Sunday, April 20, 2008

Forgive me

It is not known that Litvinoff's favorite flower was the peony. That his favorite form of punctuation was the question mark. That he had terrible dreams and could only fall asleep, if he could fall asleep at all, with a glass of warm milk. That he often imagined his own death. That he thought the woman who loved him was wrong to.

During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less.

No distinction was made between the gestures of of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious. When a hand was used to shield one's face when frightened by a loud noise something was being said, and when fingers were used to pick up what someone else had dropped something was being said; and even when hands were at rest, that, too, was saying something.

There were times when a finger might be lifted to scratch a nose, and if casual eye contact was made with one's lover just then, the lover might accidentally take it to be the gesture, not at all dissimilar, for Now I realize I was wrong to love you. These mistakes were heartbreaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn't go around with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they'd understood correctly. Sometimes, these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose. Of course I know I've always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of those mistakes, over time the gestire for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me.

If at large gatherings or parties, or around people with whom you feel distant, your hands sometimes hang awkwardly at the ends of your arms - if you find yourself at a loss for what to do with them, overcome with sadness that comes when you realize the foreignness of your own body - it's because your hands remember a time when the division between mind and body, brain and heart, what's inside and what's outside, was so much less.

From Nicole Krauss' The History of Love.


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