The Present

In the baggage claim at Heathrow Airport, Cara Ellison paced, checking her phone, attempting to avoid the surveillance cameras, while she waited for her friend. Three days. Three nights. It had come to this.

Through the smash and crash of travelers, her eyes sought her friend, discounting the ones – not him, nor him, nor him– all masses trundling round the globe. Then quite suddenly, on a stair, Sheila rose with her red hair above the crowds, her face featureless from this distance, like fine Jew linen.

As she came nearer, Cara lurched forth, grabbing her in a solid hug. “Oh my God, you look so skinny!”

Sheila shrugged out of the embrace, laughing, “I do not!”

“You do, not do! You do, not do! Oh, black shoes!”

Sheila looked down at her black patent leather heels, worn with the miles of a thousand walks. “In which I have lived like a foot, for thirty years. Poor and white.”

Cara embraced her again.

“I can barely breathe or achoo!” Sheila laughed and squirmed away.

Years of destiny lay between them as the women chatted and luggage arrived on silver rotating wheels. Sheila grasped her roller bag and a large canvas bag, which she hefted onto her shoulder. “Marble heavy,” she complained. “A bag full of God.”

Cara lifted one heavy bag from her friend’s shoulder and together they began the trek to the other part of the airport, where the last of them was due.

“Darling, all night I have been flickering, off, on, off, on.”

“You worry too much,” Sheila replied. “We will get away pure as acetylene virgins, attended by roses.”

The wait was a weight, as they waited for an hour. Or three, if you want to know. Then the girl whose skin was fine as Japanese paper, golden beaten skin, infinitely delicate and infinitely expensive, arrived in Isadora’s scarves and blue peajacket, her loveliness too pure for anyone.

“Does not my heat astound you. And my light,” Tracey said, and hugged her friends. “You regard me with such attention.”

The three women hurried to the car waiting outside, their faces masks of indifferent pleasure. The shining multiples, The innocents –

The English town was scraped flat by the roller of wars, wars, wars, and death hung in bare trees. Sullen smokes rose from distant factories, black lunged workers had died in fields in previous generations, the hard-bitten English countryside as dull as the tongues of Cerberus. North, the long blackness. The chalk light laid its scales on the windows of the car, the passing light hurtling from the devil’s gaze.

The car had been rented by Cara in London, and it serviced well through the hinterlands, until they arrived at the new townsquare. It was dark out and the shoppes were dark, the streets empty.

The three women quietly dressed in the car. The air was thick. It was thick with this working.

“My blacks,” Tracey whispered, “crackle and drag.”

“You shall not be a heroine of the peripheral,” Cara replied softly. To herself, she mused only that it was if their hearts had donned faces, and walked into the world exposed as babies.

After they dressed completely in black, Cara eased the car down the long sullen road. They were miles from civilization, the black car the only thing to catch light and gleam on a cold night, the highlands whispering with wind and not even God to allay fears.

A wall around a green property came into view. “That’s it,” Sheila whispered, her voice drawn with awe at the stones piled high, the gated property possessive as a pregnant woman.

Cara wordlessly drove a little farther up, the yews hiding the shape of the car, a mechanical bee.

Stepping into the cold, Tracey shivered. “This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary. The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.”

The three women walked quietly along the sodden grasses, the grasses unload their griefs on their feet as if they were God, prickling ankles and murmuring of their humility.

“Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place,” Sheila said.

Cara flexed her black-gloved hands, the cold permeating. “The moon drags the sea after it like a dark crime; it is quiet.”

“Speak not of dark crimes,” Sheila hissed, her face as white as a bridal dress, that pallor.

Was there a crime? No, Cara resigned, and she made her face and hands stiff with holiness. This was not a crime. This was a revolution, yes, but a quiet one. A liberation, like the Jews of Auschwitz. The only risk was coming too late.

Separated by the house by a row of headstones, the three women approached. The message of the yew tree was blackness. Blackness and silence.

From now, they would work as if tape had ripped across their mouths like a slap.

The house was enormous, a mansion of stones, darked windows black as Hitler’s soul. Along a pathway, lined with the corpse of a raven, the trees and shrubs had melted under winter’s waxy substance. The women climbed the wall, and heaved themselves into the garden.

Silence and stillness commanded them. They waited for a light to flicker onward from beneath a Nazi lampshade inside, but nothing disturbed the cold peace. A statuary, selves not theirs, performed a dumbshow on the black grass, the crooked stones.

They crept to a basement-level window, gone yellow with age and neglect, like a bubble about to break. In silence, as they had planned in Belgrave, London, places not home to their own language or their manners, Cara eased the device in between the panes, latching the crooked hook, jagged as a baby’s cry, and easily lifted the window open. Looking into Sheila’s aryan eye, she nodded, and Sheila slipped inside soundless as love. Tracey followed, then Cara eased into the black void.

The room was not God but a swastika, so black no sky could squeak through. Mouthless, eyeless, stitched bald heads beneath the black caps. Black ghosts, are we death?

Cara had examined the architecture plans, the ancient onionskin documents found in a bureaucrat’s drawer, but she found herself useless. Without light to see, why bother to try?

She unclipped the tiny pinlight, and flashed to the walls. Eking a small path toward the door, she took Tracey’s hand and Tracey grasped Sheila’s and they inched like crabs across the rotten floor, their feet careful not to bang into the antiques, once loved, now forgotten. At a rotted door, the knob easily turned, and Cara parted it from the jamb. A cryptic staircase up.

Cara found her balance and stepped upward, proudly halting only once to listen for the sounds of a life in the living house — stillness is a lie — but the rats had eaten away the phone lines and the residents quieted, faces blank as the day they were born: sleep claimed their minds like husbands.

Soft steps silently sang serious sighs as the three women tapped up the stairs. Another door at the top! Same magic allowed them in. A long hallway, like death, snaked into the bowel of the house.

The stink of mildrew, age and secrets permeated the wallpapers, sodden furniture as grey as wind. The darkness was total, but for the pinlight, and they creeped mouselike through the house, every cell aware of the other living creatures, one floor above. This house was not a place for marriage; too anchored in solitude.

The planner pointed up. “Attic,” she whispered, and the other two inhaled, barely nodding like dolls.

The slowness… their feet nearly taking root, drinking minerals from the wooden slats. Afraid to breathe, the three women progressed like syrup upward, in a slow robotic shift. At the landing a deep snore startled them. Looking wildly to the other two, who represented longevity and daring, Cara pointed down a hallway which seemed to exude the sounds of sleep, thoughts gone dim.

They slowly walked the other way, toward the switching staircase. On shoes soft as beach sand, they continued upward.

The house was in open conversation with God, for every room led to more rooms, and the eternal diversion was a Cubist painting. The small narrow passageway behind a slim door was the only possible way to the attic. Tracey entered last, pulling the door shut too firmly.

They froze, waiting for the shriek of an angry homeowner, the last wail of defaulted promise of safety, but nothing came, nothing.

At the top of the stair another door, and through that door – queer light, the diaphanous satins of a January window. Oh ready for enormity, Sheila stood blinking, trying to make sense of what she saw.

It was the attic exposed with large windows, and sky heaved upon them like God’s knowing eye, tilting blue the neutral airs of crime. A vast space full of junk and old loves. Cara breathed in, filling veins with invisibles, with the million probable motes that tick the years off life. You are silver-suited for the occasion.

“What is this,” Tracey whispered. “Behind this veil, is it ugly, is it beautiful? It is shimmering, has it breasts, has it edges? I am sure it is unique, I am sure it is what I want.”

“Is it impossible for you to let something go and have it go whole?” Sheila asked.

There was too much. O jewel! O valuable! Old whore petticoats.

“I suppose we ought to dig and discover on our own,” Cara said. “Each snail, each pearl button accounted.”

They surged waist-deep in history. Boxes of marriages now dead and the dead now buried. The quiet combings discovering fetid wombs, the light of history occasionally lighting a memory as a cathedral’s shadow. There was nothing they came for. A raped extravagance?

The cauldron of morning was lighting the edge of dawn. The chimneys of the city were beginning to breathe. To go empty handed into the future was a sin, like the sin of love wasted.

The three women stood, sweated from their search, the boxes rendering junk.

“We’ve only hours,” Tracey said.

“But hours spent wisely are hours that multiply,” Sheila replied.

“We’ve discovered only sorrow,” Cara whispered.

Tracey turned and walked to the windows. A living doll. She turned again and looked at the acres of memories, lives distilled to the junk shop window.

Suddenly her head tilted and with it the world. “That chest,” she said.

Sheila and Cara spun and saw nothing.

“It’s a chest, verily, I say to you, the chest.” Tracey walked to the large mirror, where a scarf hung nearly to the floor and a wooden edge peeked from under rough, dumb country stuff. Tracey ripped aside the scarf, and behind the mirror was the chest.

“Heavens,” Cara whispered.

Sheila’s eyes began to tear.

They approached and silently worked to move the mirror. Kneeling down, they opened the chest.

A low guttural sound kicked from Cara’s mouth, the low soft moan of a woman in childbirth. One journal was a plain composition notebook; the other a folder. Reaching inside, Sheila held them in shaking hands.

She opened the cover of the folder, and there, having known it all along, was typewritten words on pink Smith College stationery.

The final journals had been found.

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Comments

  1. I know it’s so insane but tears are pouring down my face.

    This is so brilliant – I can’t even count the Plath references – this is off the charts.

    And the final line!!!!

  2. Cara Ellison says:

    My dearest. THANK YOU. It means so much to me that you like it. I wrote it for you. I even asked Tracey – what was it, six months ago, if I could use her in it.

    I didn’t want it to be stupid. I’m so glad you like it!

  3. “Speak not of dark crimes,” Sheila hissed.

    hahahahaha

    I love how Tracey says “verily”

  4. Cara Ellison says:

    You would totally say “speak not of dark crimes”!

    And yes, I have been looking for an excuse to use “verily.” It seemed to work.

  5. // as if they were God, prickling ankles and murmuring of their humility. //

    I just love how you have worked in so many references!!!

  6. Cara Ellison says:

    I really tried to make every line a Plath line, but it was impossible. I tried to make overt references to childbirth/pregnancy and Nazis quite a bit. It did feel weird to say “Sheila’s aryan eye,” but dude, you have light eyes. You have to live with that.

    : )

  7. My eyes are aryan! hahahaha

    This is the light of the moon, cold and planetary.

    Maybe her best line??

    Love that you got in whore petticoats, too

  8. Cara Ellison says:

    The beginning of the Moon and the Yew Trees kills me every time.

    If not her best, certainly one of the top three.

    In fact as I think about it, I think most of the impact of her poems comes from the poem in toto. Like, Daddy, the whole rhythm is like a train “chuffing me off like a Jew” and the ooo rhymes, all of that counts as one thing. It would be impossible to take a line from that and say it was her best.

    But I think you might be right about that line. That one line is so evocative. It kills me every time.

  9. I don’t know as much about Sylvia Plath as you guys do, but I really like the image of Cara, Sheila and Tracey breaking into a house for an old journal.

  10. Cara Ellison says:

    I could actually *see it happening*, that’s the scary thing!

  11. I just want that last line to be true, dammit!!

  12. That “diaphanous satins” line gives me a chill – know just what that’s from.

    I can’t stop reading this. It is glorious.

  13. Cara Ellison says:

    I know. I’m convinced that they’re in an attic in Olwyn’s house.

    There’s a collection of Ted Hughes’ papers that will be opened in – I think – 20 years or so. It will be interesting to see those.

    If they still exist (and I believe they do) I feel anger toward Ted Hughes for keeping them from the world for so long.

  14. Olwyn’s definitely the gatekeeper. I feel for Ted Hughes, I do, but Olwyn I just think needs to mind her own business.

  15. Get a life, Olwyn.

  16. Cara Ellison says:

    Agreed.

    I have no idea what she’s doing now but I picture her as a wizened old bat in a huge English mansion, lording over the memory of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath like a gargoyle.

    Now Frieda is the one left to protect. Ted is gone, and so is Nick.

    It will be curious to see what happens if Olwyn passes away before Frieda. I wonder if Frieda would publish her mother’s last journals.

    Can you imagine what a bonanza that would be? I literally would not be able to talk about anything else.

  17. Cara Ellison says:

    I just saw your twitter feed. “I bought a couple of them.”

    Hahahahahah!

    Yay for girls. : )

  18. Cara – yeah, just another day on Twitter. Sociopaths, the military, and vibrators.

  19. Here’s what I believe: Hughes was devastated by what was in those last journals. I don’t blame him. He hid them away – and in that day and age, no Internet, no way to know – his word was taken, even though it was an odd situation, that he was the executor of her estate. Very strange. Now I’m not a Hughes hater – I love his poetry and I think the man had suffered enough. He clearly loved volatile women, and lots of men do, but he paid a TERRIBLE price for that love.

    So he hid the journals away. Or who knows – maybe Olwyn advised him to hide them. And that is where the matter stood. And the mere fact that he even MENTIONED that there WERE two last journals … just fanned the fire. He didn’t have to mention that, if you think about it. Who would know??

    I sense Olwyn’s bossy hand in all of it. He was a grief-struck panic-struck man, and she barged in to “handle” it. That’s what I think happened.

  20. Cara Ellison says:

    I’m on the BB right now so I need to answer this more fully in an hour or so but I just need to say that makes so much sense.

  21. I mean, she micro-manages everyone. Someone writes a chapter that says Sylvia may have been talking about a lesbian feeling – and she writes to that author and tells her to cut it?

    This woman has no feeling for literature, art, or reality. She is bossy with a capital B – and Sylvia Plath would NOT BEHAVE – in life, or in death – so she’s going to do her damndest to control our access to her.

    Vindictive.

  22. Cara Ellison says:

    My net is down. I’m going crazy without it. A BlackBerry is not the same thing! Send comments, emails, and texts! I’m dying without stimulation!

  23. Cara Ellison says:

    Okay, net is back up, so I can answer properly.

    I love that theory, Sheila. I really do. It makes so much sense.

    My literature mind would want to know why Olwyn is like this. What could possibly make her so damn bossy?

    I don’t recall but didn’t Plath say in a letter to her mother that Olwyn was a writer? I could be wrong about that but if I’m right, perhaps Olwyn was merely jealous of Sylvia.

    I have a wonderful feeling that in 25 years, you and I will still be discussing Sylvia Plath!

  24. Yes, I think jealousy is a factor. On many levels – Sylvia felt the jealousy when she and Ted were newlyweds. Olwyn felt possessive of her brother. This just got worse after sylvia’s death – when Olywyn seemed to feel pissed that Sylvia was getting so much attention and her brother was being so criticized. She hunkered down. Family first.

    Needless to say – Olwyn and Ted Hughes were the worst possible people to be in charge of Sylvia Plath’s papers. Conflict of interest?? But alas, that’s the way it was. Olwyn probably found great bitter satisfaction in being the gatekeeper to the work of the woman who had been unfriendly to her in life.

  25. You two are splendiferous. No rat-shrewd squint eyes for you–just wide and bright and shiny, blouses full of Fiesta Melons.

  26. Cara Ellison says:

    I’m with Sheila on that one. Blouses full of feisty melons is way up there.

  27. Cara Ellison says:

    Olwyn never married did she? So she’s had all this time to lord over Sylvia’s memory.

    There’s something very spiteful about all this too. Like she knows the world wants those damn journals and just because she can, she stomps her foot and says No.

    I think some of it is about protecting Ted. But there’s an undertone of fuck you in this whole situation, not just fuck you, Sylvia, but fuck you, anyone who loved that bitch.

  28. You know, last night I tried to figure out if she was married – the same question came up for me. All of those feminine yearnings, etc., poured into protecting her brother.

    I still haven’t read his collected letters that came out a couple of years ago – and I am DYING to. There may be some clues as to their relationship (Ted’s and Olwyn’s) there. It seems that he sort of just helplessly let her handle it – because he was so much in the maelstrom of tragedy for those years – first Sylvia, then Assia and his daughter – he was in no condition to be managing Plath’s estate so Olwyn became the heavy – a role she seemed to relish.

    and Sylvia wrote about her dislike of Olwyn from the first time she met her. There is some pettiness in Olwyn’s editing of her stuff because of that – again, you cannot imagine a WORSE executor of Plath’s estate than Olwyn Hughes.

  29. Uhm, I just got your email about this. I’m literally crying over here, I’m laughing so hard. This is freakin’ brilliant, Cara.

    Thank you for letting me have “my blacks …. crackle and drag.”

    Cara, I’m like Sheila. I can’t stop reading it! So insane and brilliant. I love it!!

    “Verily” Hahahahahahahaha.

    We need this caper to be true, I swear.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      I’m glad you like it!

      My first attempts to write it were failures. I kept trying to make it campy and funny, and it just wouldn’t work. So I did the ridiculous and approached it seriously. I am so glad you like it!

  30. /“Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place,” Sheila said./

    Hahahahahahahahaha.

  31. Cara Ellison says:

    I need to read those letters.

    So we have the sibling of the most famous poet in England, who has been heaped with scorn because of his adultery, and then a bratty little American who, Olwyn thinks, sort of unfairly blamed Ted for his own adultery.

    Not good.

    I wonder if Frieda has seen the journals.

    Frieda makes me sad. She has no children. There is no-one left who is blood related to Ted and Sylvia. It seems so tragic.

  32. /“Does not my heat astound you. And my light,” Tracey said, and hugged her friends. “You regard me with such attention.”/

    Wow. That Tracey has an ego on her. You guys aren’t slapping her WHY???

  33. Cara Ellison says:

    From this website: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3668375/Sincerely-Ted-Hughes.html

    A couple of Ted’s letters. This is part of one to Sylvia:


    Lonely bed. The way I miss you is stupid. I have wandered about today like somebody with a half-completed brain-operation. But the life we have decided is the best.

    I must go to Spain. Then we shall have all our lives. You keep watch on our marriage Sylvia as well as I shall and there is no reason we shouldn’t be as happy as we have said we shall be. Don’t let any stupid thing interfere. Goodnight darling darling darling darling

    Oh God. That’s hot. That “the way I miss you is stupid.”

    Yep, I’d have fallen for him too. No doubt.

  34. Oh, the man was IN. He loved her. He was hot and passionate and wanted what was best for her. He didn’t realize what he was dealing with – there’s that one poem in Birthday Letters he wrote about Plath getting the flu, early on in their marriage, and how she acted as though she was dying. And it scared him because he realized: “If she’s like this now, then how will I know when things get REALLY bad?”

    Let me find the line. It’s chilling. And very very loving.

  35. Found it. From his poem “Fever”:

    I spooned more and you gulped it like life,
    Sobbing ‘I’m going to die.’
    As I paused
    Between your mouthfuls, I stared at the readings
    On your dials. Your cry jammed so hard
    Over into the red of catastrophe
    Left no space for worse. And I thought
    How sick is she? Is she exaggerating?
    And I recoiled, just a little,
    Just for balance, just for symmetry,
    Into sceptical patience, a little.
    If it can be borne, why make so much of it?
    ‘Come on, now,’ I soothed. ‘Don’t be so scared.
    It’s only a bug, don’t let it run away with you.’
    What I was really saying was: ‘Stop crying wolf.’
    Other thoughts, chilly, familiar thoughts,
    Came across the tightrope: ‘Stop crying wolf,
    Or else I shall not know, I shall not hear
    When things get really bad.’

  36. I find that so so sad.

  37. Cara Ellison says:

    The stone man fed soup, the burning woman drank it…?

    I’m not remembering the exact phrasing, but it was something like that? That line was absolutely marvelous. You can feel his love and his dismay — also echoed after they were married and she baked cakes all day, and he was wondering, hey, where’s my boho little poet wife? That same, “I love you but who are you?” kind of feeling.

    God.

    What was the deal with Ponky? In a few letters, he calls her that too – I was under the impression that was just her name for him. Then for his birthday the “ponky chocolate” remark- that’s the only other usage I’d heard of Ponky.

    In toto, I see they had huge, glaring flaws, and it was so bad that those flaws weren’t compatible. If she’d married a very steady man (sort of a Paul Newman- Joanne Woodward union), I wonder if she’d have felt stifled.

    You know, I admit that I never really thought of Ted as hot – like as into the marriage as she was. I accepted that he loved her, that he recognized her genius, but until I read those few excerpts, he came across somehow as very British – a little aloof. Now I see my impression was wrong. That must have been one sexy union.

    I like Sylvia’s remarks about the “fuckings” in her journal. One in specific leaps to mind: A good fucking, enormously satisfying. Perhaps the best yet.

    I know it sounds crazy, but from 2010, I smile at her, this twenty-something girl with a hot poet husband, and I think, you go girl.

    • Yeah, me too. He was real, and he was connected – to nature (something she felt really distant from) – you can see his influence in her work – but she was so damn competitive – she felt SILENCED by his success – and he just didn’t get that. Maybe because he was a man, and he wasn’t wired that way – but yeah, he was truly dismayed by her writer’s block. He would have done anything: let’s sell everything and live in a camper van, who gives a shite …

      But she had deeper and older and more neurotic ties – to her father, her mother, the conventional 1950s American life – she was so torn.

      If anyone could have “saved” her, it would have been him. she would have eaten up any other guy alive. He was her match. I don’t mean to idolize him – he obviously had issues, and was a horrible womanizer – but he loved her. He had no middle-class inhibitions in regards to sex – and you know what a big problem she had with that – he fucked her and he meant it – I mean, think of their first meeting!! Not exactly sharing a cherry coke at the drive in!

  38. Cara Ellison says:

    Oh God, yes, I remember that one.


    And I recoiled, just a little,
    Just for balance, just for symmetry,
    Into sceptical patience, a little.

    Oh yes, I see that very well.

  39. He just didn’t know how deep it went with her. It really really frightened him. That was his first glimpse.

  40. You can also see in that fragment from that poem his savior-complex. He felt that he was capable of saving her (something he seemed to do with women a lot – he liked the damaged crazy ones). Again, I never want to seem like I’m coming off as on HIS or HER side – you know? They were troubled artistic people in a terrible situation, with two kids, involved, etc. – but it shows perhaps his naivete at what exactly he was dealing with. He felt that he could save her – when in actuality her cries for help went way further in the past, she was calling out to her father, to her old lover Death – never to him.

    But he was already trying to read her signals – to see what was a red flag, etc. It’s a very human thing to do if you think about it. Makes me sad for him.

  41. Cara Ellison says:

    A cherry coke at the drive-in would have never occurred to her. She talks about those proper boys in her journals, she despises them. She knew that she was eating them up. It’s evidenced by that one line that kills me every time, and it’s a line I’ve used to describe a certain man: He was the only one “massive” enough for her.

    Yup. Got it. Know exactly what she means.

    Ted was wild – untamed, barely civilized. He wore gross clothes, he had to be urged to bathed. He wasn’t going to be all soft and proper – not about life, and not about her.

    I think this connects to his love of the meadow and the field. He understood rabbits and voles die, hawks hunted rats. He was very in tune with that. Sylvia was from Boston. Her exposure to nature was basically limited to Nauset and beach imagery. He was just a little more grounded in the brutal nature of life – so I think that he felt it was only natural to be brutal in love, to give yourself over. Love hard and deep.

    I love that about him.

    I hate that he slept around. I hate it. I want so badly for him to just love Sylvia. I actually ached when he said that Assia was his “true wife”. Like, WTF! Assia had no talent. Assia was an interloper. How could you???

    But it seems that he just needed to cat around. He did it to his second wife Carol too.

    I don’t understand that instinct.

  42. Cara Ellison says:

    I’m like you about Ted. I don’t blame him for everything. I know Sylvia was a handful. I know she was irritable, mercurial — all those things. I think Ted tried the best he could.

    And I can see how a sloe-eyed woman coming to your house for the weekend would make you look twice. Sylvia looked ragged: she had two small children, she was busy and frustrated while trying to write her poems and worried about bills.

    Then Assia, in all her cool beauty, arrives and looks like an easy, fun time. No babies, no worries about bills, won’t have to listen to her complain that he never helps around the house.

    So he gives in.

    It happens all the time.

    But when I say I wish he was faithful to Sylvia, I mean that Sylvia required that total love and attention. Had she been someone else, she might have turned a blind eye. But she wasn’t.

    It’s not all his fault, but the visible blame goes to him. It’s easy to say, “he slept around, it’s his fault.”

    But with Sylvia’s poems and her life, you’re cheating yourself if you stay at that level.

  43. I am sure he has huge regrets for not “trying harder” with sylvia – that’s one of the things I get from his poems, written when he was an old man, and near death. They are tragic: when you look back on your life, what do you wish more of? Crazy hot sex? Or a partner who believes in you? A relationship that lasted? I think that puts too much on him – like he really could “save” her – and I believe Sylvia was “lost” before she met Ted. She was already on the path – I think her suicide was a date with destiny and had nothing to do with the fact that Ted had left her.

    But yeah: I hate how he treated her, too. It was callous and also (he must have hated this in himself) totally CLICHED. Like: dude, can’t you come up with something original??? Blow up a building? Discover Atlantis? Did you have to just fuck some other woman? Yawn!!

    His tragedy is multipled a thousand-fold by what that other woman ended up doing – soooo much worse than what Sylvia did. Completely unforgivable.

    Awful. The fact that he was able to keep on writing – and so well – after such a catastrophe – is astonishing in and of itself.

  44. I cannot even begin to imagine what he went through.

    I can imagine what she went through, very very easily. But Ted? Can’t even come close.

  45. Cara Ellison says:

    Intriguing that you say it was a date with destiny. I had a different read – that she could have been saved by Ted. Maybe that is hoping too much (I’m a bit of a happy-ending fan) but I would like to think that if he’d simply not fucked Assia, and turned his attention back to his children and Sylvia, they could have lasted.

    I realize it’s not that easy. Even at the end there, while they were still at Court Green, I feel like things were crumbling. It did not feel like the happy young family in a rambling English estate. It felt suffocating just to read it. Those children, however longed for, were anchors, pulling her over, capsizing her.

    I say this with pain in my heart, and awareness of how awful it sounds. But I think once she gave birth, it was over for her. She just could not cope with it. They were not enough to live for, and they were too much. She just could not write, handle the children (whom she loved with all her heart) and handle Ted’s infidelity.

    But in Happy Ending Fairy Joy Land, Ted could have done something for her. Been more present. Focused on the children.

    And btw, I totally agree that he probably loathed himself for the cliche.

    One thing that always bothered the hell out of me was the fact that Sylvia’s mother came right in the middle of it all. I feel like if her mother had just been productive… take the children while they went to London to regain some balance and talk… something!

    As I write this, I realize the chess pieces just won’t go where I’m trying to get them. So maybe you are right – maybe that was just her fate.

    Like in the Hot Tub Time Machine, it might not have happened the same way, but it was gonna happen.

  46. The mother is a total GHOUL. It was Sylvia’s worst nightmare made manifest.

    // But I think once she gave birth, it was over for her. She just could not cope with it. //

    Totally agree.

    I definitely think Ted’s behavior didn’t HELP – but I think she was destined to attempt suicide again – and this time, succeed – regardless of who she was with. She was in love with it. It called to her in the night. She longed for it.

    I think she longed to be SAVED – there is speculation of course that she thought someone would arrive at the flat that morning, someone who would “stop” what she was doing …

    But who knows. The lady seemed to mean business.

  47. Cara Ellison says:

    I don’t think she wanted to be saved.

    More in a bit — on BB again.

  48. Cara Ellison says:

    I don’t think she wanted to be saved. She wanted to die.

    Like you said, it called to her in the night.

    That “Call Dr. Horner” note was, I think, a normal kind of note. She was thinking that whoever found her would need to know what to do, and she knew that calling Ted wouldn’t be right. Her mother? No freaking way. Her psychiatrist? Yes indeed.

    So I don’t think it was a “please save me” kind of gesture. Just the opposite – she was trying to care for those she loved after death.

    The story of her lingering at the door of her downstairs neighbor, then asking to borrow stamps, bothers me a great deal. What was that? Any theories?

    • Maybe a moment of indecision. Maybe looking for human contact in the middle of that frozen winter …. loneliness …. a “goodbye” to life?

  49. Cara Ellison says:

    I think that’s right. I think right then she could have been saved. If the neighbor had convinced her to come inside, given her some tea, maybe… I think she was in a trance, and maybe he could have snapped her out of it.

    Everything about that day seems so dreamlike. I have to hand it to Gwyneth Paltrow, in the movie Sylvia, she did a good job with that moment, the daze, the bright white lights…

  50. I read this on my iPhone but couldn’t comment until now.
    OH MY GOD!
    So wonderful, so amazing…I just don’t have the words.
    I would finance this caper! Please let it come true!

  51. Cara Ellison says:

    Thank you De! I’m glad you like it – I know a lot of people don’t get it, so thank you!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] said in the comments of a previous post that once she had children, she was done. I stand by that. I think that having children was [...]

  2. [...] Hughes supposedly destroyed the last two years of Plath’s journal, because they were too painful for him to look at. While I understand where he is coming from, I still wish that I could read those last two years. About 10 years ago, the “unabridged” version of Plath’s journals came out, but those two years were still not listed, so please: don’t call them “unabridged” then. Yes, there was a lot more in this volume than what was in the volume before, which I read until it fell apart. But those two final journals remain missing. I still have hopes that they will turn up. That they actually were not destroyed. That his witch-sister Olwyn (now she really is the Devil, I declare it) had hidden them away, because she saw herself as the gatekeeper of the Hughes honor, and she had never liked Sylvia anyway. A couple of months ago, my friend Cara, another Plath fan, wrote an awesome international-thriller piece, starring myself, Cara, and Tracey, and – well, you’ll just have to read it for yourself. [...]

  3. [...] please, for your own sake, read this explanation, and then go read this. Perhaps only Plath fans will truly understand, but that’s [...]

  4. [...] to Plath fans. I mean, the myth of those missing journals is so acute that my friend Cara wrote an international-thriller about the two of us, and our friend Tracey, on a James Bond-like mission to …. I still hope they turn up some day. I bet Olwyn Hughes has them. That’s my guess. Olwyn [...]

  5. [...] missing journals are the Holy Grail to Plath fans. As you can see here, a brilliant international thriller written by my good friend Cara – starring me, her, and [...]

  6. [...] Sylvia Plath fans. Our love for her has, on occasion, crossed over into something akin to mania. This is a perfect and brilliant [...]

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