Dialogues with Your Notebook

In Short Story by Viviane Vives

Lake and Sea

Lake Travis, Spicewood, Texas, May 15, 2015

Writing is talking to dead people, your traitors, curse them up close, bless them from afar. Monotonous monologue you cannot not leave without drugs or alcohol, meditation, or perhaps music; anything not to hear the same song in your brain for months. You wake up with it, piss with it, swim in the lake with it.
Yet, not the least bit of pain today. Warm breeze on my skin, rocked by the lake, no one can cry. There is joy in the water, music, children swimming. Enormous white clouds quietly stroll looking at everything. They help me breathe. Not even the sun is aggressive today. I want to be indolent, but while I swim, I think I started this book because of you and I have barely touched the subject. Your letters speak, occasionally. I would leave it there.

Nice le 29-1-60

“Alberto (…) It’s funny how the person we love (you) is as necessary as the air we breathe, without true love (ours) life is a small thing, what difference when it’s the two of us together to see the beauties of life and to discover things that belong only to us. (…)
Always we will walk hand in hand on the path of life and always we will breathe the same air, verdad? I love you and I love loving you. Forever, the destiny of Alberto and Bambi is linked. (…)
Until tomorrow Alberto, tonight I will dream “in” (sic) you.”

Barcelona, 2-II-60

“Our love, beautiful, sacrificed, complete… Our desire to see each other continues to multiply (…) our love is no longer lacking in order to be perfect. Our joy must be greater than our sorrow. Perhaps god wants us to live our relationship as intensely as possible. He has us bound so that we appreciate the beauty of freedom to the fullest. Our freedom is to be together.”

The beginning of your love. Suspended in time. No arc, no screams, no blows, no betrayal, no death-death. Even the incipient madness was better, it still equated to a certain kind of magical hope, it remained pure, charming. If I stop here, nothing else exists. Your love welling in my heart. I lie on the deck and open my notebook:

Perth, December 23, 2013.

Deep in the sea, first swim. The wind keeps blowing. I write about you two in two tongues: Star, sea, woman.
Alberto shuffles down the hallway, cheering himself on to make it to Bambi, as she sits in the middle of the giant bed, so thin, surrounded by her little Jewish men and her Egyptian notes.
His obsession lives on, inside each black pearl in his brain. He stumbles, filled with dread, he must have total closeness, not become her slave or run away in weakness.
She’s her own magical destination. Frees him, delivers him to his talents, and in the end, to his death. Some may flee, but he fell, like most, forward, fully, to her feet, to really know her deep feminine power. Immense power to one who was pretending power.
Star and human. Woman and man.


The world stopped every time she got on the train to Nice and the letters resumed.

Nice le 14. 9. 59

“A piece of street fell into the Sea!” “La Promenade des Anglais looked like a lake peppered with stones.”

Like Doves

Pedralbes, Barcelona, 7 Diciembre 1996

My mother shows them to me. Only me. Standing in the basement, in the storage room, in the midst of all that dusty shit, Anne-Marie cradles the letters in her hands, like doves. As if I were not there, she resurrects in her mind words of love from my father showering over her.
“First us, the other matters little …” “In the letters, I do not hear your lousy Spanish. In the letters, I do not see your brain dancing. The letters do not know how to waltz fast in the kitchen.” “Je t’aime. Bambi, et toi? Alberto.”
They pour like a stream, she feels sorry. She becomes fragile, I see her pick the beautiful thread. She plucks the love story. The healthy one. The beginning. It only lasts a moment. She puts the letters back into one of her boxes—not one of her pretty ones, it is silver colored, made of cardboard-–but not her Heart.
I see then, that in nineteen-sixty, during the winter solstice, at the exact time Miyabe Miyuki, the writer, was born in Tokyo, I was conceived in pure love, in diamonds and gold, in grace, in good alchemy. The screams, blows, and recriminations of three and a half decades dissolve in an instant. And then, I too go back to my little box.

Chinese Calligraphy

Balgowlah, New South Wales, 6 January, 2012

Anne-Marie had trouble finding words, or so she thought–she was a foreigner, and who isn’t. She only published one short story in her life, not in her original language, French, but in Spanish; it was well written and contained truth. (Alberto’s book, not.)
Both foreigners, both from other worlds, she and I, we still swim in each other’s thoughts. I still see Anne-Marie, who is no longer Bambi––except for my dead father, her Alberto––from under the sea, from afar, from the hell-paradise that is the other side of the world. I’m underneath, as always, but she is the one that drowns.
I leaf through her Chinese calligraphy, found among the meager spoils that came down- under with me. A Chinese man madly under her spell used to come home to teach her, even if she was in love with the Japanese man that taught her “yuki” and who never actually made love to her. Chinese calligraphy in Pedralbes, Japanese soul, French-Belgian-Italian Bambi that suffers all the time.
I’m left only with frayed bits, remnants of memories. Photocopies of books on Chinese calligraphy. I look at them but I do not understand anything. Apparently there are several ways of writing the same symbol, it may be drawn well or badly. There are many ways to draw it wrong but I do not understand the difference between one and the other. I strive. “How to write ‘shu’” writes the Chinese man. “Badly drawn ‘shu’ examples.” “Variety (sic) of ‘shu’ and examples.” I think I begin to understand, the strokes are precise, neither too fat nor too thin, neither too much to the left nor too much to the right.
In your handwriting, I would recognize it anywhere, “Water”, “River,” and again “River, Sea, Run, Person, You, Him.”
There are three variations, it seems, three ways to write woman (three sisters… no no no we do not talk about my sisters only woman woman woman! I want to learn Chinese I want you to come back come back come back come back. Quick, light your fire. Run Run Run. River and Sea. Light a candle, let me near.)

Talking to Bambi in the Bathtub

Hyde Park, Austin, TX May 13, 2007

I love talking to you when I’m in the tub, Bambi. You sit on the toilet to smoke and talk and laugh, with your mouth wide, breathing fire, while I feel so good in my water, I never want to stop telling you things. I hope this is your heart, beating through my every word. How pretty you are on my mind, your delicate energy suspended over me as if I were a brushstroke on one of your paintings.
Your not-so-secret lover sent Ana a book the other day, on page three there is a picture of you, from behind, as you sign a painting. I want you to turn around and look at me; this picture is so you, the gesture of your arm, your neck so fine, your Marilyn hair in a low bun like you always wore. The embroidery on your ivory shirt looks like a tattoo under the nape of your neck, in Sanskrit; it would say something like “too refined for this world.”
From your notebook:

#

“…To flow, first, diluted in sensation or idea, or taste, whatever. Be feeling, be the sea, be a flower, enter, live from within, be, not being here. And then be here without being. Lose myself to better find myself, and better lose myself. I am, then I’m not, always so contradictory, but it is the way I could find to live it all passionately and then walk away, and come back, always come back, until I go crazy. To think, to wish to think myself to confusion and to stop thinking only to feel until I faint. They said, “and ambition?” Ambition? Ambition! I’m free to ambition my freedom…. “

#

You became saturated, you overloaded, your brain broken into pieces long ago in the forest; but within the peace of your nest, the warmth of a hearth you passionately adorned like the bowerbird that collects blue things, you were the light of the world. All the moths came to you, did not burn, leaving invigorated. You gave a look in their direction and they felt real. You saw the way before them, like a movie you were watching. Giving them silky advice like white pearls. When you managed to focus, you were our sweet goddess, Bambi. We are still hollow inside for the lack of you.
Depression would grab you, a monster birthed by Goya that ate you. You cried, in black and white, for days. We knew to leave you alone, to wait for the light and colors to come back. The bicolor monster became a ghost of pale-red fire, your black thoughts real characters you saw and talked to, some that you were. I remember only Jesus and Marguerite Yourcenar, there were many more… When it passed, you would tell me, the witness, the keeper of secrets, who you had been.
One day, here in the USA, I had a dream, I wrote this down:

#

My Mother’s Fire
I dreamt of my mother fighting a ghost of fire.
I saw her dancing to that faint red wind.
I saw her trying to put him out with her fire.
I bathed his feet with water, I thought of blue
But my mother to the fire wind danced
He wove a love song for her and filled the room.

#

You told everyone that you had eaten mushrooms from La Boqueria that were bad. We believed you, we always did. Surely there were many more “mushrooms” we knew nothing about. I understood my dream: your first attack. Every time you came back you stood a little farther. (It hurt so much.) On your notebook, you wrote about the little men, Jews or Egyptians, secrets that you discovered.
Only your lover and I did not fear your travels. You were our shaman caught in-between while visiting worlds, like you had always been. You always brought us presents.

Thousands of Images

Newtown, Sydney, October 29, 2014

I remember every picture I’ve taken, every photo I’ve seen; they join the slides of my life inside my brain. Thousands of images. My son says I’m in the spectrum, he teases me; his long strong arms, his poet hands, hold me down when we walk the streets of Newtown, he guides me–he’s so tall now–to the slaughterhouse, as a cow; wherever, as long as something surrounds me completely, I let go. I don’t think, I feel. At night, my husband turns around, because he feels it or I because I ask, folds his arms around me, making sure there are no gaps. A pillow or two hold my chin and belly. I can sleep.

#

Too much freedom.

Catalunya, Free from Spain Forever

Lake Travis, Texas, September 11, 2014

“Et parlo des d’aqui, fillola meva, que sí que t’he estat murmurant a l’orella. Sí que et veig, sí t’estimo, encara que no m’hagis conegut mai, encara que no parlis bé el català, encara que mori. Perquè tu em pots entendre, l’única que va partir i que pot caminar amb mi. L’única que pot comprendre com pesa cada dia, cada mes, cada any que passa. Et vaig agafar pensant a Veracruz l’altre dia i et vaig sentir pensant que era una mica com un paradís quan miraves les fotos de Google. Però també vas pensar que mirant-lo de més a prop, es podia veure que gairebé totes les cases i els carrers que no estiguin al centre de la ciutat són lletges i brutes; i que en comptes d’estar sobre les muntanyes al costat del mar, Veracruz està en una vall desgavellada. Una vall de llàgrimes per mi, fillola estimada. Creu-me, sóc jo, sóc aquí i t’estimo. No ploris, ja ho fa la pluja per tu i per mi. Fem un “don’t worry be happy.” Quan tornis a Valls al desembre, ho faràs per mi, bé, una mica pel teu pare, però sobretot per mi, el bígam, el criminal de guerra que va morir abans que Franco. Així que caminaràs pels carrers de Valls i també de Gràcia, a Barcelona, per mi. Acaricia les parets, aspira les olors, el conill a la graella, l’olor a canyella i llimona, pren-te una xocolata calenta i una ensaïmada, demana un mato de Monsterrat amb nous i mel; busca la salsa romesco i el peix fregit … I vés cap a Salou, te’n recordes? Com quan eres petita, respira els pins almenys tota la tarda. No li diguis a ningú el que estàs fent porque no ho entendrien, però mentre camines per aquests carrers catalanes, jo, el teu avi, i tants altres que van venir abans, caminarem amb tu, formant aquesta Cumbria tan rara, la filla perduda de Valls i la resta de tots nosaltres que sempre ens estem marxant. Quant de temps fa que va començar tot això, amb els jueus que es van quedar i potser s’haurien d’haver marxat… la teva mare els veia tot i que aquesta no era la seva dansa… Tu tornaràs i plantaràs els dos peus sobre les llambordes dels carrers de Valls i escoltaràs les cobles i sonaran les campanes i serem tots alliberats del destí que se’ns va imposar fa tant de temps. I Catalunya s’alliberarà d’Espanya per sempre. Tu, fillola mia, la que ens alliberarà a nosaltres, també participaràs en l’alliberament de tots els Catalans. Va ser per això que el meu nebot, el teu oncle, et va dir fa tant de temps que mai t’oblidessis que ets catalana. I si vols, ja podràs anar-te’n per sempre. No cal que et quedis si no vols perquè tu, i també tots nosaltres, serem ja lliures, de Valls, de Catalunya i d’Espanya. Ja mai mes tornaràs a sentir-te que et falta no se sap què…” Al-bert Farres Blasi murmurado en mi oido en Catalán, y le entiendo, aunque no lo hable.

[“I speak to you from here, goddaughter, and yes, I’ve been whispering into your ear. Yes, I see you, yes I love you, although we never met, even if you do not speak Catalan all that well, even as I die. Because you can understand me, the one who left and can walk with me. The only one who can understand how every day weighs, every month, every passing year. I caught you thinking of Veracruz the other day and I heard you think it was a bit like a paradise when you watched the photos on Google. But you also thought that by looking at it more closely, you could see that almost all the houses and streets that are not in the center of the city, are ugly and dirty; and instead of being on the mountains by the sea, Veracruz is in a bizarre valley. A valley of tears for me, my dear girl. Believe me, I am, I am here and I love you. Do not weep, the rain does that for you and me. Let’s do a “Don’t Worry be Happy.” When you return to Valls in December, you will do it for me, well, a little for your father, but especially for me, the bigamist, the war criminal who died before Franco. You will walk through the streets of Valls and also of Gracia, in Barcelona, for me. Caress the walls, smell the smells, the rabbit on the grill, cinnamon and lemon, have a hot chocolate and ensaimada, ask for mató of Monsterrat with walnuts and honey; look for Romesco sauce and fried fish. And go to Salou, do you remember? Like when you were little, breathe the pines at least a whole afternoon. Do not tell anyone what you are doing because they would not understand it, but while you walk through these Catalan streets, I, your grandfather, and so many others that came before, we will walk with you, forming this queer Cumbria, the lost daughter of Valls and the rest of us who are always leaving. How long since it started, the Jews that remained and maybe should have left; your mother could see them! Even though this was not her story, she was one of them. You will return and plant both feet on the cobblestones of the streets of Valls and bells will ring and we will all be released from the fate that was imposed to us so long ago. Catalunya will be free from Spain forever. You, my daughter, will free us then, you will participate in the liberation of all Catalans. That’s why my nephew, your uncle, told you so long ago to never forget that you are Catalan. And if you want, you can leave forever after. You do not have to stay if you do not want to, because we, all of us, will be gone from Valls, from Catalunya and from Spain. You will never again feel that you are missing you do not know what … “ Whispered in my ear by Al-bert Farres Blasi in Catalan. I understand it, but I do not speak it.]

Dialogues with Your Notebook

Cottesloe, Perth, March 29, 2014

“Secrets (for the book)”

#

Then, nothing. I see a forest. Why are forests and rivers so important in our story? Alberto’s was happy (for once;) yours was your freedom, then your horror, your prison. My forests are many, all over, trees fathering and mothering me.

#

“I will sing and dance for you, who knows how to pour honey on ancient wounds, you listen, give me no sobering speeches, you know, at times, my reasons are unreasonable.”

#

We were like that too, best friends that told each other everything. I thought I knew everything about you, you all about me, but there is so much you didn’t tell me.

#

“Dream: Tuesday 6 to Wednesday June 7, 2006 [only 5 years left in your life]
From the top of a building I look down, crystal clear waters, formidable waterfalls of incredible energy, flow strongly in a mad dance. For a moment, I fear, then realize there is no danger, I observe from above, I can enjoy the sheer beauty of nature in full expansion.”

#

That water takes me downstream. Don’t you see me?

#

“I hate repetition, routine, I hate all that prevents creation. I want space, silence to think, intimacy, loneliness, blinking, creating in peace. I’m sick of being interrupted, they believe that my time belongs to them. “

#

I remember well your feeling of bother. It lay on top my feeling of bother. It came from inside. “My freedom to create!” We yell at them, but everything “eats” our time because we eat our own time as we run away, fast, through the dark forest of our minds; everything else a mirror.

Death and the Moon

If I brought him home he would not stay long, he rides motorcycles, paints with light what I write with words. We look at each other like into a well. A deep blackness. We lie in bed with open eyes, motionless as if not human, tears cascade on both sides of our face.

#

Wet ears.
We hear distant voices from the sea, our real sisters. Yesterday, I blew my nose into a sock. No one knows. I read about the death of Duras. Her face turned off, her young lover writing her words, waiting for something, marrying someone.
The pain is not even his. They planted perfect energy into the world together, made each other happy; now he is condemned to never forget

#

she is dead.
By the dying lake in Texas, black scorpions share my bed. I hear you again and again, my sea, singing a lullaby to my foreign cradle, my dry velvet coffin,

#

I’m dead.
My stupid lover hides in the shadows of the gothic chapel with his lack of balls. Part of me hopes this is not true, his talent still hits me like a wind out of nowhere, in the face, tearing tears.
I see you too, uncle Albert Farrés i Blasi, watching the ocean. Not the sea. And crying. I’m on my way.
I spent hours reading their letters; I’m full of their love, their lack, their obsession. I know how things end:

#

both die crazy.
Haunted until his death, banging on her closed door calling her name, the pearls in his brain make him run around in circles, like a dog. She locks herself up, her delicate senses blasted by the crudity of doctors, by his fear finally spilled over.
She is crazy too, in the middle of the bed, not eating, she cannot keep down. There are a few small men, Jews, around her, to distract her. She brings in so much magic it broke her into pieces. She’s so brave that she knows it, does not care. She gets up, dresses in black, red lips, lace stockings, goes out into the street to be free,

#

to yell at the moon.
I did not want all this, I repudiated the death of my friends on the walls, feeling him from afar, dreaming all of them; but now that I’m old, it no longer frightens me, it allows me, like my mother and my aunt before me, to have them as they come,

#

yes, even the young.
Something has to carry this overhead, somehow, this power, the electric force, has to kiss the ground and touch the sky. Yes, we also perish like Duras. You are left here

#

to cry.

Cadaques

Lake Travis, Spicewood, Texas, November 15, 2015

Quique, the day you took the photos in Cadaques, the wind was biting her eyes. She was twenty-three or twenty-two, looked like a girl of sixteen. You have the lens too close, too low, her eyes cry, she can’t stop them, you don’t give her time.
It is one of those–beautiful–turquoise green water coves, behind rocks, where you can fuck without anyone seeing you; you loved that. She’s still a girl, not yet fully grown that makes men go mad but doesn’t realize it. Your favorite.
At home, she writes while you draw–facing desks–sometimes she’s an actress, even if she dresses wrong and it drives you crazy.

#

She wears big glasses,
she smokes and thinks.
Writing makes her suffer but captures her completely. Time stops and her hemorrhaging does too. She struggles to believe that she is entitled, that she’s free to write if she feels like it. Expressing herself this way was forbidden.

#

Too many nuns.

#

Many years pass, she has now put someone and herself in that cove. He is the age she was then, when she was with you, yes, back then, even if you let her, she almost never chose as lovers the young people her age… never mind, in her belated fantasy, back in the cove, they are now the same age. That’s how she does it now.
It’s like a film. The colors too. Alike in details, corkscrew hair, two friendship bracelets, thin but strong wrists, the skin color is the same, it even turns the same shade of reddish brown under the Cadaqués sun, their musculature is defined, long. They fit. She writes and he draws, like with you; they look at the light–the things it kisses–wherever they go; they are obsessed,

#

if they stop,
they can’t breathe.
Mad sharks.

#

She lets the pen run across the page. Large letters, tied to each other and very ugly. A Moleskine does not last.

#

Blue sea, blue sea, blue sea.
Her curls, his blue eyes,

#

wet skin, smooth hairless chests. Behind the rocks, the water right there. Their salty skin, their sweet sweat. They are the sea.
The boat where you take pictures of her, to her wrinkled hand writing words against the sun. It’s a shame that he is an imbecile coward, that she’s old, and that you’re dead.
She’s going to Mallorca tomorrow, just wants to get into the sea, to never return to Cadaqués. She’s afraid that if she goes back to listen to the rocks that talk, she won’t leave. Best go to Mallorca where everything is old and new at once, and where she has not put anything

#

behind a rock
by the sea
to love forever.

About the Author

Viviane Vives

Twitter

Viviane Vives is a filmmaker, actor, photographer, and writer, she’s married to architect MJ Neal, FAIA; together, they own an interdisciplinary creative studio.

Viviane is a Fulbright scholar for Artistic Studies (Tisch School Of the Arts, NYU) and her translation work, poems, and short stories have been published internationally. As a photographer, filmmaker, and co-owner for the design studio she has exhibited internationally and won many awards.

Viviane’s poetry recent publications are by Southeast Missouri University Press and Litro Magazine of London. Rusty Morrison of Omnidawn has agreed to edit Viviane’s book manuscript, the Cities and the Dead, which will be finished in 2018.

Viviane writes in both, Spanish and English. Her first language was French and part of her family spoke Catalan at home. She learned Portuguese to be able to read Fernando Pessoa in his native language.

In chronological order, the cities she has lived in for an extended period of time are: Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, New York, Sant Feliu de Guixols, Los Angeles, Austin, Sydney, and Perth.

She’s currently back at ‘home’ in Austin, TX.