i learned to hate virginia woolf when i was nineteen,
standing in the streets of london, bloomsbury wrinkling
me between the creases of my notebook. Mrs.
Dalloway sucked the homesickness from my tongue,
husked the memory of her lips from my skin. virginia
feared herself too, but that doesn’t matter. i did
once, still despise how i let them see my insecurities
pockmark my smile. i should’ve known it was a
mistake to have sent love letters to my girlfriend with
quotes from virginia “you’ll like to make me unhappy I know.”
vita didn’t deserve virginia, but “deserve” isn’t a reality
when there’s always another mary or violet or rosamund, not
when rocks in pockets are warm from clutching them in your fists.
not even all the praise and adoration of literary fictionists was
enough to keep her heart plastered together with the ink and
paper from the letters vita stopped sending her, to keep the
water from festering with spilled sunsets and algae-crusted
anxiety. i learned to love virginia woolf when i was
twenty, sitting in the middle of an empty parking lot on
granger road, the cicadas loathing me with their blank stares
and twisted appendages. The Waves brought me home,
wrapped the faded light from lighthouses around my shoulders
and told me it was going to be alright. i knew it would be, but
that doesn’t matter. i don’t want it to be, not with my empty
hands fisted at my sides, still shocked at how i opened myself
- i said goodbye to her with quotes from vita: “I can do nothing—
except be your ever very loving Vita.” but neither of
us deserve virginia. no one ever did.
*Quotes taken from the book Love Letters: Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West edited by Alison Bechdel
Em Dietrich is a genderqueer author represented by the Belcastro Agency. They are an MFA candidate at The New School and have been published in numerous literary magazines, including Flat Ink Magazine. Currently, they split their time between Ohio and New York City, where there are far fewer cornfields but many more haunted coffee shops.
Editorial Art by Dilara Sümbül