The Guilt that Haunts Me #DailyPrompt

Share a time when you were overcome with guilt. What were the circumstances? How did you overcome you guilt?

Hamish Blakely I opened the door, the light came in, there was nowhere to hide. Was it fair to show you the way? Was it right to seize that instant, the beauty of that second in our lives?

Then, I wrote the story… As if I could find a reason, perhaps even redemption?

You said it was right: you said it took the two of us.

But I know who opened the door, on that day. Now, there can be no end to the dream.

Image: Hamish Blakely, via benbrahemb

#WritersBlog ~ Feeling guilty, me?

“Les tenants de l’apparence restent fidèles à l’imitation. Ceux qui recherchent une réalité cachée derrière l’apparence définissent une doctrine de l’invention, de la création.”

Jean-Yves Tadié, Marcel Proust, L’artiste selon Ruskin

(The advocates of appearance stay loyal to imitation. Those who look for some reality behind appearances define a doctrine of invention, of creation.)

Jeunes filles, Marie LaurencinI have heard some dreadful accusations lately, and I wish to affirm that some people, yes people, are rather cheeky. They say, us, narrators, are voyeurs, that we spy on, and even abuse the characters in a novel: how’s that for defamation? What have we done, and specifically, what I have done, to deserve such treatment?

I do not, ever, prey on those characters, however vulnerable, or emotionally unstable, or, as my friend Jo-Anne (herself a delicious narratrice) says, exotic. Rather I try to convey their tragedy, sometimes the ironic side of their lives, as a good narrator should. Sometimes, I admit to a degree of curiosity. Let us read again this observation of Jean-Yves Tadié, the biographer of Marcel Proust, à propos La Prisonnière, perhaps the most poignant chapter of La Recherche:

“Le narrateur prend enfin congé d’Odette: ‘J’aurais voulu la serrer dans mes bras: j’aurais voulu lui dire que je l’aimais… Les larmes m’étranglaient. Je parcourus ce long vestibule, ce jardin délicieux dont le gravier des allées ne devait, hélas! plus jamais grincer sous mes pas.’

Que signifient cette jeune fille à jamais punie par le destin, la maladie incurable, cette distance entre elle et le narrateur, ce sentiment du temps qui a presque tout détruit? Marcel projette-t-il un amour impossible?”

(The narrator finally says farewell to Odette: ‘I would have held her in my arms: I would have told her I loved her… Tears were choking me. I walked down the long corridor, through the delicious garden and paths whose pebbles I would never again tread on.’ What is the meaning of this young woman for ever punished by fate, of the incurable illness, of the distance between her and the narrator, of that feeling of time destroying almost everything? Does Marcel evoke an impossible love?)

Distance indeed. Monsieur Tadié reveals the true position of the narrator in La Recherche: he is Marcel, the young man whose love for Odette is impossible (for reasons I would not comment on in this post). And yet this narrator, a full participant in the story, keeps his distance. You may argue that they are reasons for Marcel, and hence, the narrateur, not to get closer to Odette.

So do I. I admit a feeble sentiment for Melissa (and indeed for Odette too): I think she’s sinned against more than a sinner, and possibly innocent, but I don’t say anything: this is not what her author intends – as far as I can tell… In one word I try and keep away from the plot, from the lives of the characters, I just… well… narrate.

The role of narrator is at time painful: think about it, events unravel, according to the author’s fancy, characters love, suffer, fall ill, maybe even die. And what are we to do? Unless the author decides to get one of his creatures – will they forgive me for saying “creatures”? I somehow doubt it – to tell the tale herself, we have to present the facts to the reader, in the most interesting and honest way. Yes, I know, the case of a narrator also participant, from Marcel to the creations of Monsieur Murakami, is even more complicated. So is life.

Image: courtesy Maries Laurencin at http://films7.com/art/arts/marie-laurencin-jeunes-filles-proust-beaute-desir

Daily Prompt: You’ve Got the Power #WW

You have the power to enact a single law. What would it be?

 

Pitiless I looked at the judge: I see her icy blue eyes moving from me, standing, listening, to you, my sweet love. I see tears in your eyes. You know the jury has convicted me: they want to protect you, all those like you, protect you from people like me.

The judge fixes me, quietly shuffling her notes. I stand, frozen, eyes down, accepting my fate, just thinking of you.

The room is silent. I see the members of the jury waiting, waiting for the judge to deliver her verdict.

I recall all the scenes of our love: I worship you, and I know you know.

Finally the judge says: “You have committed the most hideous crime. The jury has recognised you as guilty, and there is no attenuating circumstances. You will serve your victim: she will decide your fate, for now I condemn you to ten years of hard love in her service. You will wear her collar, you will be tagged. There is no appeal.”

#BlogMeMaybe: May 8 – May I tell you something about myself?

Guilt

Crash

In “On Writing”, which is also a concentrated story of his life, Stephen King describes how, while on a walk, he was run over and nearly killed  by a mad driver. I too brushed with death in a car accident, some twenty years ago. And it was my fault: a brief loss of attention, tiredness, the usual story: that evening I should not have been driving at all. But I don’t not want to tell you, reader, about the circumstances. All car crashes are, in some way, due to one main reason: being there at the wrong time. What still interests me about that crash is the way rehabilitation came, the slow journey to recovery, mental and physical.

First there is a sense of guilt, of utter responsibility: the other driver I could have killed, his family, my family, my employer, whose car I wrecked, mankind in general. And of course there is the pain, the multiple fractures, the painkillers, the gloomy hospital wards, what one reads, or thinks one reads, in other people’s eyes. The first year is plain hell: guilt, pain and remorse. Concentration is impossible, there is always a loop back to that instant: the fraction of a second when it happens, when all goes dark. Sleep, normal sleep, is an old memory, now is the time of awake nightmares, restarting anew every night.

In the second year rehabilitation is merely a dream. But there is at least a chance to start exercising again, slowly, to walk, to read a bit. The shame is there, the fear of being damned, the total loss of confidence. There is also the realisation that “going back to normal” will not happen. The new normal is this: not only remembering, but having the accident constantly in mind, as a tune for ever imprinted in one’s skull, never escaped from. Another year goes by, work has changed, real world events unfold, people die. Slowly the awareness of the triviality of one small incident grows.

And then new habits are created: the daily life become a series of small exercises, attempts at recreating an order. Over a decade the body adapts, the pain is still there, but diffused, some strength comes back, and with it some confidence. And, today, I think I was just plain lucky.