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Epistolary notes:

a series by Daniel Stephensen

A Castle of Books
on Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Gabriel Garca Mrquez

Early June New Orleans, Louisiana Darling, I write to you from the bottom of a bottomless cup of coffee at an old bookmakers office turned cafe on Mystery Street, New Orleans. From time to time this place is on the map. It closes down indecisively. Today the weather is fine, as lonely as ever since you went away. I have engaged a private investigator named Lucille Prideaux, who said, Call me Lucy, so I do. Lucy Prideaux. She was once a police officer. While she works to find you, or not, or half find you, which would probably be worse because that is as much as I already ever found you, I am staying in a sublet on Oak and reading the books you left me. In the last minutes of my dreams each night I see you again, but I cant stay asleep, I always wake and burst into tears, or flower; I dont know what to make of my days. Forget-me-not? Thank you for the books. I have read the first. * Usually I suppose there is someone left behind to remember what happened, especially when an event was too terrible to forget. Facts lurch through our minds, unburied fragments of life. A thing happens and it is true, as real as anything, then we recall our recollection and turn fact into memory. Is there any such thing as a reliable witness? You taught me this: Look at peoples eyes, they are the first point of contact for information coming to us at the speed of light. Your smile, your laugh I cant help remembering these things, and so I suppose I am always really moving further away from where we were together. All over town are posters of a woman who went missing from Lafayette, Louisiana. I am making posters of you to put up, but I dont know where you went missing from.

I have so little information. If I were to search for Ms Lafayette, who would I find? If I searched for someone else with your name, might I find you? I search for you and everything feels like a clue, and nothing is. Bayardo San Romn comes to a small and unnamed Latin American town to find a bride. He is a powerful, confident, desirable man. He decides to marry Angela Vicario and the union is arranged. On their wedding night, Bayardo San Romn returns Angela Vicario to her family because she is not a virgin, and after being cruelly beaten by her mother, Angela Vicario gives up a name: Santiago Nasar. But was it he she slept with? The truth is unclear. The morning after the wedding, Angela Vicarios brothers, slaughterers by trade, prepare to kill Santiago Nasar. The murder is so premeditated, so widely known of, that many people in the town have the opportunity to stop it. No one does. The brothers kill Santiago Nasar. There is no mystery to this crime. This is the scenario of Gabriel Garca Mrquezs short novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Read this book first, you told me, and I have, and it is strange and very beautiful. * Twenty-seven years after the murder, the narrator of Chronicle of a Death Foretold returns to this town which was his home. He was here at the time of Santiago Nasars death, but did not witness the murder. He has returned to investigate and to establish, as factually as he can, a narrative of the last day of Santiago Nasars life. He wants to know what could have caused such a vacuum of grace in this town. The Vicario brothers murdered Santiago Nasar to defend the purity of marriage; no, to defend the purity of their sister; no, to avenge her, to assert their own law; no, no what justification is sufficient? They are devoted to their masculine principles, pridefully obsessed with appearances and traditions of honour. This cafe has become noisy. This world has become noisy. It is summer, in Australia it is winter. I dont know which way to go next to look for you. Heat, exhaustion, alcohol, passion, pride, desire, anger these make fools of us, time and again. Yesterday, in this city, a young girl was killed at her birthday party by a stray bullet. It was a very hot day and a dispute went on at the party and there was a loaded gun at hand... Darling, this novel reads as poetry. The end of it left me gasping. Chronicle of a Death Foretold, yes, it is that, simple and direct and beautiful. Twelve days after the crime, the investigating magistrate came upon a town that was an open wound. In the squalid wooden office in the town hall, drinking pot coffee laced with cane liquor against the mirages of the heat, he had to ask for troop reinforcements to control the crowd that was pouring in to testify without having been summoned, anxious to show off their own important parts in the drama. Passages like this, I savour. I close the book again now, and I will go to look for you in the sunset haze on Magazine Street. I am sending this letter, addressed to us both, to General Delivery in Ithaca. I will pick it up at the end of October, if you dont. In August I will go to Australia. Lucy Prideaux the private investigator fills her hip flask with calvados and

rolls cigarettes with one hand in liquorice papers. She comes from Algiers across the river. Im afraid I let myself break apart over you, although soon, quietly, I will put myself back together. Even so, all the days I do not see you swell my heart, and I wonder if I will be able to fit it back in my chest. I may need to find a smaller heart, or a bigger chest or find you, or go away on my own for once, or something.

In love I remain Your always Respectably dressed, DS

A Discussion Over Toast & Coffee with Jacques Prvert on the Necessity of Rib Cages


We extracted a season through a sieve and drank its pulp from a white-flowered gourd The pine needles prickling the roofs of our mouths Fluttering with each yawn From the pile of dried needles & honey paste we built an echo to wear around our heads Laughing as an egret pecked at our scalps mistaking our daisy-song circlets as twigs for its nest In its throat you felt a siren whimpering in nine minute intervals

You pierce the yolk and ask if it reminds me of anything, of a bird, of evergreens

The maddening burner drawing rings around iron You talk about your childhood How your mother carved dreams out of clay & placed them on your nightstand But the teakettle is hissing, until your voice and the buzzing coalesce The steam softens our adobe hands and dribbles onto the kitchen tiles An egret collects the remnants from the floor for its nest I remember now, I say, I remember


Dear M and T, Sometimes, I wake up and wish I could go back to sleep. Turning over in bed, squeezing my eyes shut, re-imagining the last thing that happened in the dream. There are three reasons why I didnt want to wake up. One: we were together again. Two: we had decided to watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one sitting, which Ive never achieved in my waking life. Three: I discovered a golden ticket inside my bag of popcorn. Giddy and giggling, we tore it into three pieces, each of us keeping one third in our pockets. That was when I woke up. We had just been discussing what the ticket could be for, and whether it would make us rich. After that, I remember staring up at my bedroom ceiling, the golden tinge fading to pale morning light. I tried to sleep again, but I couldnt. It was over.

Dear Mr K, You should have given me an A for my English essay. The next morning, J said that she had heard me shouting in my sleep: Look at that! Its clearly worth an A! Piss off! Im sorry about that. You were my favourite teacher. (Your poetry-reading voice was my favourite thing after your eyes, which were my favourite thing after your relentless sarcasm, which was my favourite thing after the fact that you knew every single book ever written in the English language.) Ive heard rumours that you retired and moved to Spain. Is that true? Also, did you ever think that you would have the starring role in teenage girls dreams?

Dear D, We havent spoken for one, two, three, four years. (Time has got out of hand, so I count it on my fingers to make things easier.) You would think that, after so long, I wouldnt still be dreaming about you. We were walking through a ruined castle, underneath a violet sky.

Climbing over crumbling walls, occasionally picking daisies. Talking about how good it felt to be talking again. Then you moved away from me one, two, three, four steps back. Your coat, you said, pointing at my chest. Look at your coat. It was covered in spiders; my entire torso was crawling. You ran out of frame.

Dear Flight Attendant, Im not sure if you are a dream or a distant memory. You were dancing up and down the aisles of the plane, to Vampire Weekends Horchata. Perhaps I imagined it. You were handsome in an irregular sort of way: one eye slightly larger than the other, a slanted smile. But you laughed a lot, and raced with the other flight attendants to see who could clear away the breakfast dishes fastest. You looked like the kind of man who would dance in an aeroplane. When we landed, you said, Thank you for flying with us, madam, which made me blush. I thought about you all through that summer.

Dear Scary Man, Please do not attack me again. We have already established that my wrists are weak, and that the top floor of the dilapidated house is to be avoided, and that I will always wake up before anything really bad happens. Lessons learnt. There is no need for you to keep coming back. S told me, The next time you dream about him, spit in his eyes and rip his balls off.

Dear KC, Isnt it strange that home becomes unfamiliar? I call it my dreamscape, that half-real distortion of the world. We were sitting in my living room, except that it wasnt my living room. The walls were covered in prints of Eschers Ascending and Descending. And my house was surrounded by an ocean. Through the window, I watched a boat bobbing up and down on the horizon. You said, Thats for us. Were going to sail away. I wanted to say, How romantic! But the seagulls were too loud and the wind was too strong. Instead, I started taking down the Escher prints, one by one. The next time I looked out of the window, two walls were bare and the boat was gone. I was trapped in a floating house, with only you, Escher and infinity for company. I wonder if its true that our dreams have meanings.

Dear Me, Stop worrying about whether or not youll see M and T again. Stop worrying about Mr Ks whereabouts. Stop worrying about the letter that D never replied to. Stop worrying about potential plane crashes. Stop worrying about being attacked by scary men. Stop worrying about infinity and disappearing boats. Stop worrying about broken birds wings. Stop worrying about your final-year project. Stop worrying about torrential thunderstorms. Stop worrying about your recurring nosebleeds. Stop worrying about everything. Stop worrying.

Youre going to be alright: I know you are, because I have dreamed it. Everything turned out fine in the end.