My copy of A Lover’s Discourse has margin notes. At nineteen or twenty, when I first read the book, I was moved enough by certain passages—or felt the truth of them so violently—that scattered throughout the book are exclamation points and asterisks and initials, carefully lettered in purple ink. A few annotations: I have underlined Barthes’s parenthetical,
(language experiences orgasm upon touching itself)
I have written in the corner of page 89, “but what about the world becoming glorious viz the loved object’s radiance?” I have starred a great number of passages that seem to be mostly writing about writing about emotion, prefacing the kind of writing I do today.
Most of the men initialed in my marginalia are amiable ghosts by now, or else a reassuring presence somewhere around line five or six of my recently texted contacts, having passed from lover to confidante. I’m certain when I was taking those notes their names were imbued with the white hot aura of meaning but now that flesh is memory it doesn’t feel urgent, as it did a few years ago.
Still, I felt it once. The proof is in the pages.
When I want to tell a person that I love them I feel it most poignantly at the end of a phone call, a physical sensation like a lozenge in the mouth, a cherry sucked down to the stone. Something about that tinny transfer over wire puts the right amount of distance between here and there, you and me, my mouth making vibrations that your ear turns into sound. It feels just enough of a monumental goodbye that I feel my tongue leaping before I leap to swallow the words, filling them in with nonsense—Okay, bye, talk to you later.
Or: I feel it when I am bent double with my hands tied above my head to the bedframe and him in me so deep I feel as though he is touching bone, I feel it early in the morning when we are fucking somewhere beyond consciousness and I am coming in a rush so continuous it feels like one vast wave cresting, I feel it, I swallow it, trembling, I have been there for so long.
Right now I am drinking a mug of tea with half a lemon and whiskey in it. The steam rises from it in currents that swirl in flux like curves I’ve seen in mathematical diagrams. I am looking through my copy of A Lover’s Discourse and I am looking through Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson, of which I remember very little except for a passage on the very first page, and I am thinking of human resilience, which might also just be our ability to forget:
“You said, ‘I love you.’ Why is it that the most unoriginal thing we can say to one another is still the thing we long to hear? ‘I love you’ is always a quotation.
I am thinking of all the ways in which it is perhaps just words. I don’t know where the urge comes from, only that it comes and goes, that it rises from somewhere low in the throat, that it comes from care, if care is a place, if it has a name and a location somewhere deep inside the body. I am thinking of how language is just a false mastery over a collection of ineffable feelings, but it is the only thing I am myself master of, and so here I am. I will try to use better words, or no words at all.
Here is Barthes again, in another parenthetical.
(I am addressing someone whom you do not know but who is there, at the end of my maxims.)