leaves from the journal of a soul
by David A. Schwimmer
from The Wilderness
Danny scribbled the
words, slower than they were thought, half-empty, half-void. A grey pencil, somehow it was expected to draw, to make, to tell,
but it didn’t.
How does one explain how
hard it is to follow day in, to morning in sleepiness, to shower in cold. I am alone on chilly ground that will not explain
its chilliness to me. Sadness comes welling up out of the aching heart and into my hands, and I must write, write. I wake
to fear the day, for I am still living, and there is something terribly frightening in my life. I am still living, and I should
not be, for I still do not know why the ground is so cold. The world spins and spins and heeds Newton or Aristotle or Someone--but
not me. It is too busy, it will not slow down for one who longs for the forgotten-lost. The lost, the ever-remembered, the
seldom-remembered, the easily forgotten. The black that shines against the black, the silver white; the ghost images of ships
and trees. Trees weeping their leaves harshly to the ground. I sleep and sleep and when I finally dream, a door closes, locking
me in, so that I cannot free myself. I am blind to dreams that only I can see. I wake and sleep. Yet I fear death, for this
is only a beginning, and I must pass, I have to, God, I have to, and I am so sleepy, and yet, and--what am I saying--and yet
I must keep living . . . I MUST KEEP LIVING . . . because, ‘cause, I don’t know, and . . . are the people grieving
hill was long and the people small. Narrow paths inched past the tree, the tired tree, the growing tree. The sun did not feel
the love he was trying to find; the sun filled the sky, and the shower of tears falling from his face blinded him. The narrow
path inched past the tired tree, the growing tree. The people were small. The bottom of the hill was dusty, and the dust was
clay-dust, clinging with a stubbornness that frightened him. The rocks cut through his feet, and the dust rose to choke him,
and he felt his life running in a small trickle down the few feet behind him.
He faced the hill, and felt its pull, yet the step to go on belonged to himself, and the
sweat did not cool him. He knew that it would be all right once he was on the hill, but he hesitated, for the sweat did not
cool him. The sweat, the sweat, it hammered through his eyes and his head, and blessed Mary it was not sweat but tears and
they were perfect tears, for they fell as tears of sadness. Again he felt the rocks cutting his feet and felt the sun shining
on. A shiver ran through his body, and he woke.
So why dream of mountains? They do not
hurt. It was a frightening dream, and yet I think that it had hope in it, in a thin thread winding down from the tree. The
tree, it was so far up the hill, yet I could see it, and . . . but did I ever see it? I felt . . . and it was growing and tired--or
was it me that was tired? And the paths! Longer than the hill, winding, and
crawling, if a path can crawl with no people on it. I was alone at the bottom of the hill, and somehow
that seemed terribly wrong when I awoke. It was the difference between the sweat and the tears, or something like that. I
was waiting for someone, and it wasn’t God, or anything like that--it was a boy, a man? A . . . I don’t know.
It’s getting so vague now, and I just can’t see. I feel so tired again, and I’m trying to think of that
dream, and all I can think of is . . . is . . . My God, I think the people were crying, and the tree, the tree was weeping
leaves, and someone beside me was trying, trying to . . . trying to let me see, Oh God, how sad he was, and he was crying,
too, and I felt it tear my heart .
. . .
Danny stared, frightened, at the ceiling. Slowly he got out of bed, dressed, and left the
street was filled with buses and cars, lights and shops, tables and people.
Danny rushed past the shops and stared intently into each passing face. He hurried
down the street with which he was so familiar. It began to rain, but he hurried on.
Block after block, why had he never noticed before?
Street after street, how did they suddenly appear?
Person after person, had all these been born?
He stood finally at the beginning and stared down the street.
The street was long.
The street was silent.
It was filled with silent tables and empty people.
Danny looked up at the sky. The stars were bright. He frowned, remembering nights
immersed in stars and light, when he would lie on his back and feel himself wafted into the blue-black sky. And the man
in the moon smiling down on wet-brown locks. Danny frowned again.
The street was long and the shadows wide, and it was well past midnight. But Danny
The sun morninged over the street, and Danny slowly felt his eyelids opening. Had
he slept the night on a bench? Of course! A green, hard bench.
Danny turned his head and saw a man sitting beside him. No, not a man, but a boy. His brown, wet hair glistened in the morning light, and the sounds
of the city were but subjected to the heart-rending splash of tears on the green bench.
Danny stared at him, and staring he awoke.
Oh my God, I am afraid to sleep! That is my dream! Being far
from home and alone, and you know how to get home, but you can’t, ‘cause there just isn’t enough time left
in the dream. But then, then, there is enough time but I . . . just don’t know about it in the dream. I mean, I know
that the time is there, but it isn’t there for me. It’s only there for the waking me. Or maybe the sleeping me
is afraid to use the time. Or knows that the time can not be touched. Or . . . what am I saying? I’m trying not to think
about that boy because he frightens me. Oh God, he frightens me! He was too real! I could see each strand of each little lock
of hair, hair that fell perfectly, perfectly as only wet, uncombed hair can fall. And he wanted to speak to me, he was going
to say something to me, but the tears clouded his eyes, and when I looked at him, all I could see was the mirror eyes, the
eyes one sees in a mirror. And I wanted to talk to him, but I was alone, and I was afraid that if he answered any of my questions
I would start screaming. And he just kept on crying and crying and crying, and I’m going to have to go back to sleep
because all I can feel now is his tears on my cheeks . . . .
brilliant stream of white light glistened in a blackness everpresent. Danny watched as men climbed up and down the white,
and stared closely at them, for he saw that they were not men but winged watchers, and that more came down than went up. Yet
Danny knew that they all wished to go up. Their movement was smooth, and the winging silent, yet Danny felt each one of them
and stared on. Suddenly he realized that he was not seeing anything, and that he had slept for much too long. He woke, and
he was by the window, watching he knew not what.
then I wake up. I can no longer pretend that I am asleep. It is so clear now, it is so clear. Yes! Yes! I can see it now!
Oh God, the wind is so cooling . . . .
wind began to blow through him, and suddenly he saw the ship very clearly, and the tree, with harsh leaves that were now red,
now gold, now green. And the water clearer than any dream, a dream in itself and by its own right. A dream itself.
The pencil dropped and fell to the floor. Danny slipped into sleep:
blind dreams for blind dreamers, the moon overcoming the night and persuading him to wake up. Maybe just for one more try.
There runs a whispering murmur through
Christmas carols sung
in snow and the cold.
Water climbs gently
through my soul,
And the well draws
deeply of sunken sweetness.
When I close my mind
I see the tree,
With roots firmed
down in submerged sorrow
With leaves laughing
out to the sky.
I hear a noise,
And it is the sound
of sturdy walkers,
With eyes a greyness
I hear a noise,
And it is the sound
of a child jumping,
And the laughter of
a leaping dog.
I close my mind now,
And I hear the roar
of pebbles on the sea
And boats, far away:
Grey eyes laugh, and
brown eyes calm:
Winter and summer,
the tree grows inward.
The temple of myself
again comes free,
And I flow with the
A wanderer found in
the midst of the sea.
DUKE JOURNAL - Age 18
Rabbit Rabbit Day and I forgot. Coach B. makes me trust him so much, makes me stop
worrying, makes me want to run, I guess.
Then, Preston, looking at me with such love. I look awkwardly down and feel ugly. I don’t
know, I don’t know. I love her so much, but follows a dream in which I rest my head in a man’s arms. Oh Lord,
somewhere in my youth . . . .
I am first day at Duke again. Lord, Lord, what am I doing here besides loving Preston,
working at Docs, running, learning. I’m answering myself. But, God, how hysterical: what happened to classes and studying?
As you may note, the typing life is back in full swing--today
was the beginning of classes. I ran with the cross country team for the first time yesterday: my ankle seems to be sort of
better. I can run on it now, but then, I banged it against a door last night and almost screamed with pain. Hmm. Practice
was at 4:30 and almost knocked me out. The runners quickly split up into two groups, mainly those who had trained during the
summer and those who hadn’t. I got stuck, thankfully, in the second group. Strange how I feel awfully slow sometimes.
Coach B. is neat, though.
It’s hard to explain to a million people why I’m sleeping on the floor. One
guy came in late at night and asked Dale if he had a dog (I heard that!). Besides the fact that this room
has absolutely no book space, it’s O.K. now. That is, if you don’t mind a pile of books in the
middle of the floor. Or people tramping through to go up on the roof. Actually, I spend some time there, hoping for falling
stars . . . .
I’m going to cease and desist. Hopefully, I’ll see someone on Sunday.
David, official A.P.
Wilson third floor correspondent
My problem must be that I exaggerate. I told Dale that I’m madly in love with
Preston. But I’m not madly in love. I’m in love. But not PERIOD.
Colon, perhaps. You see, I still feel a need to define my love. Isn’t it funny? I wanted to hold her hand so badly,
I mean, felt so awkward not doing it. Yet, calm down, David. You’re asking for trouble.
I feel so sure now that I’ve decided about my running. My ankle is still messed up. Yesterday I was thinking along the lines of, “I’ll accept what God sends
me, running or not running.” Today it is the same, but with a major resurgence towards truth and patience and strength:
I cannot run now. I must tell Coach B. that. But I still want to run for the team. I have three years ahead.
I will rest now, start swimming to strengthen my ankle, and then gradually work into running WHEN I AM WELL. If he can accept
me, I think I can do it. I want to be able to do it. It’s strength that I want. Oh Lord, and the decision
feels so right!
C’mon David, tell Dave. Say Hey to Billy. Don’t lie to the world about
I’m afraid that I’m not lying to the world but to myself. David, do you
really not want to be homosexual, or are you just fooling yourself. How much do you love Preston (admit she bores you at this
Oh God, my neck hurts me so much tonight. I’m feeling every ounce of my tightness
and hatred of life.
This breeze up on the roof really makes me feel better. Actually, it makes me feel beautifully
washed, dressed, cleaned. Preston unnerves me with her loving stares. I wish I knew what she had behind them. And she always
knows when I’m upset. And she always asks what’s wrong. And I always evade and finally answer. Hmm.
Preston and I were talking about naming kids yesterday. At the end of the discussion she
said that she’d probably never be in the position to name kids anyway. That startled me, and I felt like asking her
why; she could have just been joking, but I wonder.
Sad, sad, unhappy, and upset. I feel now as though I don’t want to go to school.
Why, why, why Hebrew, Organic, English, why? Why not, too, and that just as troublesome. Then, needing someone to talk to
and feeling snubbed by Preston, with no snub intended--but I can’t keep throwing myself at her. I feel like saying,
“Forget it, David, she’ll never love you as you’re thinking.” I’ve got to stop. I’ve got
God, why does it seem that I’m just discovering how much I love some people.
Preston, every day I love you more. (Wow, did that sound like a soap opera or not?) “What’s
Emily: stalwart and cheering: “How are you? No, don’t answer that.”
Wanda: comfortable elegance: “Good morning.”
Rise up, David, lift up your eyes above your aching knees and bless the Lord. Hail, who
comes in the spirit of the Lord. Hail, Hail, Hail!
How did I forget so easily all the wind pain, and mind pain, and frustration pain that
comes with running. We ran nine yesterday afternoon. I wasn’t the worst; I wasn’t the best. I’m tired, bones moving stiffly only at command.
And so easy to talk with Dave.
You see, in a way I love him, too, God.
So, upset with Preston at the dance with Johnny and not me, I go to Ruth and spill the
beans: I mean, this time it was a little bit easier than the time I told Dale, but saying, “Do you know I’m madly
in love with Preston?” and then, when she starts to ask a question, “But wait, there’s more.” Pause
pause, try, pause. “For the last three or four years,” pause pause, “I’ve considered myself gay.”
Big pregnant silence. “Why?”
Thank you, Ruth. Thank you, Ruth. I’m so much happier now.
I am so a happy person, I am so!
It makes me feel uneasy spiritually that I am so depressed when I wake
up in the morning. Why? It goes away, usually, after shower or breakfast, but invariably I wake again in the same depression.
The content of my dreams (which, right now, I am making no effort to remember) seems to have some bearing: Happy dream, happy
Still so dissatisfied with life, David?
Yes, no, maybe.
Can’t I please wait and answer that tonight?
I will rise at 5:30 each morning for Yoga.
I will read three verses from the Bible after Yoga.
I will try to remember my dreams.
I will keep trying to run.
Oh Lord, give me a long-lived will!
guess I’m just feeling annoyed that I have to study on a Friday afternoon, that
I have to bitch constantly at Dale, that I have to be
so antipathetic about meeting someone Preston’s in love with, and going to a movie with Emily and Joselyn. Just
a bastard today, with a still-aching ankle and too big a lunch.
Shove it, boy, shove it.
Last night I was feeling vaguely, unhappily depressed, and I wandered over to Giles
[Dormitory] to find a Preston-comfort that I tell her Dale never gives me (nor anyone
else, honey, but I didn’t say that). I can’t and won’t deny how much I depend on Preston’s love and
intense questions and ready help. It makes me so happy to think of marrying her, maybe just knowing her all this life, but
then again her question, “David, what do you want,” and my really, truly spoken answer, “I want to
be happy,” with tears coming to my eyes because I was so unhappy last night.
there runs an undercurrent of bitterness in my life here at Duke. You see, I reach this English class and see a guy sitting
in front of me, and (not particularly thinking of him) I realize that I still miss and long--with a carved-out pain that I
love nevertheless--also for a friend who is a man, who I can grow with as I grow with Preston.