I guess this amounts to a blanket apology — no, a blanket explanation — to all of you readers of these dispatches who have been kind enough to send me responses and comments.
Know, first, that not a one of you has ever heard back from me directly. That was a decision I made, for good or ill, when I first set out, on a whim, to make this little scrapbook of my travels in Cancerland. I resolved not to enter into private conversations with anyone who, heaven only knew how, might happen to stumble upon the little stack of notes I was leaving on a spike in an out-of-the-way corner of the great galaxy of the blogosphere. It was not my purpose (to the extent I had a conscious purpose at all) to initiate a dialog.
Don’t misunderstand: I believe in dialog. I believe deeply in dialog. And I engage in it — in other places, in other ways, at other times — eagerly and happily and always with a great sense of satisfaction…always…even when, as is so often the case with dialog, it doesn’t actually go very well.
But these Fables were to be something else. I’m quite sure I didn’t realize it at the time, but thinking about it now, I have come to understand that what I wanted was somehow to do the equivalent of what so many of us do when we sing in the shower. That may seem a silly analogy, but it is actually very close. I wanted to be naked, by myself, comforted and lulled by streams of warm water, so comforted and lulled as to feel almost on the point of being dissolved…all so that I could, obliviously and unselfconsciously, let out whatever inside me wanted to be let out — bleat, blather, croak, the odd lovely note that comes as a complete surprise, lyrics that had not been thought into existence but that simply popped out like bubbles. Surely you understand that imagining you can be heard while doing such a preposterous thing — let alone knowing you can be heard — completely changes the enterprise. Doesn’t make it worse, mind, nor yet does it make it better. It’s just different then, that’s all.
Now then. To be completely honest about this, I am (pretty obviously, I guess) an egotist, at least as much as the next guy and probably more, because writers tend to that. So, being an egotist, I have of course allowed myself from time to time very fleetingly to think, while being blessed by the warm shower water and singing with soap on my lips: Wouldn’t it be something if people were gathering outside the bathroom window…gathering with their heads cocked…listening…smiling now and again, and nodding their heads, and tapping their feet? And wouldn’t it be something if, on finally stepping out of the tub, I heard, or thought I could hear, the sound of very distant applause? Yeah, that would be something all right. I’d have these thoughts, smile, shake my head — and then go back to just plain singing my fool head off.
Until there came a comment — you will find it appended below — from Lisa, which, had I actually been in the shower, would certainly have knocked me flat on my bony arse. I cannot tell you how moved I was, how amazed, how warmed. No human being has any right to feel as gratified as I felt. And I thought at once, well, this one time, I have to reply, I have to offer thanks, I have to say how touched I am. And I nearly did that too, nearly did just write back.
But struggled with the idea and decided to do this instead.
These dispatches all have been open letters, and so I resolved to have my response be an open letter too.
However extraordinarily wonderful the note that’s just been slipped under my bathroom door, I can’t simply pop out to acknowledge receipt.
After all, I am starkers, being dissolved by dozens of streams of steaming water, and croaking away to beat the band.
Egotist I may be, but not enough of one to make a public appearance in that condition.
We read because you write. As long as you do we are here.
Do you find in putting together your words comforting in a third person sense or comfort in knowing we are reading? I guess that’s up to you.
I listen amazed that you have the ability to describe and pull together your words. I don’t think you need to apologise for them.
It’s vivid, stark and threatening, and the days you miss, are the days people who don’t really know you any other way, worry about your words.