One thing I’ll say for this extensive investigation of Kafka’s life I’ve gotten myself into: it’s helping to dispel longstanding romantic illusions about the possibilities and effects of passionate letter exchanges between far-flung individuals. Throughout most of my life, I would have killed for the relationship-by-letter maintained by Kafka and Felice Bauer– and a few times, I’ve gotten blindly sucked into lesser versions of that deluded sort of companionship, furthering an already tenacious tendency to idealize certain new (male) acquaintances by allowing myself to be swept away in the imagery and assumptions that are created when two people have nothing but the written word– or sometimes Skype, even– between them, nothing to tell each other what this other person is like among friends and strangers; whether he walks in a hurry and leaves you to fend and catch up for yourself, or wants nothing more than to stroll by your side; whether or not he shovels his food down in haste and ignores everything else, including human presence… As became evident between the author and his now-and-again fiancée, disembodied confessions and explorations can be beyond wonderful– but all too often, provide no grounds for anything real, leaving both correspondents at a disappointed and silence-filled loss when actually forced to face each other in the flesh.
Spying on the past of these famously creative others has been a sort of relief, a way of setting myself free of blame for past, too-lengthy long-distance relationships maintained by just this sort of intense lack of corporeality. But even as the day has involved letting go of epistolary desires and old baggage, a bit of adolescent dream fulfillment has wafted in in compensation. Shortly after arriving back in town this afternoon, I opened the windows for some yoga– and my stretching was accompanied early on by the faint strains of a saxophone somewhere down on the street. I never figured out exactly where it was coming from, even though the musician kept it up all afternoon, and stopped only after a gentle rain moved in after dinner. It was the sort of scene I’d always dreamed about being privy to, in big-city life; the real icing on the teen-fantasy cake would have been an apartment featuring a fire escape onto which I could step out and enjoy the tunes, especially if it had been going on at three in the morning. But I’m beyond trying to maintain such a schedule, and large windows are enough for me, especially if they allow me to hear all the life below.
But I still wouldn’t mind having someone to tell about it all, or to listen silently alongside me.