I’ve been reading a book called Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer. As a chronic eavesdropper and curious (bordering on nosey) person, reading letters exchanged by two thoughtful, well-read people is right up my alley. Their mailings took place between the summer of 1968 and the fall of 1969 and must’ve been fast and furious on a near daily basis. As you read along, there is an excitement in their exchanges that makes itself plain.
Gorey and Neumeyer seemed to find a brother of like-mind in one another. Actually the way that I read it, their relationship almost has a romantic quality to it. Not romance in the I want to shag that guy way but rather a deep, heartfelt connection; a true knowledge and care. They were excited by not only reading received letters but also by writing and sharing themselves in their own letters. There is great power in feeling that you’re being seen and understood.
Part of me feels strangely jealous of their connection. I say that because I read a level of confidence in the knowledge that they meant something to each other. They each gave the other something by choice versus a parasitic relationship with one acting as the host and being devoured.
In one of the letters exchanged, Gorey wrote a 4-line poem that referred to their relationship as symbiotic. Just reading the word made me think of a pilot fish.
Did you know that sharks don’t eat pilot fish? Sometimes the little pilot fish will even swim into the jagged forest of razors that is a shark’s mouth, clean it of parasites and the mighty shark still does not clamp down. The ferocious killing machine does no harm to the little fish that gives all it has to give. Aside from not eating the pilot fish, the shark provides protection from other predators simply because of its proximity. Their relationship, though seemingly incongruous based on perceived power, is a benefit to them both.
Sometimes I feel like I’m just a humble pilot fish. I don’t do much but pick up the leftovers and keep the parasites at bay. But once in a while it’s good to remind myself that yes, the pilot fish is small but they survive swimming with sharks when others are eaten.