It’s a beautiful, clear, breezy, near 70 degree Sunday here in Frederick, Maryland, United States, the day before Labor Day. I am listening to author, Neil Bartlett, live from Reading Gaol, reading De Profundis, Oscar Wilde’s 50,000 word letter to his dear one, his betrayer, Bosie.
I am weeping. As is Mr. Bartlett, periodically. One catches one’s breath, one recognizes in these lyrical lines one’s own experience, that unfortunate accident of an uncontrollable and ill-advised attraction to someone within whom one recognizes all the love, all the light, all the good, all the possibility, someone within whom one imagines there to be all the might have beens one missed out on, someone onto whom one projects all the fantastic future that might have been made of one’s own failed past; that attraction which has the unhappy ending of being attacked by that same loved one with a despairing hate, a purposeful, contemptuous darkness, a calculated and pointed evil, and nothing but the willful urge to destroy, all the might bes scoffed away, the future which — no matter its shape — will always bear the scar of a past in which one was heedlessly, pointedly, deliberately cruel.
Since my own Bosie-experience, I am less able to love. It isn’t bitterness or anger, it is an absence. The sorrow of having watched a loved one choose to ravage and deny eviscerated a part of me. The ultimate essence of who I am was surgically altered, changed when someone I loved with near-complete disregard for my own well-being or good, made the choice to negate, forsake, and slander with lies and twisted narrations the truth of who we were, what we were, who I am, who they are.
But, that is just my story. My experience.
Wilde knew this, too. He wrote about the difficulties of finding the truth and essence of things via a translation of a translation; there is no way for language to capture the individual experience of love. Wilde and Bosie, their society, historians, we readers now, all have unique ideas about what and who Wilde and Bosie were, what their love was worth or what it meant.
So, what miracle and magic is it that Wilde’s words do manage to evoke so much of the horror, shame, pain, and regret of having loved unwisely? The sorrow and the anguish, the heartfelt cry of his deepest feelings made mockery; the need to find a way to come to terms, come to peace with the love one gave so freely having been so hatefully rebuked.
The same miracle, I think, as is this beautiful low-70s breeze caressing me today, all the windows open, and through them to see such a gorgeous blue sky, and to find myself content, accepting, without rage or anger, and, slowly but surely, doing away with regrets.
I have lived a life much-examined. And while I will never be as profound or insightful as Mr. Wilde, I am blessed with the luxury of time and freedom to consider what is, what was, what might have been, and what still might be.
I want to visit New Orleans and eat Oysters Rockefeller at Antoine’s. I want to see Falsettos on Broadway. I want to forgive myself for the things I failed to recognize until it was too late to save myself, and, I want to understand why.
Not much, right? And here I am, going. Love and Light, kids.