My Dearest Jane,
How strange to be writing your name, after all this time. Pray forgive the words that are to follow; I fear they lag too far behind the mind that forms them. This short stanza itself has taken me a long and aching evening. I wish to give proper weight to my thoughts, of course, but also I do not know if I have the patience nor strength to draft them again.
This letter, my Jane, is the thing I wish to do in secret. The rest; the rest is the happy fact that we are each other’s lives. We have been one from the moment we met, which is why I must undertake this most personal task alone. An attempt to make clear what my life has been. Not a reckoning, perhaps, but certainly a balancing of my account.
To be clear: I have been forever and age an abomination. Am I a self-formed bête noire, or an echo from a stone cast long ago? I have long anguished this knowledge. I suppose, now, it does not matter. I have made my choices. I have had the privilege and the position to delay their consequences. Know, though, Jane, that all I have done in life has been in order to answer or avoid one question of particular indistinctness: where is it that I hope to best belong? I could never answer for a simple reason: I was not yet my whole self.
To any observer it would appear much of my account was settled the night Thornfield burned. To any observer I lost my money, my reputation, my future, my sight and touch in that acre of vagrant flame. The real consequence was far more fitting. My penance was, of course, to remain alive. To be left with just enough to truly know what I had lost.
But Jane, the universe did not count on you. For who could know that the most of myself was not there in the fire but instead some forty miles hence. Jane Eyre. My truest point. My many senses. You returned to complete me.
Desire is what has made us, Jane; this much I know. Desire is what has sustained us. Desire, as I once thought I understood it, was a denial of consequence. You taught me desire as an acceptance of love.
I have never told you this, but the largest parts I love of you are those formed by who you have had to become. Your fortitude; your resolution. Elements of yourself you had no choice but to become. Would you were spared the suffering of your youth, I fear you would not be my Janet. You would not be your spirit.
I cannot imagine a Jane Eyre whose temperament was a mere average of her feelings, whose strength was not an irrepressible will, whose beauty impels the best in us all. This thought, that you would be in any way altered, is so deeply frightening as it would mean I would cease to exist. And so I take pleasure in the way your life has been. Desire is selfish, Jane. Never forget this.
I must say these things, Jane, so you may return to them. My utmost, honest truth.
Mr Carter reserves a little time each visit to gently, privately, loosen the knot of my hope. I feel in his surgeon’s hands the uncertainty of sudden age. Never had it occurred to me until these past weeks that in his patient he felt the same uncertainty. Trauma, he informs me – our own, and of others – makes rapid parataxis of a body’s faculties.
You know, of course, that my body sings with pain, but I do not tell you the worst is reserved, perversely for the blank air where my left hand once was. I carry my energy now as if within the most shallow saucer.
I see from one eye whenever a devil lets me. What peculiar agony to be offered glimpses of your life, but never the ones you want. Never my wife in her moments of unguarded laughter. Never my son as his face quietly forms new thoughts. I live now, Jane, in a novel where only the page numbers are visible. I can see just enough to know I am nearly at the end.
It is quite conflicting to prepare for life’s longest and easiest journey. After life’s fitful fever, perhaps I shall indeed sleep well.
Never forget me, my dearest Jane. Always know our desire has become in its final form a most irrepressible force. Our love is the dust that quietly and eternally gathers. Our life, Jane, is ours forever.
Main Image Credit: Allan Hartley
Christopher Currie is a writer from Brisbane, whose fiction has appeared in anthologies and journals internationally. His first novel, The Ottoman Motel, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and the Queensland Literary Awards. His most recent book is the young adult novel Clancy of the Undertow.