Exhibition Object Label

In the Afflict the Comfortable exhibition, June 27 - October 4, 2015, Twister (from the Seven Sisters Schools series) was paired with the following words by Mary Gordon:

On hearing of the death of an enemy

She wished me harm. She wanted to harm me. I never knew why. Others said that she was jealous, or that perhaps she loved me, and that her love was blocked, balked. She said that I had stolen her life. That I wanted too much of her, wanted us to be best friends, assumed that we were equals and we were not: she was a professor, I a graduate student, and by insisting that she link herself with me I was destroying her possibilities for professional advancement. It was the early seventies. We both had dogs. I phoned her one night to ask her to take care of my dog because I wanted to spend the night with someone I had just met. She agreed; it didn’t occur to me that this would be a problem.

A few days later, I left for a three-week holiday. When I returned my mailbox was full: twenty-five letters, in which she told me how I had destroyed her life. In the three weeks that I was gone, she told everyone everything I had said about them. Repeated all the gossip we’d bred and stored in a year of being what I had thought was best friends. Many people felt betrayed by the things she told them and no longer wanted to see me. Others took her side because they felt that she was mentally fragile, and I was strong, that she was a professor and deserved, therefore, their allegiance, and anyway I would be leaving soon. She told me that, as Haldeman or Ehrlichman said to John Dean (this was the time of Watergate): if I said anything to anyone she would “blast me out of the water.”

Thirty-five years later, at lunch with mutual friends, I discover that she died, young, of breast cancer.

I think of all the hours I spent in torment connected to her.

At the table, a phrase comes to me:

Wasted sorrow.

— Mary Gordon

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