Zoï, my little darling,
I write to you despite your eight years of age with a need so strong to speak to you from the bottom of my silence. Today, you only think of playing; you’re in bliss when you see a balloon or a pussy cat. In a few years, and God knows how swiftly they will come, new games will be part of you; new interests and new pursuits that will be the source of your joy, and also your tears.
Consider this letter as the shadow of a conversation that we might not have if you were an adult, keeping your secrets and your feelings away from me. These will be the words you would perhaps not let me tell you; written down, they are yours forever as I am with you and for you.
When I was about your age, I wanted to become a painter. Like you now, I loved to draw, I loved using colours, imagining forms unseen, giving life to characters born in a dream. In a dream, that’s where my desire to become a painter was born. In my sleep, I saw a dozen of aspiring painters encircling a young woman posing, nude, motionless, before a dozen pair of watching eyes, sitting in silence, to create her on paper.
The intensity of the scene, its intense stillness, struck me. In my sleep, I had experienced a discovery. In my unconscious, I learnt that every object has two authors: one who creates it, and another who recreates it. Like a book has two authors: one who writes it, and another who reads it.
I woke up that magical day with a clear, yet still hazy vision of the woman I would spend my life with, when I’m an adult. I did not remember her face, nor did I remember her body, or the colour of her skin; in fact, she did not have any. She was ‘only’ a form in my head, an idea of woman not defined.
Zoï, my little love, today, your dad doesn’t draw anymore, but the colours are still there, you see: on his jumpers, his trousers, his socks. When you asked your daddy why he wore colours, he would tell you he did to make you happy. Do my colours not make you smile in the morning and run at me when I come home in the evening? They do. And they make you giggle, too, like on that Sunday – remember? – when you whispered in my ear I was not like the other dads in church.
The forms your dad used to draw have gone abstract: today he draws ideas, complicated things, trying to write simple things as beautiful as you. With time, all has been transformed in a way or another, except my fascination for that imaginary woman who became my wife, and then your mother.
My love! I love you more than anything.
Like I love you, I have loved a woman who was the daughter of a father – like you. Her beauty had something to say. To me, she was a woman I could draw with words, a woman I felt I could write a story about, perhaps a book. She was at the centre, she was everything; she was all the women in the world turned into one. Just like this model I dreamt of when I was the child you are. Now she had a face, a smile, an existence, a beautiful name. In this past life, this woman, whom I loved, was the daughter of a father, like you. And you could have been her as she was, in that moment, all the women in the world in my eyes. But I let her go. It was in a past life, I was not a father yet.
You would be sad now if I told you that, during all our life, we hurt and we are hurt. We leave and we are left. But I trust that you will read these lines when you will able to understand. Relationships with humans, especially if you love them, are long to explain, and longer to understand.
Your father has chosen to leave, not because he did not love the daughter of that father but because, in this grey space between feelings and reason there was no universal answer to find but a choice to make. He made one he could not explain, one he was not even sure of, but without which nothing would have been the same, save for the silence that keeps and preserves the truth only he can understand.
By now, you should have known what it means to mourn. Part of life is to renounce to a big part of what we love. Curiously, loss and renouncement seem to be the price of the aggrandizement of life. It is also the source of our progress. Nietzsche, whose book you saw on my desk last week, said: ‘What kills you not, makes you stronger.’ I might add the following: It is up to us to honour our scars and wounds because they mean that we have survived and that they have made us stronger and much more lucid.
Therefore, my Zoï, my little daughter that I love, do not cry, do not be afraid of your failures. Most things do not matter, except the choices you make. You might, one day, love a man and not know what this love – or his love – means. I assure you, most of my friends, parents, and people I know today still don’t know what their love for their partner means, especially after 10, 20 years of marriage. But some of them love each other anyway, despite each other’s failings, no matter what. When in doubt, ask yourself: ‘What happened to the ‘I love you anyway, despite your flaws, and no matter what’?’ For, after a while, my little Zoï, it all disappears: the food shared, the gifts, the nights spent in hotel rooms, the games played, the dreams improvised, the kisses under the water, the smiles, the fun, the laugh, the bodies warm, the skin smelt, all the time elapsed. Even the sweetest memories, they fade away.
Some loves will remain in suspense. Like them, unfinished symphonies are often the most beautiful and the most masterful of works, the most inspiring of legacies for the generations to come, for they leave us to ponder on what has been left to add, to perfect, and that what lies in the death of a relationship is perfectibility itself. The latter is what makes humanity so sublime.
Therefore, do not worry about ‘the one’, my little Zoï. Luckily, there is no such thing as ‘the one’ (but you’re my little one, my chérie whom I cherish!); luckily, it is not about searching and finding, just about knowing. This might take you long to accept. In true love, there are no explanations, and little to understand; for, in love, you simply know right from the start, until the end. A true love story is one that endures; it is often not a matter of one deserving the other or not; it is neither about ‘the one’ nor about ‘the other’, but about that ‘us’ you both give birth to and that you project, together, into the future. Enduring love is about: where does that thread of love lead us to?
Luckily, there is ‘just one’ love that you choose, one that you stick to, and that is the one choice you make on which the rest of your life will depend. This one choice will make all the difference in your life. Therefore, my love, my little one, the day you will be standing before a man who gives life to your imagination, do not ask yourself: ‘Is he good for me?’ for there is no answer to this question. There are only moral judgments; some will say yes, others will say no; he will say yes and, one day, you might think he is not. Love is not about being right, but about choosing.
Take a step back and think to yourself: will my commitment to this man liberate me? If we live together, will it make me feel free being myself? Will it let me walk the path of life still holding my most intimate values dear? Will it release my inner perfections and imperfections? Will it make me sing, draw, paint; will it make me creative, with him, knowing we are together? Or will it make of me an alien, taken to a planet I would not recognize myself on?
Choices are often seen as limitations, but in fact they are the only way to freedom for us humans. Life is about choices, ones that make you free.
When I took the hand of my wife, who would become your mother, and married her before the altar, I was asked to confirm my choice, and I did, we did, before God. By doing so, we made a promise and witnessed to it before Him: to be patient, to be kind, not to be envious or arrogant or rude; not to insist on our own way, not to be resentful, not rejoice in wrong doing, but rejoice in the truth. We committed to bear all things, believe in all things, hope all things, endure all things. We promised that our love never end, that is, to give birth to life and make it grow until we depart from it.
Indeed, no other promise had ever made me feel freer. Your mother, my wife whom I love as much as you (but with a different love) was the only daughter I chose. With her I sing, I draw, I paint, I dream and I write. We play music together, rejoice in art together, we give life to life, we put it in a child and so were you born, my little.
My wife needed never to ask me about my past life. She wouldn’t let me say anything, made me keep everything, because, she always says, it belongs only me. By doing so, she made me free. When I talk to her I never hide, I share with someone who listens without uttering a word, especially that. Later, perhaps later, the time of remembrance will come.
As for the daughter not chosen I say: ‘So long, my love, it was a pleasure pronouncing your name, and think of it as mine.’ Had I seen her again, I would have hugged her and kissed her on the cheek, and solaced her with my tenderness. I would even drink her tears. I remain forever grateful for the parcel of life she gave me and that made me a better man. Not one for her, but one for you, my little Zoï that I love.
This is a letter to embrace new cycles, and follow a new thread, the one – the only one – that led me to you. And that is what the child in me, that you are, was curious to know.
Deeply, I love only life. And that is why I love you, my Zoï.
I love you deeply.
Inspired by Wajdi Mouawad’s letter to his daughter Aimée
(However, the author of the present letter has neither been married nor has he ever had children – at least none he knows of.)