Today I had choir practice for our concert tomorrow. Between each of the songs, members of the choir are doing various readings. One of them was from Mark Twain's "Extracts From Adam and Eve's Diaries" ("Forty Years Later" and thereafter).
It was supposed to be a romantic passage, and indeed the other choir members were saying how "beautiful" it was. I thought it was disgusting and insensitive. A decent number of our choir members are widows, for one thing; they didn't die first, and they are not so weak!
So I wrote a fictionalized response to Twain.
* * *
I hesitated in writing you this letter because it would make evident the fact that I read part of your diary. I did not mean to—I did not even realize it was yours until I had already read the part in question. You left it sitting open under the pomegranate tree.
Anyway. Despite the tension between us, and the awkwardness of this particular situation, I felt I should write because I fear you are making the same mistake that I made. You will probably not change your mind—your nature is so different from mine—but at least then I can say I tried. And perhaps we are not completely different. We seem to have had the same taste in men, at least...
So. I will be blunt. To say "I can't live without you" is not an expression of love. It is not noble. It is not beautiful. It is an expression of abject, self-negating weak-mindedness. Your nature may be less assertive than mine, but I assure you that even you are stronger, worthier than such childish sentiments.
When I loved Adam I also thought I could not live without him. I thought that was what love meant. But as time passed, I realized I could not live with him, either. He wanted and needed me to be someone other than who I am. I could not survive this way. So I left.
It was like amputating your own hand. Leaving love before it festers into loathing, because you know you must, is well compared with self-injury. It hurts. It is debilitating, for a while. But it is not suicide.
You would not ask a deaf person, "How can you live without hearing?" You would not ask a blind person, "How can you live without sight?" So how can you wonder how people can live without their beloved?
I will love, and be loved, again. But I know now that I will always be strong enough to stand alone if I have to. I will not be burned on my husband's pyre. Will you?