It is in my annual state of hopeless confusion that I write to you once more. As you have already doubtless surmised, given the date atop this page and your boundless capacity to read into my soul better than I myself can, I have been left reeling by the annual visitation of that man who to you shall always have no appellation, but to me is known as François.
Please, darling Nancykins, do not judge me harshly. Be certain that your stern words of admonishment do so keenly resonate within my being each time I think of that man. You know how seldom I cast your better judgement aside on such matters. Nonetheless, however heartfelt your counsel, I cannot envisage such a scene in which your own heart could resist entering such a palpitatitudinous state as does mine on that first Saturday eventide of each July on which he knocks on the door of our home and announces: "Me voici".
I have made many prior efforts to define my feelings to you, almost entirely in vain. I fear that this is in some measure due to the incoherence to which François renders me; would that I could more completely detail the workings of my heart. However persuasively his recent misdemeanours stand as evidence, it not so easy for me as it is for you to suppress the memory of our initial happiness. Though I am aware of your immediate disquietude on hearing the news of our engagement to be wed all those years ago, I know you were able to reserve some portion of your heart for the residence of no small amount of felicity on my behalf, however tempered it may have been by suspicion.
To this day I am unable to credit my naïvété's tenacity. I marvel at how it withstood the years of François' many overseas jaunts whose details he was so reluctant to divulge, or how he would never allow me to look into the luggage compartment of his motor vehicle, or how he would often partake in a run in the middle of the night because it was "good for the blood", or his inexplicable stamina in the boudoir. I cannot believe that it was not until one night - could it really be a full decade past? - that I received a telegram from an officer of the law stating that he had been refused entry back into the country on account of the discovery of a vast quantity of illegal chemicals in that cursed luggage compartment.
As you know, the shame and indignity brought upon me by François' criminality rendered our relations irretrievably mutilated, and I forbade his return to our home. I quietly continued with my life, resolute in my efforts to consign every thought of him to oblivion. But it was a rude shock when he appeared almost exactly a year after the discovery of his wrongdoing. I opened the door to find him on his knees, his hands clenched together as if I were his God and he were pleading for his very salvation. "Please, my love, you don't know what my life is like. It is a Calvary, except there are only fourteen Stations of the Cross. I have twenty, plus a Prologue, every wretched year." If I am to be truthful, his desperate words were not necessary. Forgetting my previous twelvemonth's strife, I welcomed him back.
He informed me that he could only remain for three weeks at the most owing to his ongoing rehabilitarious treatment and his newly-found vocation teaching other young vulnerables not to get captured by the same traps which had so definitively ensnared him. On reflection, his evasiveness should have piqued my dubiety, but I was simply too happy for his presence in the house once more to question.
This became a yearly occurrence. It would appear that he believed me to be cretinous, because each July he would return and speak eloquently - a touch too eloquently - of his wonderful adventures and the fulfilling work helping to eradicate the scourge of toxic dependency. He must have thought me to be quite unworldly, so much so that I would be unaware of the existence of modern telegraphy and its resultant miracle of inter-continental communication. I knew full well of his real escapades. And yet, despite your total incredulity, dear Nance, I would utter nary a word about his egregiositousness.
In spite of the mounting exhibits of the intricate fabric of lies on which our love is based, my self-disgust can barely compete with the irrational desire which still pulses so fervently. I have yet to tell you what follows, Nancypants, for fear of the opprobrium which would surely rain down on me like so much leaden rain on the fertile meadow of my love - but in the winter before last, I travelled to Mexico, where François had informed me that he would be resting as part of his recovery; I was intending to supply a most romantic surprise. I searched the village he had named as his temporary lodging-place, but he was not there. I roamed the nearby pueblos, but no-one had even the merest knowledge of any gentleman by the name of François. I returned home to find an officer of our local constabulary, who sorrowfully informed me that François had instead spent his wintertide "shooting up," as the horrid idiom would have it, in the Dolomites. Needless to say (though I shall say it regardless), I did not mention this on François' aestival sojourn.
Before this letter is sealed I must make a confession, Wance, the likes of which I have never made in my entire life to this moment, and over which I have been procrastinating since this note's commencement. It is not merely blind love or the insane thrill of my heart which compels me to dear François: I feel a guilty frisson of curiosity at the constant possibility of his demise. Lest you think of me as a sadist of the highest order (or perhaps you wish to see the end of him too, I should wager!), I must stress with the utmost earnestness that I do not want to see him perish; such an occurrence would rend my very soul and make the prospect of a prolongalisation of my carnal existence frightfully unbearable. It is simply that the awareness that at any moment he could do something which would end his days on this earth sustains me, such as when he is descending one of the mountains overlooking our estate on one of his modern velocipedes and he travels precariously close to the edge of road such that but for a few inches of tarmacadam he would plunge to his doom down a sheer mountain face. Once again, Nancy, I do not wish for this to happen, but the knowledge that it may is invigorating in a way that perhaps your staidness would not permit you to acknowledge.
Supplementary to this is, I am almost ashamed to say, is the fact that I am quite fond of the drama that frequently portends when François' motor vehicle throws up a long cloud of dust along the path to the house every year. To know that one may awake any given morn to find officers of the law swooping upon the premises and arresting François for possession of this of breach of those conditions is, however I may outwardly weep and wail and curse whatever wretched deity would permit such grief to enfold me, something which illuminates my usually bleak world. I know, sis, that you are at this moment, on reading the previous sentence, pouting and muttering about what a silly girl I am, that I have an active life full of multifarious distractions. I cannot pretend that you are completely in the wrong, but such is the entanglement that is my weary mind these days, the opportunity to close one's eyes and imagine that one is a heroine in an inexpensive novella is difficult to pass up.
I must restate that it does oftentimes leave me quite angry that people, be they strangers, acquaintances or family, yourself included, should take it upon themselves to pass such judgement on my beloved, and that their dudgeon should be so profound. François is far from the only man on this earth who is troubled by such demons. The most popular of gentlemen, the sort that form the heart of a splendid soirée, who have an endless supply of party tricks and who could charm the stuffiest of Inland Revenue officials from a furlong away: it is they who often have the most to conceal.
I fear that I have yet again come to the end of another chapter in our correspondence and realised that I am as enveloped in my own meagre universe of melodramatic self-involvement as ever I was. Alas, it is getting quite late, and I shall have to conclude. Give my regards to Derek and Elisha and Tarquin, and see that Mummy is kept cool when the heatwave arrives, as it shall.
Photos (1, 2, 4, 5) by ©Scott BeLew (A.S.), Grufnik, Biff Bang Pow, John Spooner