Aug 192011

Dearest Step-Father:

As you know, the harmony in our house has been about that of a glass windchime in a hurricane. Never will the marshal and maker’s spirits mix into anything other than a soul-searing hangover, where each retreats again to his opposite corner of oblivion, that cozy closet where memory abandons both its charms and hurts. But, more to the point, and as you would say, “Speak seriously, Charles, for the Diety’s sake life cannot all go by in inimitable phrases, men must come to an accounting, especially when they find themselves on intimate terms with each other, as you and I do in this household, whose composition was beyond both of our controls.” Sententious, yes, but, Polonius, not without a point.

Yesterday, leaving the Lycee, I stopped at the charming ices stand where an incomprehensible old Italian dispenses his lickable ices, and getting my usual bittersweet lemon treat, I enjoyed my first refreshment–as a bachelor. The exam mastered me, but I managed to submit myself to its inherent tyranny so well, with such devil-may-care dexterity, that I extracted a pass.

But, really, I did not begin this letter as an exercise in self-advertisement. No, to the contrary, I began it, indeed, to congratulate you, good Colonel Aupick, now General, on your promotion to marshal de camp at the Academie Militaire, which I picked up from the notices in the ink-thick pages of The Universal Monitor. And Mother, I know from my private correspondence with her, has razed her garden with a mind to create–what was it now?–not so much a moonscape as a ruinscape, which seems all the rage in England; fallen Greek or Roman columns and wild vines…. Much news overtakes our tiny clan of three in the same tick of time. Fate has set our typeface with a single swipe of its rigid paw.

My congrats are real and naturally flow from my regard for you–unlike many other of the compliments you will no doubt be receiving. I am happy, extremely so, but mixed with this happiness, for both yourself and myself, but more purely for you and the family good fortune of your promotion, is inalterably mixed an almost unbearable anxiety. Such anxiety frays all of my resolutions, yet refuses solution–or even resolution, remaining as tenuous as a half-remembered dream whose pleasant stuffing, as one pulls at it to reveal more and more of its substance, begins to turn into shreds of human flesh–and one’s own at that! This is the pillow on which I have slept all night.

My future is all unsettled, my tastes and inclinations for a ‘career,’ vary by the hour, and all my horizons, seeming a circle impossibly vast, shrink to a chokehold through which may not pass even a single free breath. Oh, do not suppose your offer of a prime place for me in the establishment militare holds no glow for me–indeed military parades and the sway of glimmering braid have often whittled an idle hour away from me in deep pleasure–but it is the golden attraction, for me, that the cage has for the horrified bird.

My life, whatever it is and whatever it may come to be, will not fit in such finely milled limits, however spit and polish.

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