The Writer apologises to Orpheus

One night as he sat trembling head in hand from head to foot a man appeared to him and said, I have been sent by – and here he named the dear name – to comfort you. 

Samuel Beckett – Ohio Impromptu

My sweet Orpheus,

First and foremost, let this be an apology. As another in a long list of writerly types in whose hands you twisted and spoke, I am sorry for treating you unkindly, for pushing you, more so than any other of my archetypes, to a place of insanity.

I am sorry for writing you in such a way that you became obsessed, obsessive, and for causing you the pain of a broken heart. I am sorry for stretching your myth through the loops of the Eternal Return, for not allowing you closure, trapping you like a ghost in the endless in-and-out of Hades, with not even a happy ending to hope for.

I am sorry for turning the Eurydice you wanted so much into an ever-receding messiah, the nightmarish version of the one Süskind so favourably compared you to. I am sorry for taking your love for Eurydice down the path of absurdity by way of unwarranted intensity, and for tying your very heart to her in such a way that you could never release her without giving up on yourself. 

I am sorry for allowing my own grief to derail our exercise, Orpheus, for damaging you in the process of trying to write about love. 

I did these things not just because, like most writers, I am a cruel and unscrupulous puppeteer, but because I had to understand where your distress would lead you, what the wrench of loss and separation would bring out of you. Eventually, the strain broke both of us and in my guilt I gave you the temporary solace of Melusina, plucking her from an entirely different myth. I love you enough to wish you could end up with someone loving, open and giving, like Melusina, but also I know that she will never replace Eurydice, because the myths you both stem from are too different to slake the yearning you feel. 

I meant it, Orpheus – one of the few things I meant on your behalf as well as mine – when I said in the words of Tao Lin that I want to learn how to love in this expanding universe, that I want to learn to return to what matters, and, more importantly, that I want to learn to return only to that which wants me to return. 

I am sorry for having given you this conviction you share with Averroes, that if only you could make your obsessions fully understood, fill the gaps in the other person’s necessarily fragmented and unfinished words, a less temporary solace could be found. If only you could fully decipher the Eurydice who has gone silent, place your words into her mouth, then you would understand and bring your shared myth to a satisfactory close. 

Melusina’s is the kind of love that would allow you to break out of your crystallisations, your toughened patterns, out of the fears and automatisms triggered by Eurydice, but this would happen at a price: here is the sort of love that demands work and constant realignment, that requires a willingness to compromise on personal habits, and isn’t it easier, in many ways, to remain alone in one’s motifs? 

What I admire about you, Orpheus, is that even on the most mind-numbingly repetitive paths, even when you thought you’d expressed all of your pain so many times it had become meaningless, you somehow remained a creature of hope.

You said, “Eurydice is inside me, and I love the part of her I know. If nothing else, perhaps my love will give her peace.”

There is a kind of self-sufficiency that is like death, born from a person’s disinterest in being reached by love. I gave your Eurydice this kind of inwardness, despite the fact that in many other versions of your myth she was shown to be deeply devoted to you.

This was, perhaps, the biggest cruelty on my part, to have left you with these trace expectations of Eurydice’s affection, while making her behaviour into that of someone who has fallen out of love with you utterly. I am sorry for doing this to you, Orpheus, but it felt necessary. Had she loved you when you lost her that second time, you would not have been able to make your way into Hades again and again. Only the unrequited nature of her love could trap you in an endless return, a cycle of desperately trying to win her back, because in your case it wasn’t death that held her captive, nor some other larger external force; it was simply Eurydice’s will to fall out of love with you.

When my father’s mother died so early in his barely grown-up life, it wasn’t because the world collided with her or because her body gave up; it was because she had decided to. 

All I can say to you, Orpheus, is that you are looking in the wrong places for the Eurydice I gave you. The Eurydice I gave you cannot be found in tales of lost love, in words grieving the passing of a loved one. The Eurydice I gave you can only be found where indifference lies. Disinterest is what you need to see her as an embodiment of, not love, not star-crossed affection, not a mythical romance broken off too soon. To Eurydice, who lives in the bliss of the dead, you scarcely exist, and if you do it is as little more than a recurring nuisance.

I wish with all my heart, Orpheus, I had given you a worthier companion to pine for, a worthier mirror, someone more deserving of your intensity. Unfortunately, out of writerly heedlessness, just out for an experiment, I gave you this uncaring Eurydice, and the juxtaposition of her indifference with the affection you gave her now fills me with tenderness for you, dear Orpheus, for you and your willingness to love even the parts of you that will not accept being loved. 

All I can do now is try to find an ending to your story, but just so as to provide some solace from the mess I’ve caused, I would like to give you a version of what things could have been between you and Eurydice, a good version, so to speak.