Languages


Dear Mr. Spock,

He lingered after our time was up again. He told me he wasn’t a writer, and then showed me a poem he wrote.

Every time he writes, it’s so long. He takes off and soars like it’s a jazz improvisation. He said he hates planning, he just goes for it: writes the title first and does it all in order, in one go, as if he’s playing the head, trailing off, and then returning to the head.

The poem was such a strange way of describing a nightmare. It was absurd, it was insane.

Your message, when you said it feels like we’re speaking different languages, made me think, maybe we’re all insane, and babbling on in our different languages, hoping someone understands.

He speaks the language of music. And since he chose to linger, I asked him what he listens to. How do you think (sidenote: I do not believe in God, but perhaps I’m living within a novel, with all these symbolic coincidences that occur in my life. ) when the first name from his mouth was Chet Baker?

In February, when we first fell in love, I told you about how Chet Baker confounds me. How such a cruel and evil man could play and sing like such an angel from heaven. The duality of him and his art, the duality of our heavenly love and the horrible world that propelled us into each other’s arms.

I touched his arm, I was so moved. I half-joked that I love Chet’s music so much that I got the job at the café because I would spend all day listening to Chet. I told him, “But I especially love his later records.” His face turned red and he practically yelled, “Yes!! Exactly!!”

Our words hit back and forth like dueling soloists. I told him that Chet Baker is the yin yang and he laughed and said “He is,” and he went on about how his soft musicality was in such contrast to what a bad person he was, and it felt so good to have someone else understand my insanity without me having to elaborate.

I told him about how over the summer I was so sad sometimes that I started (sidenote: I was so embarrassed telling someone I barely know about this, but this was the dialog that the novelist wrote in for me. ) I told him about when I was having a bad day at the café I’d sing “Stella by Starlight” during the shift. His ears perked up at the very mention of Stella, one of his very favorite standards.

My Foolish Heart.” “Just Friends.” When he said “Almost Blue,” I was almost angry I didn’t name it first. He said, people always fall in love with Chet because of that one. And it’s true. I did, and my dad did in the 80s. He’d always play that song on the guitar when I was a baby.

I thought of this past December when I listened to it, and how my feelings for you were growing deeper. And I told him about the uptempo version I sang to myself all those months ago, when you were so far away and I missed you.

I am not a musician, just like this guy is not a writer. But I had such grief, not knowing if I’d see you again, that I had to sing.

As we listed songs, I sang to him:

There will be other songs to sing
Another fall, another spring
But there will never be another you

And I was singing this to myself for the rest of the day. I walked back to my car humming it, singing it aloud, thinking of every word of your text.

The cool air touched the bare skin of my leg, where my stockings had ripped. I thought of how heavy my heart has often felt with love for you, like fabric drenched with water, and the way, when we wring it from ourselves, it all pours out like rain. How it always happens to rain when we’re (sidenote: Isn’t this a lovely day to be caught in the rain?)

Come evening, it rained, and the words that I kept stringing along in my head were “I cannot express in words how sorry I am.”

I cannot express in words how sorry I am, and words, with all their weight and meanings and connotations, as you know from my sensitivity, are my language. What’s more, I cannot sing it as music. I cannot prove it in math. It sounds no better in French. I want to try, but I don’t know if you would feel it within the warmth of my arms. I cannot even cry, only feel the chill of the evening overcome me.

And so, as wordlessly as autumn kills the summer leaves, I can only wait to see if you will come to me again.