Pure desire and adolescence
I received a voicemail from a Staten Island high school administrator the other day:
Hi this is N____ calling from the Dean’s office at [a school in Staten Island]. K____ is OK she is safe she’s not in any kind of serious trouble. On Friday she was reported to have hit another student. They were pulling and pushing each other around, on their way to the bus line. I spoke with K____ she told me that her and the other student joke around and play like this often and I said, “listen I know you very well, but other people may not see the situation as joking and it can become serious. Someone can get hurt and there are other ways that we have to fool around and play with our friends. Pushing and shoving each other is not OK.” So I just wanted to let you know I had a conversation with her. There’s no consequence at this time. I told her this is more of a warning to just be mindful of her hands and make sure that she’s watching what she’s doing, because you never know who’s around and not everyone knows her the way that I know her so I know she was joking but other people may not take it that way. If you could just have a conversation with her when she comes home I’d be really appreciative. Any other questions or concerns you can call the school back at my extension […]
This was a wrong number, but I felt the voicemail was meant expressly for me to hear. I’d been reading Near To The Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector (New Directions 2012, tr. by Alison Entrekin). Every page listing itself in my index of memorable prose. This was the page that struck me, as if speaking for K____. The narrator is Joana, and in this passage she is a young teenager.
What matters then: to live or to know you are living?—Very pure words, droplets of crystal. I feel the shining, moist form thrashing about inside me. But where is what I want to say, where is what I should say? Inspire me, I have almost everything; I have the outline waiting for the essence; is that it?—What should someone who doesn’t know what to do with herself do? Use herself as body and soul to make the most of body and soul? Or make her strength into an outside force? Or wait for the solution like a consequence, to be born of herself? I can’t tell still inside the form. Everything I possess is very deep within me. […] Without experiencing things I won’t find life, will I? But, even so, in the white, unlimited solitude where I fall, I am still stuck between closed mountains. Stuck, stuck. Where is the imagination? I walk on invisible tracks. Captivity, freedom. These are the words that occur to me. However they are not the true, only, irreplaceable ones, I feel. Freedom isn’t enough. What I desire doesn’t have a name yet.
We may not be meant to understood, young women. It is my birthday today. My husband said he is jealous when other people make me cry. I got in another fight with my friends but I assure him I am the only one hurting myself. Because when I say no one knows what I desire, I include myself. Desire is a future tense. Like death, there is no way anyone can know the experience. We have but to foresee it.
I dedicate myself for a moment, to those actions we commit before a feeling or intuition becomes an articulated thought. Perhaps that is desire. At around the age of this Joana or the K____ from my voicemail, I popped a firecracker inside the school and was called into the vice principal’s office. I was scolded, I thought, unfairly, because I did not mean harm. Asked why I did it, I replied honestly that I didn’t know. How could I? How on earth am I supposed to know my pure intention? Desire is a future tense.