Dear Maureen

Dear Maureen,

It is not easy writing this letter. It began as a poem, a long poem. I tried to turn it into an essay but the result was wooden, cold. I have not yet unlearned the esoteric bullshit and pseudo-intellectualizing that school brainwashed into my writing.

How to begin again. How to approximate the intimacy and immediacy I want. What form? A letter, of course.

—Gloria Anzaldúa, “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers”

Can we ever restore lost resonance? I stayed up all night once wondering about this. When resonance is lost, when things fail to sound, what can we do? The next morning, a broken friendship tried gently to mend itself.

But still, part of me is terrified that it cannot be restored. Part of me is unsure if all I ever do is gather up broken, empty referents—referring to nothing, making silence, failing to resonate.

But the rest of me wants to live up to my namesake and have faith. I want to believe in an imminent reconciliation, a community coming towards me, arms wide open, a vast garden walking around me and drawing green. If only because believing this is necessary—if only because so much hinges on that hope—the world I want to build and inhabit. And to create it, I must have hope. Even provisional hope is something.

Arundhati Roy said “Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

I can hear her breathing, but for a while now it has been quieter. I have not heard from you in a while.

But I am to blame for the silence, the ensuing rupture in sound, where all the lines went dead.

Listen. Let me explain.

At that time in my life, that foggy, cold, distant place that no longer feels like me, many different traumas—traumas with different roots, magnitudes, trajectories—collided in me. They coalesced in the most destabilizing way. I was destabilized to the point of paralysis. I felt completely unable to respond, to assimilate everything. I was experiencing it all collapse into itself into something unmovable. I felt all my power drain from me, leaving me completely unresponsive.

And in turn, my world and everything in it appeared unresponsive to me. Everything felt barren, unable to nourish or grow. Everything dimmed.

But I acknowledge that just as our personal traumas have deep, far-reaching genealogies, so too do they spread forward, growing into our present even more powerfully. And I am so sorry for the reverberations that carried through to you, to me and you, to break the harmony in our little affective space. I am sorry for all of the gaps, lacks, and absences I somehow became. How they silenced these nurturing, fruitful songs.

Listen: I want you to know that I hold myself accountable for this. I want you to know that I have turned these words over in my mind a thousand times but they never sound smoother—the jagged noise always springs forth into my hearing. But did we ever learn to make truth rounded, harmonious?

Listen: I blame myself for anything that has lost its resonance, for anything that now fails to sound. For all the stories that were never shared, any personal truths that in all the following moments could not commune.

Listen: I am so much better now. I am healthy and happy. I have found all of the resources and energies and communities to sustain me for when I am not. And so many of those energies and resources I owe to you.

Listen: I would not sound the same if not for you. My words would be broken, unable to be heard. A string of sounds could not flow from me in this way. You taught me all the songs I know. You showed me how to belong, to be intentional, to create, to navigate, to negotiate. You awakened dream worlds in me that felt sleepy and fuzzy for so long.

Listen: Maureen, I still don’t know if we can ever bring back that lost resonance. If we can rebuild our spaces to harmonize again. If we can find those emotional acoustics all over again and speak more truly through them. If we can learn to hear ourselves or others better. But, Maureen, I hope we can, and I have to believe it.

I haven’t heard from you for a while. I hope I do soon.

Love,

Eman

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