Letter from “Finding Dimitri”

Dimitry became my best friend when I was an exchange student in Concepción, Chile, where he shared his keen curiosity and active intelligence. I was there in 1964-65, and we continued our friendship through a decade of correspondence, as well as a memorable visit to my home in Bergen County, N.J.

After a careless move in which much of my personal correspondence was lost, this is the only remaining letter I have from Dimitry. It is dated May 4, 1967, shortly after his visit to the U.S., and seven years before he was to disappear mysteriously during Pinochet’s reign of terror. Dimitry’s keen intelligence and his inquisitive imagination have remained both an anchor and a call to action as I’ve tried to “rediscover” him through my writing.

A little late, but here I am: Weather is the same you saw in your arrival to Chile. (If I think how long it is since then and realize that it’s been so many years…time is running fast.) It’s pouring. It’s pouring. Drops from a dirty sky falling on the heads and consciousness of my classmates. Yes. ‘Classmates:’ I decided my future. History. My ancient dreams of journalism fell apart when I saw black clouds of starvation. And I heard a few ugly stories about this career in the states. (It seems that the modern world no longer has real journalists, at least in the sense that I used to imagine. We have specialists. For example in law. Or sports. Who write in newspapers and magazines, but who aren’t journalists—just outstanding people in their fields.) So, the journalist like Da Vinci, a man who knows almost everything, is nonexistent.

In any case, I am in my second year of History and Geography going for my doctorate. Then I’ll go to the States, take any ship, and sail around the world. When I feel tired, I’ll return to the States, take some classes in Minnesota and try to find a teaching position and do research. The University of Minnesota has an agreement with my university about studying, so it should be easy to continue my work there.

What else? As always, I am a complete bum in school. It was almost a miracle that I passed my exams last year. Of course a Machiavellian personality helped and a small percentage of knowledge.

These months have been some of the best of my life. I did everything I wanted, and luck smiled a lot. I went to the coast, about three hundred miles north. It was all a photograph you would have appreciated. Big rocks gleaming with salt water, a deep blue sky, a few birds, peace, and miles and miles of sand. The most important thing was the feeling of loneliness—to know that you are alone completely and must live all by yourself.

Sometimes I threw a nylon line from the rocks and fell asleep. When the line began to shutter, well, usually there was a fish at the end. I brought in oil, salt, sugar, bread and coffee. That was enough. Then, I must confess, I was moved by the stars—as a poet said, ‘the wrinkles of God’—burning coldly. And there was a small wind throwing drops of salt and water in the darkness.

I was in my own world. It was a great stage for long distance thoughts. In those moments you get such peace of mind that I would recommend that all cops take their juvenile delinquents to the shore and leave them for a week.

Also, I am, for the first time, a little bit in love. I met a small, kind and curious brunette. She finished the University last year as a structural designer. She is very intelligent and struggles to take an equal place in our society which is still more about men than women, but she seems to find me more than acceptable.

Everything began with conversations about big themes—philosophy, science and so forth. But then it led to intimacy beyond ideas. This is not exactly a typical approach to seduction. But what can I say?

Well, I’m tired now. And the bed is warm and nice. I’ll read another chapter in Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’ and then ‘the black clouds of death will surround me for a while.’

You can see, my friend, that I am a cheap poet. I hope you continue with your drawings. I want to see more. I have been a swine not to write more often.

Send my regards to you and your family.

Tell them I love them.  Dimitri

 

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