And so I come to the lady in the water, the sinner (but ultimately we are not all sinners). Virginia Woolf in the flesh, this death of the drowning visitor. His brain cells turned into the cemented atonement of dead moths. Attributable deaths. The physical bodies which cannot be removed, only repaired the souls torn from matter. Absolutely nothing escaped Virginie. The glory of love (she had that sham marriage, the gift of love, she knew it, she knew it, graciously defended it, she was not a failure. I am that failure). Nothing escaped his passionate gaze, his freedom, his meditations on nature, his platelets, his mitochondria and his bilateral symmetry, nothing more. Only the gravel, the brick walls, the mysterious interiors of the mansions of his work remained. Left behind. Granite. Logs left for apprentices. His intuition, his breath and his vitality left this accursed corpse for an eternity in hell. What’s it got to do with the parenting skills of my distant manic-depressive dad and my sleek cold mom, my cool mental illness that needed a separate room to co-exist with cigarette smoke of my brother, his paternity and his triumph where I had failed, then I traveled inward. River Ouse captivated me. I am a woman who writes. Virginia Woolf was a woman who was a wife, a lover, and a woman who wrote. My ordinary folly has become a beauty for me. I an empty vase who found shining stars in women, in their husbands and children, in flowers in a vase, in the fabric of the universe at night. I am Orlando. I am Lady Lazarus. I lived vicariously through Hiroshima, Jean Rhys the demi-monde and model artist and the cutting authentic words of feminist Sylvia Plath signaling a warning, communicating threads of wisdom and poetry of protest. I needed to understand the London scene, Ted Hughes, Assia Wevill and the child of this union, Shura. I am afraid of modernism because it is not modernism that invades the world. It is to write. Interpretations of an interior life, interiority, marriage, creativity and madness.
Vita and Virginia sitting in a tree. Embrace. Don’t “look” at me. Look at me’. Our intimacy is something special. Your skin is a fabric I could drown in. I can do without religion but I can’t do without you. You have given me the highest form of art, and that is inspiration. How can I ever repay you? Come to me, elegant creature with all the hopes you have for yourself. Your goals have become mine. Your dreams are mine. Beautiful and elegant Vita. My Orlando. When I read your work, I am filled with a clarity of vision, an artful perfection, and feel like your only possession to have, to have, to have. Can I borrow a little from your inhibitive nature, your anticipatory nostalgia, your poetic descriptions, your sky, and the sky in your eyes, your flowers, the flowers you meditate on in your garden, your compass that guides you through the passages from London and Europe? And I want to share something else with you if you allow me. I have come to care very deeply for you. Understand this. Understand that I don’t want to own you, claim you as mine as I’m sure others have wanted to do in the past, and I don’t want to own you, and come into your world as a lover and walk away. as an intruder. When we’re together like this, you read my words (because there are parts of me that want to be completely honest with you about how safe and charming and attractive I feel with you). When we sit together, there is still a veil of intimacy, an idea of intimacy on my part. I’m sure the same goes for you too.
You have become my obsession and I can’t think of anyone else’s company I want to be in. When I’m with you, I can feel the electricity.
I find your poetry, your humility, your abandonment, your mind-boggling inhibitory current, Vita. You are the second love of my life. You are all the dimensions of my world. I find you intelligent, so artistic, your work is electric, so imaginative and dear Vita.
I have always been curious about married life. I thought I would be surrounded by prison walls, then I got married, became a woman but didn’t have these kids and found out how far from the truth that was. Marriage in a way frees you in so many wonderful and enlightening ways. I wanted Leonardo. I wanted love but not necessarily a husband because I didn’t think love came with having a husband. Love comes from having a like-minded companion. You, Vita, are that like-minded companion. You come with love, with passion.
Watch carefully the adjustments in my personality each time I am with you, study and evaluate my death in your arms. Learn my half-truths and white lies like I do yours Vita. I just have to hear your voice and I blossom. I get new intelligence, new acting, new materialism and new language in this dry season. It should be as obvious to you now as it is to me that I am completely stunned, smitten by you. I’m in love with you. Let’s build the house together. Go out together if that’s not possible. And when I’m without you, I’m a winter guest in a cold storm. I want to tell you that there is something luxurious and soothing about your skin. My Vita.
I am at your mercy. Your scent fills my head. And when I begin to live vicariously through you, unconsciously or consciously, my sadness has a complex wavelength. Brutal realizations donning my humanity. I have wanted them all my life. The gratitude I have for you being part of my life has become educational.
And they didn’t think about the extraordinary consequences of giving up their relationship. They didn’t think. Period. They lived for love like other women to be seen as sex objects, parties, men, the London scene and flowers. Instead, they are transformed.
The lovers whisper to each other. They don’t want to separate. The grass was a dream. And they were both brides rushing into late adolescence, the English summer weather, its immediacy of maintaining both women’s ideas of silence in the complexity of detachment. Here, in the countryside, sheltered from a multitude of simplistic drudgeries, sharing the routine of waking up to their literary work, neither of the two women could disentangle themselves from their “marriage”. These elegant English heroines, these English novelists whose writings were hypnotic were oblivious to reality, to the outside world, and men were made insignificant, invisible. Males became Others and Humanity, the female of the species existed in a time and space that became known as the Unknown Future.
After the dust, the sexual unveiling, the impulsiveness of the lesbian love affair between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, no sentence could shame them both, their writing process, their prowess divine. Woolf gave Sackville-West authority over his physical body, and in return Sackville-West did the same. Gaps, flashbacks, awkward regrets should accompany the territory of a case that is coming to an end. The silence is textured with what is left unsaid, the acute yearning and despair of loneliness, of a seductive theory identifying the start of this lifelong romance, the committee of mutual admiration between these two gifted Englishwomen .
I know what it is to suffer. Living with the face of enduring love shining on my frozen face, love realigning my psychological frame, my sexual rhythm. Your power is choking me, one thing. And a single woman.
It is first of all a look framing reality, a sensual anticipation and thus the celebration of the landscape becomes symbolic of what will come after this inconvenient love.
The photographs survive. Historical events, acquaintances, actors but not manic-depressive, mentally ill, people who have a lack of order in their lives. The living do not survive.
In our world, morality is made of shrinking ice. Our love is an apocalyptic happiness at the fingers. The foundations built in detail of the sublime. Hurting someone else is a disadvantage. Being hurt back embroiders negative patterns into your thoughts for an invisible life, it cheapens the secrets, weaves, butchers the golden, sensual image of the physical body.
Nothing can replace the latter.
Virginia Woolf. Was she still that molested child? Hurt, confused, but her spirit still fresh and pure, rid of all disease, elements of fantasy, climate change, global warning, global poverty, traffic did not yet coexist in her field of vision. She delayed the information. Bridges to the onslaught of mental illness. All she wanted was freedom. And that’s what she found with Vita Sackville-West.
And as an adult, she didn’t want children, a whole tribe screaming at her, a child to right all the wrongs of the past.
She already had a plan when she wrote in her Virginia diary, ‘I know I’ll never love like this again.’ And then the River Ouse was over her like a lake. And There you go. She wanted to die. She wanted to waste away. Find a desert of his own making. She wanted to beg the gods. The unwritten freedom that had been her church, and as a religion to her, had left her angelic perspective. The impasse the shortcut to an infernal parade, the seducer. The hook of injustice was in his heart. She lived (it was only a pale gesture) but in death she lives extraordinarily.
Short fiction by Abigail George