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15th October

What I tell myself

I tell myself that I shouldn’t write so often about the people I loved who are no longer here. I tell myself that mentioning them once or twice in a piece is acceptable, but there’s no need to go on about Joep and Jacqueline, about my brother Victor, about Ferdinand, Barbara, and Ingrid.  


And I’d better not write about my dear friends Marina and Sophie and our loyal help Arantxa who all passed away recently either, that would only bore my readers. I often tell myself what I should and above all what I shouldn’t do. Unfortunately, I tend to listen to myself. 


So, this morning, while thinking of Arantxa, I sat in front of my empty screen and flipped through my notebooks to find something to write about. I looked at my description of a video by an Indonesian artist we work with, I read about an exhibition we had in Brussels and about the pleasure I get from using the pencil sharpener I bought in Kyoto thirty-two years ago that’s still working.


People want to read about my art projects, I told myself, and about my trips to faraway places, not about the way Marina and I laughed while having lunch on a terrace in Mexico City or about the Elisabeth-Taylor-like voice in which she called me ‘dahrling’. 


Nobody cares that I keep looking up to see if I can capture a bougainvillea or an art deco rooftop against the deep blue Barcelona sky. That it was a habit formed when I used to send Sophie a photo every day during the many months she spent in the hospital. 


My readers do not want to know about the glass bowls of arroz negro, hummus, and red peppers Arantxa prepared the day before she died that we kept for a long time in the refrigerator as small, crystalline monuments to her. I shouldn’t write about how we left her bag on the sofa for weeks so it appeared she had just slipped out for an errand and would be back any minute.


But is this internal censorship really for my readers? Or is it a lid I try strenuously to keep closed so that the grief underneath does not spill out?


I have this overwhelming need to write about what moves me but at the same time I put the brakes on. I talk about the importance of flow but simultaneously, I block myself.


I’m not sure if being aware of this contradiction will help me to open up, but I did put my notebooks out of reach on the top shelf of my bookcase. That way what I write about comes directly from within. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

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