The Longing - a letter to Eduardo, from Ben

Hi Eduardo,

I know you’ll want to shoot me for this, but- yes, it’s me, Ben. The Longing. One of your novel’s main characters. To be honest: if you want to shoot me, well… go ahead, I understand. After all you created me. And it’s not what novel characters are supposed to do, is it: go and start our own lives, independent from our writer? Do things without them being written out? I mean, what if Emma Bovary had stepped out of her story 150 years ago, would Flaubert have been happy? Don’t think so. And Anna Karenina? Count Vronsky? Not sure if Leo Tolstoy would have appreciated it.

So, don’t think I don’t understand, because I do, I do. For God’s sake, I might be the first novel character to ever take such radical measures! I’m well aware of that, I’m no idiot. If I was meant to be an idiot, you would have made me one. But, fortunately, you didn’t. So now I’m really sorry for this – I mean for acting like an independent human being -, - even when I plead at least partially not guilty. Because something very special happened yesterday morning, when i was sitting on my bed.

You weren’t writing, by the way, you were still sleeping. I can feel these things, you know. Does this surprise you? Well, let me tell you this: since the beginning of our story, The Longing, every time you start a paragraph about me I feel this stingy pain in my side. It comes up very suddenly and then disappears after a couple of seconds. Sometimes I ask myself: am I the only novel character experiencing this? Did Anna Karenina have this too? Then maybe that’s the reason she has ended up under that train. These things are insufficiently examined, that’s what I think. Readers suppose that it’s so easy, being a novel character… But let me tell you this: it isn’t. They don’t see the downsides. And, besides, the job is underpaid. But, okay, writing is too, so somehow we’re fellow-sufferers. Even when you’re my Creator; don’t think I’ll ever forget that.

Anyway –yesterday morning, on my bed. It was strange. I was reading a letter I’d just received from Rebecca (as you know my one and only true love writes me handwritten letters, she’s so adorable and I’m so happy you created her, Eduardo, she’s my Anna Karenina, you know, my Julia, my everything – and we owe you forever, you know that), - so I was reading this letter when suddenly I hear sirens. I jump up, run downstairs. On the stairs, firemen and nurses pass me by. In my house! I tell them there’s nothing wrong – I didn’t call 1-2-1 for God’s sake – but they treated me like I was invisible. So i follow them. I was confused, - perplexed even.

They run into my living room. Someone is laying on the floor. Well, not ‘someone’, - me. Indeed: the man laying on that rather psychedelic carpet… was me. Of course I didn’t understand, so I tap a nurse on the shoulder, she turns around. You’ll never believe this… Piercing blue eyes. “Rebecca!” I shout, confused (Rebecca? A nurse?), but she turns away, keeps on banging on the chest of the man on the floor – actually, on my chest. As i said: quite confusing.

Eduardo, my friend, my writer, I swear by all the saints in the calendar: I’ve never needed you more than on that moment. But where were you? Herding goats in these mountains of yours, I suppose. Not writing, anyway. I didn’t feel any stinging in my side. Meanwhile, I was hovering above her shoulder, like a ghost. I was hovering, and still, I was laying on that carpet too. Half dead I guess. I didn’t want to lose her, Eduardo, I need her. Meanwhile the Devil… – he was hiding in a corner of the ceiling, I could see him grinning. So with the very last drop of my strength I pulled through… That is: Rebecca kept banging and banging my chest, and she pulled me through. Oh, Eduardo: that girl is my guardian Angel.

To put a long story short – we both, I mean Rebecca and I, needed a time-out. Yes, our dear father, our Creator, our writer: we needed a moment by ourselves! Even if it was only for one night. So – better confess it right away, you would find out sooner or later anyway -, yesterday evening Rebecca and I met, for the first time without you creating an episode, nor even paragraph… We were so excited, Eduardo! We have met in Delft, by the way, not only because that’s the place where Rebecca lives nowadays, but because it was Johannes Vermeer’s hometown. I’ve witnessed the exquisite Vermeer light falling on the face of my beloved… As long as I live I’ll never forget that image… He would have been so proud of us.

It felt so weird…

You’re not too mad about this, are you? Please don’t be… You see, we’re only human beings, we have our small deficiencies… Hope you understand.

Yours sincerely,


P.s. Of course we keep you updated. We’ll even send you pictures! Here’s a first one, by the way… Remember the black dress with the sleeve buttons? You created it! Oh, Eduardo – you should have seen her in it: she was the most pretty creature on Earth!

(Picture 1 above: meeting Rebecca. Picture 2: painting by Johannes Vermeer, Maid delivering a Letter, 1667.)

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