Fugitive Peace

I watched the film adaptation of Anne Michaels’ novel, Fugitive Pieces today. One of the most achingly beautiful love scenes I’ve ever seen is followed, closely, by Michaela picking up Jakob’s journal, holding it, looking at it, quizzically, curiously. she seems to be asking of it, “what else might you reveal of the man I love?” Jakob is watching her.

“Read it,” he says.

“Are you sure?”

He is. Confident. His first marriage ended, abruptly, when his first wife surreptitiously read an earlier journal, discovering in it a broken, hollow man who saw a darkness in existence that blotted out any chance for love…love generally, of course but, cuttingly, love even for his own wife. That was decades ago, an earlier journal. Much had changed. This is what Michaela read:

I did not witness the most important events of my life. My deepest story must be told by a blind man, from behind a wall, from underground, from the corner of a small house on a small Island that juts like a bow from the skin of the sea. While I hid in the radiant light of Athos’ Island, thousands suffered in darkness. While I hid in the luxury of a room, thousands were stuffed into crawlspaces, stables, pig stys. While I was learning Greek and English, learning geology and poetry, Jews were filling the corners and cracks of Europe. I didn’t know that while I listened to stories of explorers, a Jew could be purchased for a quart of brandy, or sugar, cigarettes.

What do our bodies make us believe? That we are never ourselves until we contain two souls. Now I’m not afraid when harvesting darkness. Night after night it is happiness that wakes me. There is room at last for everyone that I have ever loved. As Michaela approaches I shake like a compass needle, feeling for the first time a future. My words, my life, no longer separate after decades of hiding in my skin.

Here is a woman who will slowly undress my spirit, bring my body to belief.

Leave a Reply