Tag Archives: Sylvia Plath

Short Story: The Midnight Encounter

I opened the door with my hands that had by then taken the temperament of a log of wet wood- soaked yet thirsty, beginning to smooth out on the outside but on the inside falling apart like a web of dead blue nerves, shivering like wreckage of autumn shrubberies. I sneaked in with my eyes unable to gauge everything of the darkness, with a thunderstorm in my stomach- as if in a while- I’ll be an infinitesimal part of all the gloom in the air surrounding my shivery body. The stillness of the room was sinking in my blood with adlibbed goose-bumps. I was in those moments when the faintness of a dark space bloats itself bit by bit and makes one feel as if it’s coming towards you like an adventurous swing from a soaring height and it will hit you in the face with absolutely nothing but it will hurt and bleed like a severe accident.

In a fraction of a second, I heard a strange voice, at first the voice collided with my heartbeat and vanished unnoticeably and then it remained the same way- a streak of golden light does in a flickering bulb. Half of my heart throbbed in my stomach and the other half was hung in the middle of my dried throat; my head felt submersed in a huge helium balloon, unable to move, blink or breathe. I heard an unsteady, cracked female voice. As soon as I heard the voice I stood frozen since it felt like a voice of my own- not the voice that comes out of the rolling tongue made sensibly heard using syllables but a voice that’s of a hungry stomach, unconscious and alarming. I saw a silhouette of a woman sitting on my bed.

From the tips of her blonde hair rolled underneath- kept neatly on her forehead, a vintage shirt with fluffy sleeves and a cargo pant- to the limitlessness of her aura – she looked like sunlight breaking out of labyrinth of silver linings of besieged clouds in a bereft sky. She made me remember of someone important- someone I know as intimately as myself; someone I remember like the lyrics of an overplayed song, recipe of the special dish Amma cooked every Sunday, alphabets and numbers I learnt as a kindergarten kid- like the things you never notice but they are embedded like stones in your memory.

Conspired by what my eyes could see, my dysfunctional brain struggled to push my calves to move ahead and look closely at this woman but my bones were as usual stubborn. In a small second the woman disappeared and I frantically started moving in the darkness- suddenly my fear disappeared and I turned into a mad lover looking for a closure to a mystical heartbreak. I switched the lights on to find a neatly folded yellow letter kept on the bed.

“My dear reader, I want to tell you, that night my thoughts had ensnared me beyond the capacity of a cage. The flesh holding me together withered like embers falling from a forest fire. I looked at the mirror- I saw my flesh torn apart, rotten and dull- I appeared to myself like those scary sketches artists draw of half eaten bodies. That night- like owl’s talons clenching my heart- I belittled every reason of my life, then I saw a never-ending sea through which I dawdled- with each footstep my body becoming heftier and that sea was my pain: the pain was me; I had become it and I had to go for I could see nothing else but this sea going up and down holding my pain across its waves. I had to drown my own sea. In the moment of my own murder, I was free. I saw the sky- after years of looking at it, I saw my widowed sky and a regret ached in me. I wish I had been the seeker of its vastness since the beginning of my life but I was free of this colourless world only when I turned blue in the shadow of the sky casted upon the sea. I am Sylvia Plath, your Sylvia. You’d grieved when you first learnt about my loneliness, you’ve loved me even when I never touched you, I never spoke to you but you told me how they try to shut you for your madness. You’ve screamed at nights your lungs out and looked for someone to give back to you- the mute laughter you crave for. This is what I give to you- be the sky and live me from here. Choose the madness, the sky, the sea and come to me, here I lie like a solaced wildflower.”

As I finished reading the letter, I was drenched in sweat, a million voices echoed around me, my presence juggled between death and life in a micro-second. Suddenly, someone jerked me like an electricity wire and a jot of my senses came back.

Marina, my 9-year-old cousin, tried snatching the paper from my hand but I refused to give up as if it were a key to my own grave.

“I want my sketch back, Didi,” she almost yelled at me.

“That’s not your sketch,” I said and looked at the paper.

It was a beautifully drawn sketch of a caterpillar. She had coloured it so uniformly that it seemed like the caterpillar was dancing on that piece of paper- maybe it was happy- its life would last just three summer days.

Sylvia Plath On Freedom, Complexity Of A Creative Mind And Self Love

Us humans are such schizophrenic beings wanting all our lives, a love that heals and a despair that wounds. Our dreams lead us to skies, blue and black and our roots call us back to the smell of the ground. We are all full of wholehearted lightening and a never ending sadness, simultaneously.

My own self, a contrive of extremities and unknown cravings of being nothing, to be found and fixed but someday vanish to never return made me question a lot about life.
Can we exist as dual beings without a centre to hold, roaming from one home to the other? Or do we have to stick to the ground like a crop that someday is disowned, to be sold for a mere price? Years back when these questions started conquering my head, I read Letters Home by Sylvia Plath. Her life felt like a path to me, as if I’m an extension of her emotions and desires.

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on October 27, 1932. Plath met and married British poet Ted Hughes, although the two later split. The depressive Plath committed suicide in 1963, garnering accolades after her death, for her novel The Bell Jar and poetry collections The Colossus and Ariel. In 1982, Plath became the first person to win a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.

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In 1975, Aurelia Plath, the poet’s mother, edited a selection of Sylvia’s letters to her family which were published as Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963. These letters have grave emotions sewed in each line that describe the free spirit of Plath. Here are a few excerpts from her letter and her journal that her mother had put together:

“At the present moment I am very happy, sitting at
my desk, looking out at the bare trees around the house across the street…
Always I want to be an observer. I want to be affected by life deeply, but
never so blinded that I cannot see my share of existence in a wry, humorous
light and mock myself as I mock others.
[…]
I am afraid of getting older. I am
afraid of getting married. Spare me from cooking three meals a day — spare me
from the relentless cage of routine and rote.”

“Somehow I have to keep and hold the rapture of being seventeen. Every day is so precious I feel infinitely sad at the thought of all this time melting farther and farther away from me as I grow older.
Now, now is the perfect time of my life.
In reflecting back upon these last sixteen years, I can see tragedies and happiness, all relative — all unimportant now — fit only to smile upon a bit mistily.
I still do not know myself. Perhaps I never will. But I feel free — unbound by
responsibility.”

After Plath got married and she had kids, she felt alienated from her own body and mind and could not draw a line that could separate her love for her own self, her creativity and Ted. Many people blame Ted Hughes and their marriage for her depressed self but that eliminates the idea of understanding the complexities of a dreamer, a creative mind, and an inevitable quest for self-love.

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Plath was fighting to attain a sense of freedom that flees her soul away from the cage of her own body and mind. She writes:

“I want to be free — free to know people and their backgrounds — free to move to different parts of the world so I may learn that there are other morals and standards besides my own. I want, I think, to be omniscient… I think I would like to call myself “The girl who wanted to be God.”
Yet if I were not in this body, where would I be — perhaps I am destined to be classified and qualified. But, oh, I cry out against it. I am I — I am powerful — but to what extent? I am I.
Sometimes I try to put myself in another’s place, and I am frightened when I find I am almost succeeding. How awful to be anyone but I. I have a terrible egotism.
I love my flesh, my face, and my limbs with overwhelming devotion. I know that I am “too tall” and have a fat nose, and yet I pose and prink before the mirror, seeing more and more how lovely I am… I have erected in my mind an image of myself — idealistic and beautiful. Is not that image, free from
blemish, the true self — the true perfection?
Am I wrong when this image insinuates itself between me and the merciless mirror?
(Oh, even now I glance back on what I have just written — how foolish it
sounds, how over dramatic.)”

Her inner conflict led her to write beautifully about the crossroads of her life well reflected in her early poems.

“There will come a time when I must face myself at last. Even now I dread the big choices which loom up in my life —what college? What career? I am afraid. I feel uncertain. What is best for me?
What do I want? I do not know. I love freedom. I deplore constrictions and limitations… I am not as wise as I have thought. I can now see, as from a valley, the roads lying open for me, but I cannot see the end — the consequences…
Oh, I love now, with all my fears and forebodings, for now I still am not completely molded. My
life is still just beginning. I am strong. I long for a cause to devote my energies to…”

At 23, Plath wrote to her mother about her another calling after she came back from a trip to Paris with Ted:

Dearest Mother,… Both of us are just slowly coming out of our great fatigue from the whirlwind plans and events of last month; and after meandering about Paris, sitting, writing and reading in the Tuileries, have produced a good poem apiece, which is a necessity to our personal self-esteem — not so much a good poem or story, but at least several hours work of solid writing a day. Something in both of us needs to write for a large period daily, or we get cold on paper, cross, or down… We are really happiest keeping to ourselves, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought I should grow so fast so far in my life; the whole secret for both of us, I think, is being utterly in love with each other, which frees our writing from being a merely egoistic mirror, but rather a powerful canvas on which other people live and move…

Her mother included a poem in the introduction of the book, Letters home which dwells into the luminous spirit that Sylvia was:

You ask me
why I spend my life writing?
Do I find entertainment?
Is it worthwhile?
Above all, does it pay?
If not, then, is there a reason? …
I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still.