Mesa, Arizona, 2005
Dear Fernando Pessoa,
I almost love you.
Lately, in fact, I've found myself having "conversations” with you. You look, in my mind’s eye, just like you did in early photographs—a dark suit, a fat cigar between the fingers of your left hand. You've got one eye looking at me; the other is over the cobbled streets where people pass by, oblivious to us. You seem depressed.
The year is 1930 and you will be dead soon. Actually, that’s not entirely true: You still have five more years to live.
You and I are sitting at a small, iron table in a tiny café in Lisbon. We are on the patio; you've just completed your journal entry for the day. I wonder if I can see it, and you slide the notebook across the table without uttering a word.
Somebody endlessly keeps our coffee cups filled. I don't know who it is. I can't see them. I can only sense them after they've come and gone. And this feeling, this contradiction, this present absence, so to speak, reminds me of something you wrote, not that long ago: "We never love anyone. We love only our idea of what someone is like. We love an idea of our own; in short, it is ourselves that we love.”
A bearded man sits at the table next to us. He is reading a thick volume of poetry while he eats his lunch. I am trying to figure out who the author is. I'm almost sure it's Whitman.
"What book is he reading?" I ask you, pushing my chin towards the bearded man. The question seems to confound you, as if I’ve suddenly made an appearance, as if this weren’t my fantasy anymore. You've materialized me. I'm not dreaming (not alone, anyway). This is truly 1930, and you’re, in fact,Fernando Pessoa, the sad poet wearing his sad suit.
And I am… Well, I am this sort of yet-to-be born presence, one of your contradictory truths, an illusion, a phantom. Still, you are only partly assured. You glance over your shoulder, bring your hovering, watchful eye into focus. Now, with both eyes upon me, the corners of your mouth loosen. I loosen too, like an ideal figment of imagination. We rejoice at how easy it is to dream.
The bearded man finishes his lunch. He gets up to leave and I can see
he has an elated mind. His thoughts flicker behind his eyes like flames.
When you see him leave, you too, gather your things—your notebook, your overcoat, your difficult-to-read thoughts. You continue to rub your brow, as if the ache in your head is too much to ignore. An entire universe is waiting for you along Rua dos Douradores.
In 1982, 47 years after your death, your "The Book of Disquiet” will be published. In it, there will be a fragmented gathering of many of your journal entries, which, I understand, you have been actively engaged in writing since 1912.You give credit to a semi-heteronym, Bernardo Soares, whom you claim was a simple mutilation of your own personality. You, "minus reason and affectivity.”
When I see you step out into the courtyard, the sun piling up in the trees, hat on your head to cap the pressure, I step out too. As your footsteps recede up the road back to your office, words fall over your shoulders. I pick them up, even though I can't read them in the original Portuguese.
I call out your name one more time, but you don’t look back, not to thank me, not to say goodbye.
Years will go by, and, often, when I'm "high up in that lonely night,” I will think of you, and carefully whisper cheerful words, so that just you can hear them. Wherever you are.