Jyanni Steffensen Her feet covered many cocoons...
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Letter 2

Dear L,
It's 5am, the hour of the devil, the hour of insomniacs, the hour of dread. I have my laptop in bed and the heater on and my coat over my knees. I am here because if I lie down and try to sleep the unspeakable fears will return. They are not so bad if I sit here with the light on and write. I have never been able to write about this before, afraid of what people might say or think. Why is that? Yesterday afternoon I was meditating, trying to relax, when I fell asleep. In spite of it all, I seem to want to sleep all the time. I do not know if I am really tired but I fall asleep often during the day. Around 5pm or so I woke up and shortly Afterward. became extremely agitated. After a while it became unbearable. I could not breathe, I felt trapped and overheated. I threw open the window evens though it was freezing outside and tried to breathe. I called Li Zhuo. She was in class, teaching. I told her that I was sick and not getting any better and didn't know what to do. My panic had consumed me. She said, "I am teaching a class until 6.30. I will come then." I thought she said 10.30 and I couldn't bear it. It seemed an interminable time to wait. The thing about anxiety attacks is that, to be honest, nothing much really happens. They are not fatal. One just feels unbearably dreadful - as though one might die. It is not possible however - to die that is and it must be borne. One can bear it, of course. The truth is that it is now 6.15am and I am sitting up in bed in my apartment, quite safe. It is warm and I am writing on a MAC laptop. I am not in any immediate danger. Truthfully, I am sipping on a cup of hot water and eating a banana and smoking a cigarette as I write. The weirdness of anxiety attacks is that they are out of all proportion to reality. The reality is that I am probably one of the privileged ones. I have a job, an apartment and most of all I have someone who will come running and attend to my groundless fears. If this were not so, would I have these fears. Is this my desire? Is it actually possible to die of fright while you are sitting up in bed typing and eating a banana? Where does this terrible dread come from? If, as Freud says, my symptom speaks, then what is it trying to say? "That was a tacky sentence."

It is almost daylight. The moon, which I can see through the top pane of my bedroom window, is fading. I was going to say that it is a golden sickle (a quarter moon and it IS golden) but this is too tacky also. If this dread is about giving myself permission to sit up in bed a 6am and write, then why do I need permission? Why don't I just do it? The thing is that I am afraid of writing. I told myself and everyone else that when I came back from Beijing, I would write. What happened when I returned from Beijing was that I began to have panic attacks - an excuse for 'being sick' (without really being sick), for not writing. Am I afraid that I will have nothing to say? Is this about avoiding writing - the thing that I said I was coming to China to do? What do I fear most - being lost, being alone? The thing is that I am in a position to call someone (on a mobile that is instantly) and have him or her come and rescue me from my nameless terrors. What's more I have this level of service available at the same time that I am convincing myself that I am powerless to do anything about my situation? Why am I afraid of writing? Because I think it will not be published? That no one will read it? That no one will care? But my friends (I am not so alone) do read it and say; "It should be a book." In other words, someone reads it and what's more enjoys reading my writing, looks forward to my e-mails. Am I afraid that I will become a writer instead of a panic prone person? Am I afraid of being fully functional (competent) writer? What is the worst thing that can happen if I become a writer? That I will be happy. Is this what I am afraid of? Why?

What will happen if I just sat here for the next four weeks (say), sat right here in bed (where it is warm) and drank tea and smoked cigarettes and ate bananas, and just wrote? To be truthful though I would have to get up some time, even if it is just to buy more bananas.

love

Orlando Jones



"As you see," writes the Marquise de Merteuil (Les Liasons dangereuses), "when you write someone, it is for that person and not for yourself, so you must be sure not to say what you think, but rather what will please that person." The marquise is not in love; what she postulates is a correspondence, ie., a tactical enterprise to defend positions, make conquests; this enterprise must reconnoiter the positions (the sub-groups) of the adverse group, ie., must articulate the other's image in various points which the letter will try to touch (in this sense "correspondence" is precisely the word to use, in its mathematical sense). [15]