Nin Again: Artifice, Winter

To imagine was far more terrible than reality, because it took place in a void, it was untestable. There were no hands with which to strike or defend oneself in that inner chamber of ghostly tortures.

He worries she will not like what she sees.

It is almost guaranteed that some of what lies beneath will not suit her. It is not his job to be fashioned to her taste. When he peels back the outer husk and lets her hands in, she knows she must proceed with care. It is an art, this learning to hold the whole of the soft meat with tenderness. Sometimes the urge to recoil is strong. Still, a light touch is required. This is how to seek the seed of whatever longs to unfurl from its slumber.

But in living the realization summoned energies, forces, courage, arms and legs to fight with so that war almost became a joy.

He wonders at the polite tone. Such diplomacy borders on clumsiness.

She wants to say, “We both have seen the carnage when people forgo caution and careen into us.” What she dares not say is that, more than once, she herself has piloted the collision. Who has not left the bodies of lovers in their wake? Can we bear to look at the children there, too? At the whole portions of ourselves littering the surface and sinking fast into that murky deep?

Recklessness masquerades as joy. Everything must be different now. Old people drive slowly not just because they cannot see but also because they see more clearly than ever before.

To fight a real sorrow, a real loss, a real insult, a real disillusion, a real treachery was infinitely less difficult than to spend a night without sleep struggling with ghosts.

He longs to surrender. She does not admit the same, except everyone must know. It is written across her taught shoulders, penned into the white grip of her jaw. She keeps the hunger at bay and wishes all of them would do the same. The dark is embattled enough when alone. Add in a lover’s resident monsters, and one breeds a menagerie of foul whispers, tooth and claw.

The imagination is far better at inventing tortures than life because the imagination is a demon within us and it knows where to strike, where it hurts. It knows the vulnerable spot, and life does not, our friends and lovers do not, because seldom do they have the imagination equal to the task.

He hints at her courage as if to tease the thread of it out of her. He cannot know yet it is just a knitting of pith across her jeweled words. It falls away from the fruit as soon as her skin is breached.

Quotations from Anais Nin’s Winter of Artifice, from the Anais Nin Reader, Swallow Press, Chicago: 1973.


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