November 2023

Sad Men Write While They Cry - Part I

Altenir Silva

I was in the Public Library in New York and silence filled the place, despite some other people also sitting in that room. I scanned the place until my eyes stopped on a man. He was the only one in that room who wasn't reading any books. He was just sitting at a table, observing all the readers.


While leafing through 'Look Homeward, Angel' by Thomas Wolfe, I searched for the right words to express my feelings about myself. Then, suddenly, the man got up and approached me, speaking in a low voice, "I noticed that you're reading my book, huh?"




The man grabbed a chair and sat down beside me. I asked again, "What are you talking about?" He looked at me with a hint of disdain and whispered, "You have my book!" I responded, asserting that he was mistaken, as I had taken the book with the proper permission from the librarian.


He breathed deeply and said, "Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen." I replied, "Sorry, but I don't understand what you mean." He completed his thought, saying, "Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don't freeze up."


At that moment, it became clear to me that the man was engaged in a deep cosmic conversation. He wasn't interested in a typical dialogue but something transcendental. With that realization, I responded, "Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue."


The mysterious man pondered for a moment and then, without hesitation, declared, "The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence." In response, I offered, "Life is for each man a solitary cell whose walls are mirrors."


The man got up from his chair and said this: "Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth." And then he left the library room.


I closed my book, and I couldn't stop thinking about everything that the man had said. So, I handed the book to the librarian and asked, "Do you know who the man who just left here is?" The librarian replied, "Yes, he always comes here. He is the author of the book that you were reading."


Next, I ran after him and reached him before he got to the street. I asked, "The librarian said you are the writer who wrote that book I was reading, is that it?" He was silent for a moment. I went on, "Are you the writer?" He nodded yes. I was like, "Why didn't you say who you are?" He looked at me with his sad eyes and said, "Because I love your work! And any good words said to you would be less than all my feelings." At that moment, I thought about telling him how much his book meant to me, and I did. He gave a slight smile, said goodbye, and went away.


I found my wife waiting for me in front of the New York Public Library, and we went to Macy's to buy Christmas gifts. While she was choosing some gifts, I kept thinking about what a wonderful meeting I had with Mr. Wolfe, a writer who is giving me back in words what I once gave him. This moment just passed; it is life, in which there is no present or future—only the past, happening over and over again—now.




To be continued in the next edition: How Thomas Wolfe Saw This Meeting.


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Altenir Silva is a Brazilian playwright and screenwriter working in mass media and communications, including Cinema, Theater, Television and the Web. His texts and scripts - both fiction and reality-based - have been presented , produced and performed in the US, the UK, and Brazil.
For more of his writings in Scene4, check the Archives.

©2023 Altenir Silva
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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