Writing Anthony Love
“Anthony Love is my big brother and I am so happy about it. This is a love note. This is a heart doodle on a notebook. I never had a girlfriend crush to rival this big brother one.”
Anthony Love appeared in a thrift store copy of Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”: a name literally penciled into the bottom inside corner of the front cover. His name felt like a gift or a sign, and I couldn’t stop thinking about him, the him to which this name was ascribed. I couldn’t shake the feeling he was someone I knew or know or was destined to know.
There was something familiar in the left handed curl of the script, how the letters in his name vacillated between leaning left or right. Of course the writing on the page belonged to someone other. I didn’t care about this other anonymous Dr. Frankenstein. From the very first moment I only cared about the creation. I only had eyes for Anthony Love.
I scanned the book for clues. I found a page of the preface dog-eared, an underlined sentence about women needing money and a room of their own to write fiction, the word restrictive inserted near the word collar. But none of this made sense.
Although, I certainly appreciated the need for money and room, and thrilled at the possibility that Miss Virginia had imagined me to some Other who imagined me to Anthony, he remained just out of sight, or at least this is what I believed. Still, I waited for him to manifest, sensed his presence at the edge of consciousness, his name washing over me every once in a while. A piece of a story I was meant to write.
In my mind I created him as red thread and then as thread jumper, but I didn’t understand my own language, not yet. I created him with dark hair and then light, a guardian hovering between black gown and white wings.
I attempted him as a her, but she was on another frequency altogether. She was not part of this DNA sequence. It seemed to be mostly a man’s figure [that] rose to intercept me. Or so I thought, at first.
Interception happens at intersections. Intersections overlap intersections like nesting boxes. This is how Anthony Love became a blueprint. A blueprint that I practiced swallowing until it became part of me. As much a part of my inside as the blue sky. This is how my body became an intersection. A meeting place. A crossing over space. An overlap.
Eventually I stopped waiting, and started hunting. I hunted for folds and crevices. I hunted for the trace left behind after lead is erased. I hunted for a blueprint in the origami swan sitting on my desk, in a map of human muscles I couldn’t pronounce, in the charm of dry oak finches that fluttered in a single gust of wind on a windless spring day. I hunted for Anthony Love, determined to discover and break open whatever glass cabinet separated the blue from the print, me from Anthony, from Love.
Miss Virginia wrote, “It was as if someone had let fall a shade.” Of course, this was exactly how I felt about Anthony Love. I began to question the universe because something seemed different now, and like Miss Virginia I had to think myself out of the room, back into the past.
I tried to go back to the beginning. To locate an origin, a page with hearts and stars for emphasis. To find an explanation for my longing for truth. I was feeling something that I had felt before, some feeling that I responded to naturally as if it were being made and torn out in this moment exactly as it had been torn out numerous times before. So much spiraling back made me dizzy.
It was still winter in the south when I began to consider history. It was still a grey rainy day, the kind of day when bones invited damp inside and casseroles from my childhood sounded appetizing. I contemplated making shepherd’s pie for dinner. This was not a casserole from my childhood, but this comforting dish led me to remember how the Irish smelled the garlic on my breath after I had eaten from one particularly Americanized (via my Italian bloodline) shepherd’s pie while visiting Ireland. Simultaneously this memory of foodstuff became a memory of the boy whose number I wrote on my arm after he told me I was a good dancer. Or maybe it was a different boy. Or maybe there was no boy and certainly there were no cell phones. And certainly some of the Irish must have used garlic in their shepherd’s pie occasionally. And certainly I might have been prone to use prolific amounts of garlic even if my grandfather had not been from Sicily. How history is biased by the historian. How fiction is selective.
But truth is more than facts since facts are relative. Miss Virginia wrote the truer the facts the better the fiction, the Other underlined Fiction must stick to the facts, and who I am to argue?
I felt the need to deny any finality. I could not explain why, but on page 22, the Other underlined running wild in Russia. And this seemed as good a reason as any.
Soon after these words appeared, Miss Virginia wrote that human nature took its shape between the years of one and five. So as per her suggestion, I drew the curtains, shut out distractions, lit the lamp, and narrowed my inquiry.
I set out in search of Anthony Love. I set out to see what I had forgotten to remember, and to choose a different set of facts. Miss Virginia questioned whether it would be better to give up seeking for truth, but I thought she was being ironic. The Other marked a section which described fiction as a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners, but I thought this was also ironic. There were no indisputable proofs.
Miss Virginia writes that the book has somehow to be adapted to the body. I have been giving much thought to the body as of late. As my body displaces less and less space. I question the space of myself. How the shape of my memories collides with the shape of my self mirrored in a book about a character I can’t contain and don’t remember remembering.
The Other underlines a passage about sentences. About books being built not of sentences laid end to end like tracks, but rather formed of domes. I am not interested in building domes. The word masculine written in the margin. A period after the word. As if punctuation can contain the spilling. As if what’s spilled does not evaporate. Evaporation is the opposite of building. There are sentences in the evaporated. In this way poetry is lost. But evaporation eventually cycles back to condensation. In this way poetry is found.
I struggle to ascertain Anthony Love, but fear his essence was written in the girth of my thigh now shed. Language resists the lessoning of. There are words imprinted in the invisible circumference that was once my chubby bicep. I am learning to read my own ghost limbs. There is no alternative. Anthony, Anthony, where are you?
Miss Virginia tells me that we think back through our mothers if we are women. Perhaps the key is in the mother vein. The Other seems to agree or at least tends to acknowledge with graphite emphasis—guiding my eyes to these particular letters arranged on this particular page. Page seventy-five. I watch as these letters take flight one by one, launching themselves off this other body’s page, leaving an absence behind. This is not a man’s sentence. It is much too pliable.
At any rate, it comes as no surprise that I meet Anthony Love for the first time in a meditation space of a room of my own where my maternal grandmother stands by a clear blue pool. She is younger than I imagine. She is younger than I am now. She is smiling with her eyes.
When I ask her what I need to know, she tells me. “You are loved,” she says. “You are safe and whole and always,” she says. It is then that I notice Anthony Love approaching for the first time. He is tall with dark hair. No wait, his hair is lighter than I remember. He stands shoulder to shoulder with my grandmother. She is much taller than I am now. “Don’t forget to breath,” they say in unison. My chest expands. Inhale. Exhale, as a single tear drips from my right eye and then from my left. When Anthony Love merges with my grandmother, I see the blueprint then, but it is still too soon for me to understand the significance, how the weight and pace, the stride of a man’s mind are still too unlike my own.
Anthony Love and my grandmother question what I am seeking. And I have no clear intention, but the word that forms on the lip of my consciousness resembles permission. I am asking for permission. Permission for what? To be more than “only a woman.” To be more than “as good as a man.”
Miss Virginia writes: “She had altered her values in deference to the opinion of others.” The Other suggests it is time to let go. Anthony Love whispers, “I will show you the way.” Grandma kisses the top of my head and leads me towards a door. As I cross over the threshold she reminds me not to be afraid and to “put more polish on those nails for Christ’s sake.” My skin begins to itch where the feathers push through the page.
Anthony Love runs heavily towards the white and scarlet lights; at the steps he falls, rooted in the present. She tries to climb up, but something—call it his muscle, my will, their soul, refuses him and we do not get past the second step, she is not able to reach beyond singular perception.
He puts out his hands as if to push at an invisible foe, and then reaches out as if to pull back an invisible veil. And then another and another and another. So many curtains falling away. In this always moment the man and the woman and the pathway and the prayer and the process…all manifestations of the same action, pure being, not noun, not outcome, but verb in motion, a movement towards dissolution, towards a space of no light, no location and no time.
Anthony Love sinks to his or her hands and knees; an invocation to deepen the flatness—can hear the singing overhead. “It’s coming on thick,” they think, “so thick it has stems to it, and roots, and wings, and tiny tributaries. It’s coming on thick,” she thinks, as the ringing notes that flutter above begin to thread around and around each other. It is then he makes an involuntary leap, pulls on the closest red thread, tugging at a piece of the sky, she lunges straight into the music as if he/she had been born to fly.
The instant these words appear on the page I have a direct path back to this particular moment in time, now a memory.
I am there standing on a damp street in the rain. The buildings all run together lined up close to the curb that curves away to my right. There is one street lamp and a red light from a window above reflects in the puddles. I know in the daylight the doors of the stores and shops and pubs are painted bright colors. I know the door in front of the man I witness struggling to run, the man I see collapse on the steps directly across from me, is red. The man’s face is slick with rain and I presume tears and sweat. I look around, fearful of what he could be running from, but it is late, and the streets are empty. I watch him reach out and swat the air as if he’s snatching at cobwebs. I am not sure if he has recognized me, which implies that he knows me. I want to call out to him, but stand rooted in the present, yet I am uneasy with this situation. It is too dark for me to notice the blood beginning to pool beneath his body. But it occurs to me that my presence is murky, that I am lurking in the shadows of this man’s end of life. I wonder why I do not rush to his side, why I stand still as stone…
when something in me snaps. I begin to sing. I begin to forget. Muting anguish on the page.
“Let me tell you a secret: We are nothing but a jumble of words.”
Miss Virginia suggests that a lock on a door symbolizes the power to think for one’s own, but Anthony Love tells me, to the contrary, that some rooms, indeed most rooms, need not, should not, be locked at all. In fact, he says, locks are always for hiding immediacy. In fact, he says, all locks are equally illusory. Why, he asks, would one choose to sequester interiority as vast as a field of daffodils on a spring morning, behind a closed door, interiority capable of bluing the vault of the sky?
Blink and a revelation is in order. All the walls are made of words, and the doors and the locks too.
Miss Virginia is intent on arguing that a poem or story may be the essence of life but not really real life. Anthony Love giggles at the proposition that she or I, or anyone for that matter, can discern the realness of reality, name the real…beyond the ellipses, he says, reality is plural, spinning through language, language creating memory and dream. How hard we try to hold on to our individual creations, to name them history, as if these small histories are not mutable as dreams. As if we cannot rewrite all our stories. As if our own stories are not infused with the stories created by others. Layers upon layers. Including the layers of all that is absent. As if any of the stories have an ultimatum. As if what’s missing does not take up space.
If only it were the scrawl of my handwriting, which made the composition of this draft difficult to ascertain. Ah no. My feeble brain.