly. I shall ask Lizzy about the matter tomorrow. Now I bid adieu. The silence has long overtaken the shadows of night.
I am not quite sure if it is thirtieth of April today or first of May. Perhaps it is the twenty-ninth of April. I shall ask Lizzy tomorrow and change the date on this accordingly.
I overheard a few men in the garden conversing about unpaid dues for a funeral. Why did brother dearest go to such lengths of paying for the neighbors’ funeral whom we, or he, barely knows?
Dr. Nathaniel is of the opinion that I am making gradual progress, but he knows not what afflicts me greatly now. That is Dr. Swissburne’s continual absence. Mrs. Phenimore never much liked absences and reprimanded a girl for having missed two weeks of school. I shall inquire Lizzy about his whereabouts.
Lizzy says it is the first of May today. But I know she lies for when I asked her about Dr. Swissburne, she somberly told me he had died! And when I insisted that she ought to tell me the truth, she simply took off.
Found this unfinished story (if one can call it that, assuming the asinine rants of an idle mind can still be worthy of such a label as a “story”) buried deep in the vestiges of my notebook, under an ordinary heading “Manuscript”.
“Substantially all ideas are second-hand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources.” – Mark Twain
At the speed of light, your memories vaporize into cosmic dust. All your ideas, thoughts, perceptions, projections, emotions, feeling, sentiments – indeed your entire past, present and future, becomes microscopic granules suspended in the vast vacuum overhead. Over a passage of a million years the fine particles of cosmic dust accumulate to form an interstellar mass of infinite size and shape, morphing from the very first tree you set your eyes on at a tender age of two, with its leaves swaying about in a mild breeze that made you cuddle up in the bosom of your nanny to the cold steel of the stretcher on which you last lay upon, dying, restless, irritated as death approached you in intervals, you faintly remember how everything was blue, a bouquet of geraniums woefully put in a turquoise ceramic vase on a table which, if you recall correctly, was made by a certain Blue Brother Woodworks because in this small a town everything wooden was made in their factory and you knew this for a fact for you were their accountant for some five years or so until they replaced you with Lapis Lazuli, the Spaniard famous for his debauchery and genius in mathematical calculations for he could tell you, at a moments notice, the distance between Neptune and Rigel the star, and the number of revolutions Mercury took as a fraction of your heart beat per minute and the distance your blood traveled around your body as a percentage of the distance between the Milky Way and Andromeda; but that all these numbers that Lapis so faithfully projected and assured you of were a fraud for when he told you that you were to live to a ripe age of hundred and sixty, and having taken this to heart and drawn the rest of your life according to the time that presented itself to you, it came as quite a shock to you when you discovered, or were rather told, that you had two months to live for the disease had spread and immediately you thought of all the things you wanted to accomplish but had put off for example to save enough money to buy a telescope which costs as much as a house, you had formulated a plan in your head “if I start saving this this much every day for the next twelve years I will be able to invest in a car after which saving this and this amount for a brief period of two months, and selling the car for twice the profit, assuming the value of the car hasn’t depreciated which I can only ensure if I rarely drive it, and make sure to drive it only on the good roads which means driving it inside the town only as all roads leading away from the town are in awful condition, I could easily burst a tire which might have to be replaced, or worse, a rock or stone could break the mirrors because those bastard Wilente kids are always wreaking havoc in the street, playing with that which they shouldn’t be and how many times have I told their mother to buy them toys but she’d rather have them playing with pebbles, and stones and even when they cracked their own windows did they not heed so I’m assuming I’m better off securing the car in the garage and only taking it out at night when the risk is minimal and that way I’ll be able to sell it off perhaps at an auction and securing a profitable payment to which I’ll add my savings and buy a small shop at the end of the road and…” Your memory from here on is hazy and in all this time, your interstellar dust has traveled an immeasurable distance –
Written in a state of reverie.
“The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have”
– Italo Calvino, “Invisible Cities”
I dream about you no more, but you are always in the backdrop, like a perpetual shadow, a figment of my imagination, a lachrymose. There remains no more conversation between us, neither do I break into a run amidst halls upon halls to see your face, neither do we retreat to a cottage in the mountains overlooking a valley, neither do I dream of you dying, or you as a last thought I have, neither do I seek your face in strangers, in passerby’s and if you listen to the stars, and if clouds were in fact mirrors you would find yourself buried deep in my memory, and in the depths of the faintest traces of memories, forever entwined in an embrace, and where no aspiration or inspiration adulterates, and no outside thought is welcome, there have we met, far removed from time and the ages and the distance, and where no concept is a concept but us, and where nothing exists except nothingness and in the golden abyss of that chaos, perpetuated by order and yearning shall you discover us in the ethereal arms of oblivion, a sweet oblivion that one comes upon naturally, the tranquil blue envelopes us in vast cloud of stellar dust, naked, rooted, seeped, drenched, with no injury of consciousness, with no circumstance of chance, bare of all extremities and worldly desires, a distant oeuvre is heard, the music from my dreams, the melody of your lips, resounding against the greener pastures underneath a brilliant blue sky overlooking the sea, I have only known how to send echoes like ripples of water through you, the wisps of your words form around my lips, in sweet utterance; there yes there you shall find yourself for an infinite eternity, and the organ melts into a melodious tune, and where the flute shall perpetually whistle its dulcet air in our backyard, where we fear not time nor age, nor are young or senile, but two souls suspended in the vastness of ancient antiquity, the cosmos hued, the stars sense us, the surreal dust, the dancing planets placed in orbits. Shall we let us, you and me, live, no not live, exist?
In darkness on my bed alone
I seemed to see you in a vision,
And hear you say: “Why this derision
Of one drawn to you, though unknown?
-Thomas Hardy, “The Torn Letter”