Dear John

Dear John, 

As promised, here is the sculpture in my recent letter—Alberto Giacometti’s “Hands Holding the Void (The Invisible Object)”. This is the sculpture I found myself standing before, before moving to the room’s perimeter, circling the thing and trying to say something resilient about the sculpture in relation to the past. 

The slender, bronze limbs. The desolate female body. The fingers curling around something we can’t see. The things I wanted to say to you—and can’t. At the risk of repeating myself, I will repeat myself anyway: her mask reminds me of the masks we used to wear when meeting each other during office hours. 

Obviously, everything is about that invisible object lost to the viewer. Or that’s how the story drops a hint to the reader. 

As for the interlocutor, the You of the direct address, that’s how the writer draws you into believing that you exist. 

It’s important to me that you believe there is something solid and prove-able between us. This illusion of intimacy allows a writer to invent entire worlds from interiors. And that’s what this weekend is about—You, existing. All writing is about existing, and you come into that. 

Of course, you don’t actually exist anywhere except on the page, specifically, this idea I wanted to bring to the page about two people who felt most comfortable when wearing masks in a time before pandemic. But there is backstory required. Backstory allows the past to trouble the present.

Giacometti’s woman has massive eyes—and there is a visual relationship between the rotundness of the eye-pair and the breast-pair immediately beneath it. I could use this as an entry-point into the moment when you spilled coffee on the notes for a lecture I was supposed to deliver later that day—and how your eyes bounced from my eyebrows to my breasts like two blue balls on summer-scorched asphalt. We were vying for the same position in the department, and so you knew how much that lecture mattered. I want the reader to know what you knew, and how this shaped the mask-game we played later. The Giacometti sculpture is my excuse—my magic wrench—to develop the backstory between us. 

Many symbols are actually excuses if you stop to think about it, John. But you never actually stop to think, do you? If you had thought a little harder, I wouldn’t be working at a vineyard in a town where no one knows my name.