An "absent other"

A mi hermana Chloé, mi “absent other” en la distancia.

April 22, 2011

Dear John,

A couple of days ago, I had the starting revelation about the effect our correspondence has had on me. We have been at it for close to three years now, and in that time you have become what I would call an “absent other”, a kind of adult cousin to the imaginary friends little children invent for themselves. I discovered that I often walk around talking to you in my head, wishing you were with me so I could point out the strange-looking person who just walked past me on the sidewalk, remark on the odd scrap of conversation I just overheard, or take you into the little sandwich shop where I often buy my lunch so you could listen to the talk that goes on in there with me. I love that place, a wholly unpretentious nothing of a place, with its heterogeneous clientele of cops and firemen, hospital workers from across the street, mothers with their children, students, truck drivers, secretaries, and what makes the place special is the men who work behind the counter, good-spirited young guys with the proletarian Brooklyn voices, who seem to know everyone who comes in there (“I talked to your mother yesterday,” “I hear your son is doing well on his Little League team,” “Welcome back. How was your trip?”), as if I were living in a small provincial town and not in a gigantic metropolis, and I know you would appreciate the spirit inside that shop and understand (if you don’t already) what I find so interesting about living in New York. So there you are, John, inside my head as I talk to you, and nothing like this has ever happen to me –probably because I have never corresponded with anyone so regularly—and the effect, I can assure you, is an entirely pleasant one.”

Until my return. With best thoughts,


(Paul Auster a J.M. Coetzee en Here and Now: Letters 2008-2011)

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