My regular night time companion lately is Miss Anais Nin, (1903 – 1977.) Our visits take place in 1920, to which I travel by means of her diaries. I’m reading Volume Two; she is seventeen, plagued by girlish worries. Is she pretty? In the first volume, she believed she was ugly, and now she’s embarrassed to confide to her private diary, that yes, she thinks she’s becoming pretty. Is she still a child or a woman already? She writes her questions and attempts at answers in her diary, relentlessly seeking truths, and then trying to capture them in words.
Keeping or reading a journal is different from more crafted types of writing. Repetition is as inevitable as sunrise or rain. Miss Nin frequently mentions her exhaustion; I make note of my headaches. Emotional experiences plunk against the daily grinds of life. Ms. Nin has days full of cleaning, cooking, typing letters and bills for her Mama. She gets cranky and then resolves, again and again, to be more kind to her family. She’s a mirror to me; when she writes a successful poem, when I put together some excellent sentences, we are both giddy with happiness.
I long to write, she says on one of her “practical, sensible little housekeeper” days. I feel that if I were left alone for a long time, I could do something. I could discover the source of the voice which calls me night and day. I wish for tranquility, for solitude, and I wish for a letter from Eduardo also.
Oh, the letters, and the boys. Certain boys write to her, and she hasn’t the courage to answer them with truthful discouragement. Others, who should write, don’t. She awaits the postman. On October 6, 1920, she writes of what she sees in her mirror: Weary eyes full of tears and nothing big enough to explain myself. I wish there were no postmen in the world, no cousins, no boys, and no hearts. My echo: a ridiculously mad letter. “What truck? What men? What weather?” (Loose End Letters, blog 8/21/14)
Of her own reading, she writes: Eureka! Would to heaven you could read the book I am reveling in. It is the journal of Eugenie de Guerin. … Many of the things I have wanted to express, or have expressed so diffidently, Eugenie has in her diary. … How I wish I could write like her.
As I read, I’m looking into a mirror at someone looking into a mirror; splinters of humanity and history add kaleidoscope colors. Miss Nin writes: My heart overflows with a queer happiness. Days later: I am in … such a black black mood! She is lonely; she craves solitude; she loves books above people. [My family] wondered at my conduct. Holding [Eugenie’s] book against my heart, as if it were a person, indeed! Yet, no human being I know has ever done me so much good!
So, I’m alone, but not lonely: I have Anais Nin as a little sister, a ghost mentor, my late night friend.