I have been lost before, but not with this many broken bones,
and I had a brighter torch. If you were lying in wait in a cave
like I am, right now, in the darkness, and you didn’t know
when the next sandstorm would be, and you didn’t know
if the next morning the war would start, and you didn’t
know how long your torch would last, would you still
write letters with your only hand that wasn’t useless?
Yes. And let’s say that at this point you still believe
that the person who has promised to come back
for you is coming. Let’s say you haven’t started
to wonder about your flare gun yet and what
it’s good for inside the cave. Can anyone ever
foresee that they will end up like this, in love
with a faceless, amnesiac cartographer?
I have learned from the Sahara the necessity
of white dresses and small airplanes. They didn’t
think I belonged, but I waited my whole life to see
the ancient drawings of the ancient people swimming
in the ancient place. I was not in Italy, swinging
from a chapel ceiling. I was not in Cairo, bathing
in a claw footed tub, because that hadn’t happened
yet. I was just in love with the one person I wasn’t allowed:
you, who I write letters to while I hemorrhage to death
in a place that no one knows exists. It is not on any map.
The map has not been made. I am starting to think that
the only way I’ll ever be found is if you, the cartographer,
trade your topographical secrets, your photographs, your
name, to the Nazis in exchange for a jeep. Please. The light
is fading. If you can’t tell, the picture I drew in the corner
is of a scorpion in an amulet on a chain I wear under my dress
near my heart. This place was once water, but now
it is sand. There is so much I want to tell you, but
I have not eaten in three days and the fire you built
is just cinders. You once asked me how I could be married
to him, but look who died and look who lived; look who I’m
drawing pictures of scorpions for. I can’t feel my legs.
I don’t think you’ll be back in time. Listen: after
you read this, you will be burned in a terrible accident.
You will forget my name and the shape of the land
you spent your life’s work learning, but you will
never forget that you left me to die. My light
is gone. I am writing to you now in the darkness.
Every year everything
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.