Thursday, August 27, 2009

Archival Posting 1--The Letter

I will use this sight to form my own archives, to preserve moments of my past--as I think I have been doing all along. In the old days, I would have given these documents to the Lesbian Herstory Archives, and eventually, all will end there, but for now, I will gather them here as I find them--in what remains of my New York life here in Melbourne.

What prompted me to do this in this clearly stated way is the discovery of a letter from the first woman I loved, Carol Betty Lipman who died in 1965, tucked away in a slim, black hardcover book, Six Nonlectures, by e.e.cummins. Carol and I had met in Queens College in 1960. We were both English majors, she struggling, I devouring all I could. An unlikely couple, we shared a mutual love for literature and I, being slightly older and more widely read, became her prompter as we both prepared for the culminating comprehensive examination that all English majors had to pass to get their degree. I was already living alone on the lower East Side, Carol still lived at home with her family in Jamaica Estates, Queens. I was the hippy commie, she was engaged to a medical student and had a diamond engagement ring to prove it. Both our lives changed when we became lovers, deliriously so in some ways, very difficult in others. The letter is after we had separated, when Carol had fallen in love with another woman.

From the inside front cover:
"...and will somebody tell
me why people let go...

"(we're everything greater
then books might mean)...


"true lovers in each happening of their hearts
live longer than all which and every who..."

Dear Joan,
Now it's true I didn't write any of this and I ought to be original but you introduced me to it and I want you to know I appreciate it, and we read it all together so why not repeat it? So--

expand y o u i
into we
and in
vest i
gate the
verse as us.

Love, Carol

The Letter-- all this written in Carol's small neat handwriting, blue ball point ink on a page torn from lined small pad--

Dear Joan,
Every day I think to myself--how is Joan--what is she thinking? I wonder if I can ever really be happy, Joan. There are always so many problems. I would have called you tonight but every night I say to myself--she will ask you why do you call and whatever I answer means nothing to her anyway. If I say, I was worried about you, you would say you don't have to worry about me, Carol. And if I said I was thinking of you, you would remain silent. And whatever else I might say would certainly upset you--so you see, I do not call you. I try not to be selfish although I would like to hear your voice. I miss you.

I wish our lives could meet sometimes but when they do, it is then that we are most apart. I think we are together in our separateness. It is quite sad to think that but I know it is true. I feel so much a part of you at times, Joan.

Please stay well Joan. In spite of what you may think, I still love you in my own way and I think you know that.

Why am I doing this, writing these words tonight onto this screen, a screen Carol never lived to see, to whom am I sending these words from a young lesbian woman to another, this tender page of loss and connection just newly brought to light so many years later? I know all that Carol said is true, I know that I have never forgotten her in any day of my subsequent life, I know I have often asked myself, have I used the years I had and Carol didn't in a way that brought meaning to life, I know that her death so young, so fearful, so shining in her countenance, was the first huge obscenity life made me witness. You too must have letters like this, from a time so long ago, but living anthems to lives and touch, to joy, and regret for broken things. Remember, Carol, how we curled around each other in the late afternoon violet waves of Riis Park, free to kiss and taste the salt on our bodies, on this patch of Brooklyn gay beach, our legs intertwined below the water, so young and free, delighting in what our courage had brought us--sunlight and glowing touch--and we were young, so young, riding home in your red convertible to my East 6th street crumbling apartment where your red car was the banner of another world. I stood at the window, watching you drive away, back to your family in the rich part of Queens, my body still trembling at your kiss. Always, Carol, Always--as long as I have words, you will live. With the top down, your arm around me, and the future always a promise.


lynchly said...

I am savoring these moving and inspiring blogs. Thank you, Joan.

esther said...

Joan, reading these words they sound so immediate, not dusty at all.
Thank you for being the master hoarder! This is why we love history, and the history of love.

I'm so glad I stopped by for this beautiful moment in my morning.
x esther