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Syndic Literary Journal

Dearest John

Written By Paul Levitt

Narrated By Kristine Doll

Dearest John,

Every day that you come to console me, neither of us mentions what lurks in our minds: that the murder of my family and friends has created between us an unbridgeable void. Although you whisper that we will soon resume our happy life in the cottage, we can no longer continue as lovers. The crown will want you to make peace with the bishop; and the townspeople will expect you to approve, if not openly then privately, the death of the Jews. My brethren, in turn, will expect that for this terrible act I will hate the Christian community of Norwich and abominate you, who took our money though unable to safeguard our lives. There cannot, of course, be any thought of our secretly running away. Even if we traveled as lovers to France we would be outcasts, abhorred by Christians and reviled by Jews. Your Church would never permit one of theirs to live in sin with a Jewess. Nor would my own people. If we lived among Christians, they would expect me to convert, which I would refuse; and if we lived among my people, they would expect of you likewise, which could cost you your life. Word travels. Wherever we went, people would know in advance our sad history; we’d be the butt of buffoonery, known as the Catholic libertine and his Judaical whore. The happiness of runaway lovers exists only in troubadour poems. When a man leaves a wife to run off with another, the poetry ends and the doggerel days begin. Not one noble house would admit us; not one fine family would invite us to dine, not among Christians or Jews. And although we might console ourselves with the thought that we’d find peace and contentment among the folk of the field, in truth they would treat us worse than the others. The rich can afford to wink at the rules; the poor haven’t the means. We would be outcasts in every village and town. Yes, I know what you want: that we should remain as before, lovers in secret. But even that must come to an end, because every time we embraced, you’d be thinking of your failure to protect those who were killed. Even now, I say to myself, when John reads this letter he will ask: why has she used the word failure? So already you see I have begun to weigh my words and to worry about their effect upon you. Likewise, you will wonder how your words affect me. And before long, all the sweetness between us will be lost. No, the past cannot be erased. Nor would we want to live without history. It binds us together. A person without memory has no life at all. My memories of you will always be kind, so long as we do not try to behave like the phoenix. In our case, a new life will not issue from the ashes of death. I have therefor decided to leave, to make my way back to France. I will join my brethren in Paris. As I sit here writing this letter, I can’t help but wonder why the end of an amour so often disappoints the promise with which it began. When I think about endings, I think about childhood, and how I used to look upon the old without understanding that age issues from youth. Children always live in the present. One must acquire a past before wishing to revisit its scenes, revive its echoes, and kindle the passion and purpose of its previous days. And the purpose I see in the future for our past will be to enrich the rest of my days with your memory. I have already developed the skill to withdraw at will into daydreams of you. Often, I look up to find that I’ve not heard what people have said. From among all my memories of the past, the sweetest goes something like this: We can hear rain on the roof. A dark sky shrouds our place of assignation. You blow out the candle; and then, before making love, we cleave together in wordless affection. I remember your telling me that we can make of the world what we will. Let me now disagree. We can never escape from our history; and we have precious little effect on our future. The major decisions of our lives, I see now, result not from choice; they arrive without our even knowing that anything at all has been chosen. I, for example, never decided to deceive my husband. I merely discovered one day that I had been unfaithful for months. The only choice that I had amounted to this: would I affirm life or deny it? I chose to affirm it by responding to those occasions that purposed our love. But I never chose the occasions. I know that I will suffer your absence acutely. Already I see you everywhere—in dreams, in shadows, in clouds, in every poem you ever read to me. Whatever the position of the sun, I wonder: where is he now? I pray for your touch. What shall I do if my love for you never abates? I will be like the dead, yet not at rest. Why am I torturing us both with this letter? For the sake of understanding, I strive, one last time, to lay myself bare to you. They say the greater the love, the more false to its object. My passion has been so deep and so terrible that I wonder whether it has been about desiring you or desiring desire itself. But I beg you, don’t judge me in the wildness of my sorrow. In the years that lie before me like a desert, I shall be an exile at home and a stranger abroad. Even at the risk of inviting the wrath of those who can live only from day to day by forgetting, I shall remember. Crucified by memory, your beloved Avigay ends, imagining you.




Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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