I learned what desire was in the absence of pleasure. It’s something that arises from a lack, from a dearth. A wanting that builds in the depth of insufficiency, coming to the extent of a need.
I learned this in the context of chocolate, from the fragrance of lavender a lotion spreads across my hands. I learned this in the warming scent of nutmeg and cinnamon wafting from the oven, with doughnuts just minutes away from being tipped out of the pan.
What I’ve learned as well, is that desire is incurable, something not even to be satisfied by a fulfillment of the craving itself. Hedonism, once experienced, is concrete, fixed in its reality. I taste pleasure in a single moment, felt over no spectrum, allowing nothing to grow, and nothing to steadily dissipate. Just simply disappear.
And maybe this is why we try to cultivate gratification, why we attempt to indulge in epicureanism. We pursue these as an escape from a sterile, unkind world, noticing the elegant difference between a barren landscape of uncertainty and the hope created in the inquiry of our wants. Invoking desire implies you need more and suggests the potential of its arrival.
But I’ve learned the pains and transcendent qualities of desire in a context that feels separate, somehow different from these illustrations of anticipated pleasure. I’ve understood desire in the written correspondence between myself and others, coming to know a person in the slow, gradual development of reveal, of the exchange of thoughts and the transfer of our ideas. In writing to someone, there grows a steady expansion of appetite, where you construct a mythical experience, an aspiration of fulfillment that assembles itself to a level of the ideal. And you understand, that in this development, yearning, the process of constructing the reality of possibility, and its ultimate pursuit, has a level of pleasure all to itself.
Letters create a conversation you wish only for a moment could happen in person. But instead, the written connection is sought after for its quality of permanence. Words written down can be read again, read to the extent of memorization, where the joining of letters becomes tied with process, the imagining of exertion and mental industry put into this letter, a collection of words addressed only to you.
The connection of words to feeling is inextricable. Even with the occasional indulgence in the embellishment of language, the coloring of words with hyperbole and garnish, retains an honesty of voice, projecting a tone that does nothing to mask perception, excitement, and awareness. Written words reach out to the reader with a knowledge that they’ll never disappear, protected by the endurance of pen. It’s a tactile experience, opening an envelope, running your fingers along the sticky adhesive guarding the words only for you. You feel the soft ridges of script as your thumbs grip the paper’s edge, your eyes scanning the pages in a frenzy of anticipation. This is what it’s like to feel good, to simultaneously experience desire and its fulfillment all in one. The length of emotion persists through the letter’s length, sustaining itself through impact, the subsequent processing of it all. It continues in your response, a preservation found in your reply. I love this desire; I love this pleasure. I remember it for every delicious second.
In a recent post, I wrote about my fear of forging anything more than a superficial relation to others, but there’s someone I knew through his writing, prefacing our first meeting with months of letters sent and received. I learned about him through the soft, scripted handwriting that I didn’t learn until later he hated, calling it ragged, scraggly. Chicken scratch.
But I loved his grammar, with a charm in the occasional misspelling or disagreement between subject and verb. I knew his favorite books, the excerpts of his favorite poems included just for me. I knew his concerns, his future wants, his past regrets. I knew everything, all with the accompanying desire to always know more.
And I loved that transitory time, when the moment before you dive into the pleasure is almost better than this pleasure itself. I’ve kept these letters, all mementos to something transient, an ephemeral period I can reach back to in the material consciousness we created. And no, the magic wasn’t broken, but instead established. Pleasure generated in the knowledge that it would ebb and flow, sometimes to the point of apparent disappearance. But desire would set in, and it would all return, I knew.
Write to me, please. I want to hear from you.