Naida came to visit us at home in Crystal Palace. She brought with her a bag full of belongings that I had commanded her to keep while I was away. It was longer than what we thought and I was not expecting to get back any of my books that I gave her, but here she was, excited to see me reuniting with them. I opened the bag and took the items carelessly but still acknowledging the fact that I was seeing them for the first time in a very long time. I did not recognize all of them as if I had forgotten some, and not all of the books that I’ve given her were in the bag because Naida has been moving houses numerous times in the past 4 years so she has been leaving some items behind. (fair enough).
I was particularly happy to see one book there. It was a first edition of Just Kids by Patti Smith that I found second hand in Paris. I had used it as a diary during my first months in London in 2013. In it, I wrote about my feelings in the midst of an abusive relationship. My plans on how I was going to fix both our lives and my first impressions of London. Some passages I remember by heart.
I put the books down and we had a long chat, as we use to do. After she left I let Lucas watch some TV and I properly met with my books again. I sat down and open each one of them. I noticed Camera Solo by Patti Smith might belong to her, I don’t remember owning it and it has a postcard inside that reads: “Naida, happy birthday form the 5 of us upstairs”.
I went through all the pages of Robert Mapplethorpe’s “Polaroids”. I got it as a gift on my first birthday in London. Then with a heavy heart, I decided to open Just Kids and read through some of those memories.
Before opening it, I remembered the first page, scribbled in black pencil all around the title until the very edges of the 4 sides of the page. The trace by the pencil started very sharp at the beginning, leaving a very fine mark under every word, but it kept on getting softer and softer until the last written words.
I turned the hardcover and opened the book. Around the title: nothing, white, blank.
The book was immaculate.
I looked through the next pages, and I noticed the book looked new.
I think maybe Naida lost the book and wanted to replace it. I am here now and it feels almost natural that those words are gone. That I can not even go back after them. London has shown me in this first month back, that there’s a part of me that never left and a very new one. I feel out of place sometimes, and others I feel like home as I had never left, as those perfect days in which all struggles seemed worth it and all my life seemed like an adventure. There is this chapter that is over. A chapter I can no longer revisit. And it’s ok. Through letters to Naida I have healed, and she is now the medium to show me, with an object I can hold in my hands, that I can see with my eyes: It’s over. There is nothing left of this pain. There is nothing left but the memories that can help me move forward.
So I found also poems that I thought lost. I wrote them during the happiest days of my life.
Oh I love you
Mardou would walk barefoot
through the streets of Tangier
And she would hear the prayers
with tears in her black dark-as-the-night eyes
I love you
As I think of them lovers
He would wait for her
through winter and summer
He would miss her tears
And write letters about time
through the streets of San Francisco
Hot evenings as holy as devotion
No matter where we are
what keeps us writing
and the world turns
and silence might feel threatening
but someone else is
as much as Jack loved barefoot Mardou
*The Beat Book, writings from the Beat Generation, with hundreds of highlighted paragraphs and notes on the margins. I tore that book down. I took it to pubs after work and wrote in the middle of a page:
“half angry – half drunk
half poem – half page
half Allen – half myself”
I confessed: “I will cover your empty spaces with the bluest ink my silver pen can deliver. I love you till the edge of the page and back”.
I could cry but I’m so blessed.