(A short exercise in “putting the problem into the writing” based on a character from my novel.)
And he knew somehow that the vague feeling was not love itself but only the thoughts he had about love, which is why it was not a true feeling, what the analyst William James was calling a primary emotion, but rather just a thought about it, masquerading as the real thing, for where the real thing ought to be, he supposed, was an absence. Thought loves a vacuum.
And yet what this vague feeling was, was definitely a feeling – he felt it, even if his feeling processes were disordered, and to feel it he had to see it as a fantasy, a story inside his head on the cinema screen that ran just inside his brow (and how did people imagine thoughts before the cinema?). Were thoughts not feelings too?
He knows they could be the interpretation of the feeling anyway. That was it. An interpretation. And quite simply he had not yet fully translated the affect, the energy he felt for her, into a story he could make sense of. That’s why it remained vague, like the ideas he would put into his writing – and why this sense of love, or love as a possibility, or more precisely, not love, but simply her, Marine, as the symbol of possibility, was so closely linked, in its vagueness, to writing as a process. Both were processes in formation. Both began as fantasy in the mind. Both had a number of possible outcomes, from the utopian (publication, marriage, sensualness, fame) to the disastrous, and then worse than the disastrous, the absent, the never-happened.
It was perhaps why he had so many relationships with women that ended rather badly—and also why so far his writing had not brought him the life he desired, and knew—or at least idealised that it would or could bring him. He would rather leap into the relationship with a new lover who had entered his fantasies than forego the chance of it ever happening. That loss—the loss of the fantasy constructed in his head—was too difficult to bear. The real loss—of the girl, of the love, of the relationship, was much easier to let go, although not altogether painless. It was also why perhaps much of his work had not yet found its way into print. He was too indiscriminate. He jumped into ideas before he was committed to them, and then his energies waned, and he let the stories go, unfinished, unpolished. He did not let go easily ideas that were not his to write. Rather, he wanted everything he thought to become real. This was the boundless child, he knew, who was magical, and at the centre of his world.
Although no, that was not true. Not totally true. Rather love and writing to him seemed complementary, or opposite in their attraction. Although, yes, the thought that they stemmed from the same source, seemed to him to be true. It all began with the imagined ideal, it all began with thinking “what if?” and then conjuring up scenarios.
Was that writing? Yes.
Was that also love?
The vague feeling returned. As did Marine with a coffee pot and two cups.
(c) Image via Emotionally Vague