"We are shaped and fashioned by what we love."—Goethe
What is your greatest fear? he asked looking himself in the mirror. What is it about it that paralyzes you? he kept insisting. Tell me, speak up you coward! he said while pushing his right index finger against his forehead, as if trying to punch a hole in it, or—come to think of it—as if trying to access some buried truth, some piece of invented reality stored in a neuron somewhere in his frontal lobe in the form of charged particles caught in unceasing Brownian motion, and while the finger would not punch the desired hole he kept coming back with the same questions, in a monotonous, loud voice which echoed off the walls of his small ground-floor one-bedroom flat, his back door opening up to a small yard laid with gravel, a house he had lived his whole adult life in, one he despised for rarely ever being visited by another human except myself—visits from the letting agent do not count—, not because he saw it as a sanctuary to which he withdrew following social intercourse, but rather as cause of his reluctance to engage in it in the first place, always having been either too afraid of using words to communicate, spoken words that is, or immersed so far in a world-of-words, written words that is, to even understand both how to handle and how to dispose of them, haunted by consonants and vowels in all respects, though—and I can vouch for it—this was not his greatest fear, but, whichever his paralyzing nightmare might have been, he refused to offer a straight answer, even when after a persistent hour-long self-interrogation he eventually started talking about swimming in deep black waters and hunchback whales surfacing, and—right when he started opening up, no matter how incoherent his narration had been—he drifted again into silence, only to start a few minutes later, without—mind you—being probed to do so, about this idea of him showing up at her apartment’s door—who’s she?—, knocking and waiting, and then knocking again and waiting some more, and her finally answering after what seemed to him, even in this dream of his, because this is exactly what it was, a dream—good or bad is hard to say—, to be a multi-hour-long wait, and she didn’t say anything, just stood there looking through him, as if he did not matter the least bit, as if his presence did not concern her at all—but, who’s she?—and he was completely numb and stood there pierced by her gaze, not knowing whether he should try uttering a word or not—apparently not—because they had exchanged so many, and in all sorts of formats, that he thought it was all up to touch and smell and the eyes to sort out now, and so he just stood there waiting for a hint of invitation, any hint, and, finally, when she closed the door the whole thing felt as if noone was knocking on it in the first place, a feeling that caused him to question his own existence—and these are his words that I’m using here—, to pinch the back of his palm, to start whispering words to test his speaking and hearing, but the funny thing is—again these are all his words—that he kept whispering her name, in part in hope that she still stood behind the closed door, eavesdroping, ready to open again and smile, or talk, or punch, or kiss, or hug, or shout at him, anything to confirm his existence, not to him, but to her—that’s all that mattered—, and in part using those four letters, two consonants and two vowels, as a spell of some sort, a spell to reinstate what was lost, though that last bit was never clarified because he then went mute again, and stayed that way, and once in a while jotted down on a piece of paper her address and the words you wouldn’t understand, you’re so blessed you don’t understand, and I wish you never come ‘round to it in his awful handwriting and held it in front of my face as if saying take it to her—but who was her?—and I would pretend not to understand, in part to force him to speak and in part to disentangle him from this disillusioned reality he had cast himself in, and, clearly upset, he would tear the paper into infinitely small pieces only to come back with a new one later on, constantly silent, until, after some time that same night, he walked up to me, looking pale and frail and detached from reality altogether, calling me by her four-letter name, and took me by the hand, and sat me down on the sofa, and—not letting go of my hand—started talking in a soft voice: he spoke of his fears, his dreams and his despairs, of his heartaches and his resolutions, all in the same soft voice that I never knew he had, going into great detail—the narration lasting until sunrise, interrupted only by him weeping a couple of times and then resuming—when, at the very end, he caressed my hair and said do you understand now? before leaving the flat he had lived his whole adult life in, never to return again.