Over the following days and weeks I did my best to quell the riot of dark emotions roiling within me by working longer than usual hours at the clinic. When I got home in the evenings, after walking Ben, I set about the daunting task of transcribing Leah’s mountains of unpublished writing onto the computer. All of her scattered notes, mournful poems, stream-of-consciousness essays and bleak stories had been scratched out in handwriting so awful anyone would believe they had been written by someone suffering from a degenerative disease of the central nervous system. Making the task even more vexing were the countless edits and annotations (and annotations to the annotations). However, as it turned out, the process reaped an astonishing surprise.
When I had found Leah hanging from the ceiling fan, almost two months prior, there had been a single small sheet of paper left on the floor beneath her feet. On it she had written:
Love, Leah- xoxo.
I had absolutely no idea what “purple” referred to. It was not her favorite color and she had made no allusion to its significance in the past. I finally gave up trying to figure it out and decided that it was probably not a cryptic suicide note, meant to be deciphered, but just the last utterly arbitrary thought of a person so caught in the clutches of mental anguish that life had not only lost all its meaning but the mere act of living another moment was a prospect so intolerable it had become atrocious. That conclusion dramatically changed when, as I got to transcribing Leah’s writings from the last few months of her life, I saw that she had begun highlighting snippets of text in purple with numbers scrawled beside them.
I stayed up late nights searching out the lines and typing them up in numerical order. It was a poem. A long poem entitled ‘My Husband’. When I finally read it through from beginning to end, I felt a strange tingling sensation course up my back, from the base of my spine. It spread out across my scalp and tugged at the roots of my hair. It was the most hauntingly beautiful piece of writing I had ever read. In fact, it was the most hauntingly beautiful thing I had ever experienced. It dripped erotic passion that was struck through with screaming anxiety over the death of all things including, in particular, love. From the chaotic anarchy of her writing, she had seen a pattern and culled these lines which, put together, was nothing short of a masterwork. My high opinion of the piece was bolstered a couple of days later after I emailed it to a professor emeritus I knew in the English Department of the university where I had attended medical school. His reply email stated:
My dear friend, I am at a loss for words. Simply put, you are the object of one of the greatest love poems I have ever read in the canon of English Literature. The way she manages to juxtapose such longing and love with feelings of weariness and a harrowing sense of decay/mortality is quite dizzying. I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but she references everything from Hesiod to Shakespeare to the Bible to Wilde to Marvell to Chaucer – and these are just the ones I picked up on after a first reading. I haven’t been quite as excited about a poem since I read Prufrock as a young man…
Of course, I will abide by your wishes and not share it with anyone. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling after making this discovery. Still, you MUST have it published once you feel ready. It’s too important to keep all to yourself and, just think, you’ll be famous by association! By the way, I don’t know what to make of the strange little postscript: “Do not go out into the woods at night, my dearest. Things weep in the dark; creatures that bite.” It’s disjointed and seems to be hastily tacked on. I would certainly omit it whenever it goes to publication.
This so-called “strange little postscript” had been weighing heavily on my mind. The professor was quite right: it did not fit at all with the majesty of the rest of the poem and seemed added almost in a panic. Not only did it have the ring of a prophetic warning, I had a gut feeling that Leah had highlighted these last words just moments before she died.
To be continued…
Part I is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/06/30/deep-freeze-part-i/
Part II is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/07/11/deep-freeze-part-ii/
Part III is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/07/21/deep-freeze-part-iii/
Part IV is available at: https://requiemforthedamned.com/2013/07/23/deep-freeze-part-iv/