(In a world full of lies and empty words, 1984)
I don't know if this letter will reach you. I seriously doubt it. I'm supposed to write an apology, to show regret. But I can't – I'm unable to regret any of my actions. And I want to write it down in order to make myself realize that it wasn't a dream, that it really happened and that I really loved him.
In our world, dear sister, we don't even know the word 'love' anymore. It was banned, it isn't used anymore. Will told me about it. He showed me what it means to 'love' someone. It's this intense feeling, this energy, it makes you feel so alive, so human, it can destroy you, but it can also make you a happier person. You are so drawn to someone else, you want to spend time with them, they are beautiful to you and you see all their mistakes and you still love them. Ultimately, it can't be explained. You have to feel it.
In our world, dear sister, we suppress it. It makes us think about our duty less. By loving someone, we build our own little world in our head which can't be controlled by the system. And it makes them nervous. So it isn't allowed to love – we don't have a word for it, so we don't know what we are feeling, so we feel dumb and blame ourselves and suppress our feelings. Something without a name seems unreal.
I myself didn't know love almost all my life – until I met Will. He was a new worker in my department. I was supposed to show him everything, and I did. And after the first day of work, I dreamt of him. After the second day of work, I thought about him. After the third day of work, he irreversibly took over my mind. The blue of the sky reminded me of his eyes. And when we shifted files together, we touched sometimes. Just accidentally, at first. But it made me realize that I wanted to touch him. I wondered what his skin would feel like.
Then, I touched him some more. I laid my hand on his shoulder when we talked alone. And I even touched his hair once, pretending that there was an insect on it. I made it look casual.
Will looked right through me. He had a special way of understanding people, he observed them. He was calm and silent, but he saw every one of my movements, the way my eyes scanned his body, the way I stood when I saw him, the way I looked at him. To others, he didn't talk a lot, but for me he made an effort. We talked about the most trivial matters, but the way his eyes glowed and the way they connected with mine made it all seem like a big joke. We mocked our monotonous reality together. The time we spent in each other's company felt like sunshine, like a warm day, like a flower blooming in the spring.
It would have been almost excusable, were we not both men. Men and women have to fulfill their duties together, they must help society by producing offspring. Then the father has to work and the mother has to look after the kids. Reproduction is an obligation. And two men can't do that. But does that make our love worth any less? The system says yes. I say no. It's one of the worst sins a human can commit, we are taught. How can there be a god like this? Why would something that feels so good be a sin?
Beloved Misha, I don't expect you to understand. Until recently, we both were members of the system. We worked for it, we believed in it. Then Will changed my entire world view. The uncomfortable reality is that this system makes us sick, it deprives us of our feelings, of what makes us happy. This system is constructed for machines, not humans.
Will – oh Will. He was the most beautiful man I have ever seen. He was remarkable. Incredibly intelligent. Gifted with a deep understanding of human nature. We always went to lunch break together. And once, there was a technical problem with one of the cameras in the staircase. We were late for lunch and there was nobody, except for us. I will never forget what I did – when we walked down the unobserved stairs, I raised my arms and took his head with my hands. And I caressed his cheeks and I touched his lips with my own. It was a very fast movement, we didn't have a lot of time until the next security camera. But it was the best thing I ever did in my entire life. Afterwards, he avoided eye contact even more than usually. I took it as a bad sign. I pretended to sleep this night, but in reality I did not. What if I misread the signs? What if he reported me? What if he was a spy?
The next day, we were sitting in our office, he sat down next to me and pretended to work. I asked him a work-related question. He leaned over to look at my computer and under the desk, he touched my hand and squeezed it gently. And I knew that he wasn't angry at me, on the contrary: He felt the same. It was such a relief! I had no idea why my heart was speeding, why I felt so alive but I was able to feel the same energy humming under his skin.
And we both knew it was going to end bad. We took every opportunity we had to touch each other. The number of them was not near enough. We hugged and kissed and it was rushed and scarce, tender and sweet, nevertheless it was the best time I had in my entire life. I don't want to hurt you, Misha, but it was even better than any childhood memory we share. Even better than the one time I could get enough chocolate and sugar to make a really sweet cake for your birthday.
Why? Because it was this special thing called love. Back then, I didn't have the word yet and all my feelings were so new, and nevertheless intense.
Yesterday, I left the building together with all the other employees and Will approached me in the crowd. We had a few seconds to talk. He whispered a time and a place. He told me he would be there and I didn't reply. I couldn't really decide whether to meet him or not, it seemed impossible not to appear. In the afternoon, I left my flat and went to the place Will named. It was a remote area, without too many security cameras, and he stood there, waiting for me. With his slender figure and his soft curls I recognized him from far away.
He asked me if I liked him.
I answered: Yes.
He asked me if I would take a risk for him.
I answered: Yes.
He told me it could get us killed, but would be worth it.
He asked me again if I would take a risk for him.
And again, I answered:
He took a little piece of paper out of the seam of his trousers. It was from his mother's sewing instructions. She added notes on them. When she died, he kept them. And you know, she was from the generation before us. From the great nothing, she is one of the few ones that survived the great war (or was it a great brainwash?). And one of the notes wasn't on sewing. It seems like a saying or part of something bigger. I don't know what to call it, but when you read it out loud, the words fit together and have soothing sound. It's hard to describe and it felt like a great revelation, that words can sound like this!
Love is a smoke rais'd with the fume of sighs;
Being purg'd, a fire sparkling in a lover's eyes;
Being vex'd, a sea nourish'd with lovers' tears:
What is it else? a madness most discreet,
A choking gall and a preserving sweet.*
I stumbled over the word 'love'. I didn't understand what it means. But then I read it again and I realized that it was the way I felt about Will. The word love described my feelings, my desires. I was so overwhelmed. Without looking at his face, I knew that he felt the same way. I wanted to touch him so badly.
Suddenly, something buzzed. There was a drone that followed us. It had recorded us, and it had filmed the paper.
Will started crying. He sobbed, his whole body shook. I have never seen someone cry before and I felt unsure about what to do. So I just put my arms around his waist, it made no difference, considering our cover was blown anyways. He propped his head on my shoulder and relaxed a bit.
He didn't apologize. There was nothing to apologize for. I held him and after some moments he touched my cheeks with his hands and kissed me, it was at the same time the sweetest and the most fierce kiss we shared in our time together. We stayed like this until the guards arrived. They separated us from one another.
They shot him. They took me into custody.
That's why I'm writing you now, sister. Tomorrow, they will kill me, too. I helped one of the guards once when his family didn't get enough food as a punishment for the misbehaviour of his rebellious child. That's why I get to write this letter.
Misha, I don't regret what I have done. I would do it all again. Will's hands around my waist, his lips on mine – why would a sin feel so good? These moments with him were the best memories I have and I hope to meet him again. In this world, there was no space for what was between us. But maybe in another world. I never believed in life after death – now I hope for it.
May it be in hell, I don't care about it, as long as he is there with me.
*(Romeo and Juliet Act I, scene 1, line 196. )