A long space of silence came.
Months and months of silence, during which I pretty much gave up on Felix. I assumed the only thing you can assume from silence: the clearest message there can be. And during that silence, also, a series of events, pure happenstance, began to change things. I met, quite by accident, the man I’d later marry. We traveled to France and Italy, and later I moved in with him.
(After that, my books began to appear. About every two or three years. No fame or fortune, but good reviews. I never learned whether Felix knew.)
It seemed to me that Felix would have been very busy most of that time, the time of the long silence—a time throughout which, presumably, that old friend and felon named “Crazy” was having himself a good long run: consolidating life with Amy, making new work, traveling, lecturing, guest-conducting, socializing, cocktailing, being lionized. Obsessing over everything that obsessed him.
In short, The Progress of Felix.
It was, frankly, no small relief to let the ordeal of Felix—the question of Felix—float away.
You can wear love down, a friend once remarked.
So I could only stare at the note that arrived to my city apartment—soon after my first journey to Europe, but before I’d moved away—tucked inside a Christmas card.
I must have let Felix know I had been traveling, though I can’t remember that.
Felix sometimes decided to send out Christmas cards. This decision, I knew, was a fraught one for him. The sending of cards posed a stylistic question that haunted him every year; one he could never settle. Sometimes the act appealed to him as the demonstration of an image he hoped to project: Beneficent Artist Bequeaths Gracious Largesse. Like a kindly king, his grand gesture toward his subjects would take the form of the issuance of a stack of big, austere cards, signed with a personal word or two. Likely his agent encouraged this. (The card’s art, of course, had to be chosen with care, elegant yet understated. This decision, too, gave him pain.) In other years, the ritual struck him as bourgeois and unbearably phony, depressing him down to his shoes.
I’m sad and incensed (read the penned note on his card) you decided to travel to Europe—where I’ve spent so many pleasurable visits myself—without contacting me. Good wishes for the new year, F.
“So many pleasurable visits.”
Meaning: don’t even think about feeling special; I’ll always know it better than you.
Worse, by far: sad and incensed.
It was unfathomable.