the second page of a letter, very different from the first

My name isn’t really Clara, but Thea. That’s not in my passport. My religious upbringing, as I’ve told you, has been strictly orthodox and I’m sure I correspond to what my mother and father think a good daughter ought to be.

I have suffered a great many bodily ills, the worst an irritation which has persecuted me like a waking nightmare for two years. Another torment is my over-developed sensitivity. I react violently to sudden noises, intense light (I’m blind in one eye) or unpleasant smells. The normal pressure of a dress, for instance, can drive me mad with pain. When I was fifteen, I married a young Austrian actor. I wanted to start in the theater, but the marriage was unhappy, I had a child who died, and I went back to the school in Switzerland. Now the dry twilight rattles above the child’s head. I can’t go on. I cry now.

My glass eye also weeps.

I pretend I am a saint or a martyr. I can sit for hours at the big table in the closed room (where we played the forbidden records.) I can sit for hours gazing at the palms of my hands. Once a redness appeared out of my left palm, but no blood. I pretend I am sacrificing myself for my brothers. I am saving them from mortal danger. I pretend ecstasy and speak to the Holy Virgin. I pretend faith and disbelief, defiance and doubt. I pretend I am a rejected sinner with an insupportable burden of guilt. Suddenly I reject the guilt and forgive myself. It’s all a game. I am pretending.

Within the game, I am the same, sometimes extremely tragic, sometimes boundlessly exhilarated. All with the same small effort. I confided in a doctor (I’ve been to so many doctors.) He told me that my dreaming and idle life were damaging my psyche. He prescribed specific things that would force me to leave the prison of my egocentricity. Order. Self-discipline. Tasks. Corsets. My father, who is so gentle, so wise and coolly calculating, says that I should not worry, that everything exists in all things, and living is a torment that one overcomes with resignation, but preferably without cynicism. I am not keen on that kind of effort, so I’m thinking of going even further into my games, taking them more seriously, if you understand what I mean.

(from The Magic Lantern)

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