all that I had in you was only myself

By Daniel Boscaljon
Image by Melissa D. Johnston

rothko experiment mother and child two for CT

“all that I had in you was only myself” is the fifth letter in a series of posts called Letters to You written by Daniel Boscaljon with images by Melissa D. Johnston (from one of her ongoing projects). Letters to You began in July with “everytime i write i feel myself disintegrate.”

we are said to be meaning-makers–you and i, all of us–who by nature interpret events and things which are given in such a way as to determine their significance for our own lives.  We MAKE meaning, and do not find it.  In former times, these were considered omens and portents, glimpses of the future which the gods would give us.

Lacking a sensitivity to the role which the natural world plays in determining the web of relationships in which i continually am caught up within, I find that I more often engage in making meaning of signs and symbols, finding meaning in languages present or absent.  Despite knowing that such text has no relationship to your relationship with me, I nonetheless persist in attempting to determine SOME sort of connection which nonetheless would exist.  This is my most frequent action.

I read the words which you wrote to a mutual friend, some months ago.  I walk past the place where once we ate lunch.  I hear a song on the radio that you had once played for me.  None of these things have anything to do with your current life, yet you force me to investigate these glyphic scribbles as a way to postulate how you are now.  The song is clear and undistorted: you are having a good day.  I see a child crying in front of the restaurant: you’re having a bad day.  I simple and dichotomized world: this is how you force me to view your life.  Thinking about you is not an option, and so I take what I can to construct a relationship with you.

Often when we talk, those rare moments, you force me to pick through your words and fill in the blanks which you leave, spaces which are events in your mind and nothing within my own.  Because I want to have a relationship with you, I let myself believe that I know how you feel, that I know what you’re talking about.  You force me to make guesses and fill in the blanks of your mad-lib life, and, lo-and-behold!  It always conforms to what I had been thinking about anyway.  It always reveals to me that we had the same connection as ever.  I tell myself that you consciously continue our relationship through such absences in speech, such empty points which give me a blank entrance into your soul.  I tell myself that I see you in how you frame it, and that it is more than just a mirror.  You permit me to tell myself this.  I allow myself to believe it.  …this is what friends are for, right?

Not talking is just an expanded form of this–a sheet of paper filled with blanks.  I tell myself that we’re still friends, that this is still a relationship.  The moments where you break into my life, even indirectly, are caused by you.  I’ll say a prayer, or smile at a memory, and then move on.  I tell myself that you’re doing okay, and remind myself that such miniature affirmations, on a cosmic level, are powerful and have the ability to, where you are and at that time, generate a smile that I can’t see and that you can’t understand, but which exists nonetheless.  We’re magicians, all of us, I suppose.

Without your body, the world around me becomes your face that I investigate to see how you are.  Lacking your voice, I listen to the babble streaming around me, the cacophonic choir which only JUST covers up the words which you speak to me.  I strain and peer to find you: when I find something, I simply accept it lest the dark fear start to grow that all that I had in you was only myself all along.

Daniel Boscaljon has Ph.D.s in Modern Religious Thought and 19th-century American Literature, both from the University of Iowa. His interest is in the fragility and liminality of human experiences. His first book, Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in the Secular World was published by the University of Virginia Press this past August.

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Categories: Writing


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  1. End of the Year issue of Creative Thresholds ROCKS! | Melissa D. Johnston - December 31, 2013

    […] reflection by Daniel Boscaljon upon the nature of relationship  in “all that I had in you was only myself”  (image by […]


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