Daniel Barenboim and Elena Bashkirova

The day I fell in love with an intellectual was when I first met you. Although I didn’t think it was love, call it that at first. I don’t go around meeting people like you all the time, keeping my distance, marking the distances. I think of the people who are ghosts walking the streets, because I too am like a ghost walking the street. These apparitions by day, ghosts at night. Yes, too in ways I am also an apparition by day, and a ghost by night. Sleeping God only knows where. Trying to get by. I relate. I relate more than you know. I fall to the moan in the wilderness, I fall the distance (I am always talking about distance, or, distances, the divide, about the separation between us), to the sea and it captures me in the same way that you did. You did. Never forget that. I fall to the energies in matter whenever I think of you, long for you, and I think of everything that I have lost, and everything that I have gained. Sometimes I think in the end I will be happy. I am happy now, so, what difference does it make if we are together, or, if we are not together. There’s something philosophical, something intellectual even about love. I tell myself that. I think of the rain, I think of the seafront, I think of the beach. I think of you with your family. I have half a family. I have half a life. I think of you visiting your friends with your wife at your side. I think of her cooking. I think of her cooking for you, cleaning for you. Becoming an intellectual because you were an intellectual. This could also be seen for what it is. A love letter from a single woman to a very much older male figure, a very much married life figure in his world of meetings, running meetings.  

I think of her with your children, the half that look like her, the half that look like you. I think of your grandchildren. Those who have inherited your staggering intellectual beauties. I think of couturiers. I think of myself as a couturier. Surrounded by their empires. Surrounded by male and female gods, and seamstresses, and designers, and models. My models are the words, you see. The male and female gods the characters in my books. And I work and have the life of a seamstress. Painstakingly putting it all together. You tend to humanise everything. Maybe it is a part of your intellect, or, just your humanity. I’m bemused. You’re detached. I’m amused by many things. You’re attached to work, to seminars, to traveling, to flying from city to city. And I wonder what you find attractive in women. I mean I live the life of a poet, living vicariously through my mother, then sister, then other women, but I live life, I live it vicariously through other women in a rather incomplete way. I can’t really inhabit their lives fulltime. Of course, I know that. I know I can’t be someone other than that person that I am meant to be. So, I am always writing to some man, if you want to know. Fake. Pretend. Pretending that I am still in love with someone is something that I am really good at I have found. I will only admit this to you.  And when life becomes torture, I think of you. And when writing becomes torture, I think of you. When my loneliness becomes torture, most of all, I think of you. And I simply don’t want you to think of my life, or, anything in my life, the writing, the loneliness, the hours, the marked silences, as being anything but torture. It can be torture to me, to me, but to no one else in my life. 

You’re like some social animal. And your mood is mostly extrovert. I virtually am a fisherwoman. Waiting for her man to return with the catch of the day. Guess there’s no reason for us to see each again, is there. Is there. I am the fisherwoman listening for the sound of a wave, the vibration of the ocean, the genius of the fish, the children to wake up. The children we will never have. I have made believe this life. It feels as if I am going everywhere these days. But the road is fairly quiet. I am traveling alone. I am in the driver’s seat. I wish you would come. I wish you would come. But I am weak. I am a limited kind of human being. Pages come to me in torrents, in torrential downpours, like a tsunami. Pages come to me like you did. You came to me on a summer’s day carrying an obituary. So many things happen to you all at once. So, few things of significance happen to me. You live. You live. I write books. I write books to survive. You cannot be caught up this. You cannot be caught up in me. I thought my life would be different. I am happy. I am. I am. I am happy whenever I think of you. I am. I am. The stage is set then. Whatever happens, happens. I wonder what you are doing, thinking. Your response to everything. The world around you as an intellectual and a philosopher. I haven’t seen you now in months. You’re with your wife, your children, surrounded by your grandchildren. Did you go swimming today, did you answer correspondence. Our letters are so few and far between, but you, you are never far away from my thoughts. I am always thinking of you, what a life shared might have felt like. Been like.

I have nothing to show. I have nothing to show you. No shame. No drama. No change in the way that I feel about you. I get this feeling often when we’re apart (which is more often than not). There is no future in this perhaps. There’s no bridge to the future. Only desire. The desire is very, very real to me. What I feel for you. I get this feeling often. It comes to me from everywhere. While I’m eating, or, drinking tea. You’re water. You’re like water to me. I think of you when I am with other people. I think of you often when I am alone. It is law. This desire is law. I can’t be with you. I can’t be without you. I dream of you. Well, I have the dream of you anyway Which is more than what most people have. Or, secure in a lifetime. I have the best part of you. And I am not ashamed to speak of the desire I feel for you. Why should I? You belong to another. You will always belong to another.

You let humour into my life. It is enough. It is enough. It is enough. For now, it is enough for me. Good night, my Amadeus. I could mention names to you. You will never know. You could mention names to me that I will never know. You’re a father. You’re a father figure. You’re charismatic and instil fear. You’re go, go, go. You’re a man of action. I am a woman of few words. I am not a mother. Never had those children. Put it way in the past behind me. The chances I had. The people I met. I think particularly of the women you have fallen for, but I don’t even want to go. The one you, like my father, eventually chose to be wife and the mother of your children, the matriarch of your family. You don’t have mental illness, and suicide, and alcoholism, and addiction running through your bloodline in the ways that I do. It is at moments like these that I tell myself it was good thing not to have had any children.

I found you. That is the most important thing. At this late stage of my life I found you. I suspect you have your qualities, exquisite, exquisite, exquisite, and I have mine. And perhaps this is all will ever have. Stolen moments, hurried notes scribbled in a journal, digression, oh, I don’t know. What I don’t know. There are so many things that I don’t know about you. That you will never know about me. All I know is that both man and woman are dangerous. Love inevitably spells danger to me. It is all-powerful to me. It can send me into a stupor. To my bed for days on end. I am built like a poet. Built for the supernatural, not the marrying kind of life. There is such a contrast between the two of us. How you go about living, how you go about your life. I have no life. Only the writer’s life. The poet’s world. Love turns me into a sleeping woman, a depressed woman. I am a rather limited being, as I have said before. I don’t know what you’ve done, what you do with the writing that I have chosen to show you. All I can think of is that you share it with no one, or, share it with as many as you can, or, you only share it with the people closest to you, person closest to you in everything. Your wife.

I can do many things, but I cannot love. You’re so accomplished and brave. You have to be brave in your line of work. I gathered this early on. And when you came, you came out of the blue. I never expected you. I don’t expect you now. Only these intermittent emails. You’re distinguished. You’re distinguished looking. You don’t do anything you don’t want to do. Oh, how you do. How you do. It drives me to despair. It drives me to distraction. How you have purpose. And I lived without purpose for the longest time. You don’t know me. You know absolutely nothing that there is to know about me. You’ll go on living after your death. In your children, in your grandchildren, in your future great-grandchildren. I often do ask myself that sometimes that what have I done. On the surface of things, it is such a small life. Not filled with children and a life and work and illustrious career and spouse to fill the hours. Only writing long sentences. And I can only love from afar. Perhaps that is the hardest thing of all. Going that distance. It’s a trek. It’s a trek. I love you. I do. I will always love you. And in this return to love, there’s a return to the page too in a way. Because in one sense it is always the page that frees me in a very, very intense way. You will never eat anything I cook. We will never go on an official first date. I don’t drink red wine. I never drink. I don’t smoke. But you, you have this heart. It completely exhausts me to the point where I cannot do anything. Where I cannot dream, make plans, or, lists, or fulfil goals, or, even think. And whenever you go, you bring contrast to my life, to my world, to the environment in which I live.  

You have everything, or, you seem to have everything. Education, wife, house. I have nature’s bridegroom. The flowers, the trees. Is this my life now? Stolen moments, hurriedly written letters written with mock abandon, the fake pretence of being someone that I am not. I think that I, I love you in a state of empathy, with consideration, with confidence and compassion. I think that I, I love you in a state of flux, in a state of harmony, in a state of my evolution as a novelist. Time is slower. I have all of these hours to fill. You don’t have the same problem. You must have everything because you are a man. I am a woman so I must submit. Submit to you. Submit to man, to the dominant species, to a patriarchal society. I loved it when you said sorry. I know it doesn’t come easy to a person like you. I know you meant it, and I adored you for it. I adore you as I have never adored anyone before. I think of you in stolen moments, in hurriedly written letters written with fierce mock abandon, in the thinking processes of someone who is being the fake pretence of being someone that I am not. I don’t want to think of my health. That is the last thing I want to think about. The cause for concern. The issue at stake. The renal unit, drawing blood, waiting for blood tests, to see the consultant who worked at Groote Schuur. I do not miss the harried nurses working o their feet all day. The confidence of the young doctors with their cute backpacks, product in their hair. Their will always be the jokester. I will always get the jokester. I think of the day of your wedding. I think of your wedding feast. Was it at a hotel? Was it a buffet lunch? Did you dance. Things that it is of course, of course, of course not by business to know. Nothing can ever come of us.

The stress and loneliness, the useless feeling of emptiness and stupor, the burnout over the last months. And now this new trauma. The loss of Rabbit. I am in a state. Disappointed and morose, miserable and stuck in a cocoon, my life literally a bubble. I don’t see you, but you’re everywhere. You move in the right social circles with your wife. I move in no social circles. I don’t read about you. You and your wife read about me. Things I thought that would be lost in this town community. Things that weren’t lost. I think of my madness then in the dark. It is appropriate to think of it in that way. I think of you surrounded, ambushed by your people. How different you are as a man to my father. Taken up by duty and obligation much in the same way he was. So, I live on the edge. Always writing to you from the edge. Pretending to fall in love. Pretending for romance sake. I think about children about having children for the first time in my life. I pretend to be happy. I am so good at it, that I feel elated some days. It is enough to think of you. Not to be with you physically. I am in awe of you. I am afraid that others will see this. There will be more whispers, more derision on the part of women more or less. I think I can take it now. The men feeling sorry for me. Sorry for the men that want to be in my company. There are times when I think I can’t bear this. I can’t bear this scrutiny. As with the madness, I keep my lamentations for the dark too. I think of the wisdom of owls, and I think of another love, before he got married love who collected them. I think of the starlings in the gap figuring out the world around them, and I think of another love.

Before he got married love. I am always falling. I am always falling. Falling into a voyage into eternity. Falling backwards like a leaf concerned with finding the art of wooing gravity in a cocoon, falling with a slightly forward-motion into the sea. I am a lover of Jane Eyre, African literature and the future, chairman. And I am sad. Being together means the physical. Being apart, the separation doesn’t have to necessarily kill me. Time just stands still. And I have the hours to fill with music, I have the hours to fill with writing my novels, getting on with the job of living, and perhaps studying further in a few months, and listening to soundtracks of films I use to watch with my sister who is now in the Czech Republic. Am I bad, for writing about all my loves? I don’t know. I think that any woman on her own would. She would want to be reminded of the sum of happiness in her life. The pursuit of love at all costs, against all odds. I think of you, I think of gravity, I think of the pull and the sway of you in moonlight, in darkness, in light, and of course, I think of the distance between us. It is like a trapeze artist balancing eternity at the end of his nose as he does his act. I am always trying to find the mountain, the valley, the future in everything. You have found everything in house, in wife, in children, in grandchildren. I think of night rides and distances. This physical separation. This distance that divides us completely. Yes, it is good that we have this distance. One look, a glance from you, a glimpse and I’m a goner, I’m afraid. I cannot think. I cannot feel. I cannot ignore you. The brevity of the situation. The art of the seduction, the education at play.

I can’t not think of seeing you. All we had was the briefest of moments. I can’t struggle with that right now. That you’re gone. You’re a hidden thing. You are. You are. One thing about me is that I don’t slip into feeling anxious about you, wherever you are, or, fall into anguish. You can be cold, I’m sure. I can be cold too. I can be aloof. I can be indifferent, and you can be all of those things all of the time. A man has to be, a man who lives in a man’s world. I’ve given up on marriage. I am sure many can see that. Maybe it is a struggle for people who want to be married to see this in someone who so obviously doesn’t want to be married.

I have adopted other mother’s children. I am sure many can see that too. And now I want to be on my own. And all I seem to do is write. And look, I did the impossible last year. I wrote my first novel. I don’t know if it will be published. I don’t know what will happen to it. But that is also exciting in a way. On some level I can share that with you. I am tired. I really am. I am tired of grieving. I am tired of the affairs of grief. I am tired of losing people that I love. I feel like a second wife sometimes. Hidden in a secret world. A world of the history of complaints. I surround myself with things, objects that please me, images that remind me of you.

Of the laughter and the world of women, and you’re the church standing tall amidst the solitude of the waves pounding the chairs in the pew, or, before the reading stand. I will always be a fan of yours. Like attracts like. Intellect attracts intellect. The light is neon-lit here tonight. You’re I your home. I’m in my house. And the loneliness. It is like an anchor. You’re like a frontier to me. Another marked territory. Oh hell, oh hell, oh hell, I’ve fallen again. Fork in the road, cocoon in hand, you are meaningful, you are occurring, and that is the most important thing to me. That you occur to me on so many levels.

And all I seem to do on the return to my elderly parents’ house is find my truly wild Sargasso Sea, which is my childhood sea that stretches along the inlet of this coast. And I’ll write a book about you if you must know. If you want to know. I’ll write a novel. I’ll make it magnificent. I’ll make you magnificent in it. I’ll make you young. You’ll be reborn. I’ll make you as old, or, as ancient as I want. I get to decide that. It is as if you can see my hair. You can see that its unkempt and dishevelled and I haven’t gone for a blowout in a long time. I feel completely safer around other men. Other women remind me of my mother, my sister and not in a gentle and complacent way either. I feel you have been surrounded by beauty your entire life. I wait, but you do not come. I also do not want you to see me like this. Pale. Bored. Fresh out of hospital. I don’t want you to see the labels that other people have put upon me.  Don’t want you to see the burnout, the trauma written all over my face. Remember me as and if you want to remember me. Only if you want to remember me, that is. So, so many have forgotten me. I am hardly worth remembering if you must know. That night. It is my father that kept us apart. Away from each other.    

You took my hand in yours. That is all I have. And a fire swept right through single woman me. Right through my entire being. I remember you holding me, me holding onto you as if I would never let you go, but of course, I had to. We were literally surrounded by small children, and people, and someone visiting my father. It is enough to know that I am here, and that you are there. I was disappointed that you thought I was only a good writer. Not a great one. That I didn’t have it in me, I thought that was what you supposed. So, I go in the big night. So, I wait to hear from you. Laugh at you emojis. Suppose in a way that is the highlight of my day. I want you to think of me, but I don’t think that you do. Feel, feel the same way about me as I do about you. There’s too much thunder in my life. Sometimes it can be a good thing. It makes me think. I write, and write and write and it seems to never come to the point of a beginning, or, an end. That bubble, that zone in which I live seems never to come to an end. You’re the most beautiful thing to me. I think of the Parisian rooftops I will never see. Rilke did. Van Gogh did. Rodin did. Perhaps I will too, if I get that far ahead in life. To Paris. Perhaps our silences betray us. Perhaps they are marked by the moan of day caught in the light. I don’t want you to even know the person I was before the day that I met you. I think that you transformed me. I think of the silences a lot. Too much. The hours in a day that I spend at a desk writing about myself, thinly-veiled semi-autobiographical short stories, or, that I write about other people. Or, I write about you. Of course, I write about you. I always write about the person I am in love with, or, am falling for hard. The people I have loved.

Abigail George
Abigail George
Abigail George is an author, a screenwriter and an award winning poet. She is a Pushcart Prize, two-time Best of the Net nominated, Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Prize longlisted, Writing Ukraine Prize shortlisted, Identity Theory's Editor's Choice, Ink Sweat Tears Pick of the Month poet/writer, and 2023 Winner of the Sol Plaatje European Union Poetry Award. She is a two-time recipient of grants from the National Arts Council, one from the Centre of the Book and another from ECPACC. She won a national high school writing competition in her teens. She was interviewed by BBC Radio 4, and for AOL.com, the USA Today Network and The Tennessean. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram @abigailgeorgepoet.