Letter #4

I’ve been sitting on your letter for over two months now. To be honest, it made me feel very uncomfortable...

Dear Daniel,

I’ve been sitting on your letter for over two months now. To be honest, it made me feel very uncomfortable because I took it as an invitation back into the orbit of a world from which I have been trying desperately to leave. As you’ll recall, I’ve spent the majority of July and August moving from the States to Taiwan. I’ve been wanting to start a new life here in Taipei, and so the project of, in your words, reckoning with my fifteen years living in Virginia and how my “racial embodiment played out in that particular place, inaugurating a series of excesses around religion and sexuality that have yet to be birthed into the realm of intelligibility” has not been particularly appealing.

There’s also the matter of your other prompt that I take my writing to the next level by being more explicit about my desire to connect with Dear Reader, to pursue the various techniques of self-writing that I routinely engage in as a way of being for others. I want to write like that—“to establish both intrapersonal and interpersonal connections as a way to stitch together new surfaces for contact, new zones of possibility,” as you so aptly put it—but that shit’s scary. I’m scared. “And of course I am afraid,” writes Audre Lorde (1984 [1977]), “because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger” (p. 42). I want to speak but the risk of having my words “bruised or misunderstood” (p. 40) puts them back in my throat. I’d much rather “wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness” (p. 44) than face the fear “of visibility, of the harsh light of scrutiny and perhaps judgment, of pain, of death” (p. 43). Why risk bruising bruises when you can “[wait] for someone else’s words” (p. 41)?

And so I’ve been sitting on your letter for over two months now, hoping that if I keep silently squirming and sweating stolen quotes that your correspondence will eventually slip out of my back pocket, relieving me of the duty of responding. But I’m writing you now because I can’t deny the prescience of your words, your warning that I may once again sag into anomy. I have indeed been dissociating further from myself. A day passes. A week. Two months. Fifteen years unbundled, narrative threads all frayed, precious ipseical knot now at risk of unraveling. I’m a few blank stares and a missed bus stop away from slipping out of self-recognition.

It’s quite surreal, what words and especially their absence can do.

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