"Forgive me," I said. "But how exactly do you get by? Do you have property, or some kind of revenue?"
"I have nothing," he said.
"How do you live then?"
"By doing something that doesn't interfere for even a moment in thinking of and loving and searching for Tulsu. Rather the opposite. My loving Tulsu is important, okay, but it's not enough. I must let the whole world know that I love her. Everyone must know that I love Tulsu. If I can't make this understood, then my life will have no meaning. Every human being who exists in this world, must find their own way and then prove it to others. Otherwise, their lives will become an absurdity that has no meaning."
I couldn't quite get this. To get him to go into it a little more, I said, "What do you mean?"
"People aren't alone. It's not enough for a person to live only to know themselves. Other people must know that he lives, that he exists in this world. And the more people who know, the more he exists. The reason everyone exists is different, very different. Mine is loving Tulsu. Maybe I am in this world to love Tulsu, and to let everyone know I love her."
"And how are you doing this?"
"I'm telling people, of course. For example, tonight I told you. Now you know--I love Tulsu. Because of this, I exist for you now. You know that I am alive. I am trying to tell everyone. In the past, I would go to the mountains and the country and the forests and shout as loud as I could, "Tulsu, I love you!!"
"I would listen to the echoes of my voice. Because it wasn't good to always shout in exactly the same way, I sometimes changed my words and location, or started shouting in a higher or lower voice, changing always changing."
Then, as if he were screaming in a forest out in the country, but screaming in a low, thin voice so that the other tables couldn't hear, he said:
"Tulsu, I love you!"
"I love you, Tulsu!"
"It's you I love, Tulsu!"
"You! Tulsu! I love you!"
"You! I love you! Tulsu!"
"By spreading my voice to the whole world, I want everyone to learn I love Tulsu, and in learning this, to know that I am alive! That I exist! So I have started, like a song, saying it on the roads and fields and in the crowds, 'Tulsu, I love you."
"Do you have a nice voice?"
"No. It's ugly, and on top of that, I am tone deaf. And yours?"
"I'm the same."
"Because I'm tone deaf and have an ugly voice, every time I say it, it's with a different voice and in a different style. And I am wandering the world this way. From every post office of every place I go I send a telegram that says, 'I love you, Tulsu.' It depends on money, but sometimes I send five or six telegrams."
"So you know Tulsu's address!"
"No. How could I? I just make up an address and send it."
"And if they can't find it, don't they send it back?"
"I guess so. But not to me, because I make up my address, too. And since a lot of the post offices in some of the towns I have stayed in already know me and make fun of me, I send my telegrams from different post offices. Let them laugh, but they will learn that I am loving Tulsu. The more that's known, the more I am."
The tables in the bar had started to empty. We, too, had stayed past midnight. We may have staggered when we walked, but we weren't so drunk that we didn't understand what we were saying or know what we were talking about.
"For about four days now," he said. "In the afternoons for about an hour or two, I'm at the Culture Palace Parade Ground. Come there tomorrow."
"What are you doing there?" I asked.
"I'm shouting 'I love you, Tulsu' until my voice gives out."
"Look, you asked what job I do. Well, that's it. Let me explain how I started. I had sent my last telegram that day to Tulsu. I had no money. I wandered here and there and came upon the Culture Palace Parade Ground. I don't know if you've seen it, but it's a fun place. Everyone there is showing off each their own skills and artistry and talents. Some of them have dog acrobats, and they make three or four little dogs do the most incredible feats. One guy plays three or four instruments all by himself, and one can draw a caricature right there on demand. There’s a girl and a boy who do pantomime, and a man who swallows swords and then yanks them back out again. There’s a man who draws colorful pictures on the sidewalk with chalk. One guy who makes four or five monkeys do gymnastics gets a lot of applause. One woman does a puppet show on this tiny little stage. And there’s more and more, show after show. I watched crowds gather around these people. The most interesting ones had the bigger crowds. And when everyone finished their tricks and shows, those in the crowd who felt like it threw money into their box and on the ground in front of them. They amassed quite a bit of change.”
“It’s an extraordinary place, especially for me. In fact, it’s the ideal place for me to advertise my love for Tulsu. I, too, found a spot on the edge of all the others and began shouting. I told them, screaming and screaming, how much I loved Tulsu. I will never forget when they started to gather in front of me. And I mean a lot of people. Some of them made fun of me, some of them shouted, some of them listened. I shouted until I tired out, and then I fell quiet, and they started throwing money. And so much! I ran to the post office and sent a telegram to Tulsu. And from that day on, I’ve gone to the parade ground in the afternoons. If you’d like, why don’t you come tomorrow?”
I do recall getting in the taxi together and telling the driver the address of my hotel, but I don’t know anything about what happened after that. In other words, I had been drunker than I thought.
The next day, I woke up late, and I remembered the previous night as if it had been a dream. In the afternoon, I went to the Culture Palace's Parade Grounds. And just like the man had said, it was really a place of strange and extraordinary entertainments. Fire swallowers and snake charmers, and a guy making pigeons do flying somersaults inside a huge cage, the five minute portrait artist. I wandered through them all and finally found him. He was in a place on the edge of everything, and if I had not heard him shouting "I love you Tulsu!", then it would have not been easy for me to find him. He was surrounded on all sides by an incredibly huge crowd. I don't think there was any possibility of him seeing me because when I arrived, he was shouting with his eyes closed. But then, I don't think I can simply call this shouting, and it wasn't a song either. His voice was indeed ugly, but he was shouting and screaming and moaning like someone whose soul was burning, who was suffering terribly. There were people from all walks of life in the crowd, men, women, old people, and young people. Some had brought tapes and were recording his shouts. And just like he himself had said, there were some making fun of him, and some cheering, and even some throwing rocks at him. But there were others stopping the rock throwers.
I bitterly regretted that I myself had not a tape recorder on me to record his shouts. But the next day I would come with one. A few people were writing down what he was shouting, and then it dawned on me a moment later, I could do the same! And so I started scribbling. Here are bits and pieces of what I wrote down:
"Hey, listen already, listen and learn how I love Tulsu. Don't let there be even one person who doesn't hear. Let even the deaf hear, and learn, and know. Let nursing mothers with breasts full of milk hear, let the boiling blood of people making love and the fresh blood rushing through the veins of newborns hear. Let the fingers of lovers touching each other for the first time hear. Let the lips with their first kiss still on them hear. Let all those with the ache of frustration in their groins hear. Let them listen and learn geography and history and time, I love Tulsu!"
His screams were like a cave in which there were all kinds of human agonies that had never before been put into words. People born a hundred thousand years ago, and people born a hundred thousand years from now will surely shout in the same way with the same pain that he felt. In that crowd, there were a lot of people who did not know his language, but who were listening carefully anyway. For them, it wasn't the meaning they were listening to, but the voice; they were listening to the agony of it, to its passion and longing. Sometimes it was grating on the ears, sometimes it wrenched the heart. Sometimes he seemed about to laugh, sometimes it was with a voice gruff and weak from crying, and when even that weak voice would not come, he whispered, and when he couldn't whisper his lips trembled the words out, still telling them all, "I love you, Tulsu."
I thought about why so many people took such interest in this man's primitive screams. Did they, unable to summon enough courage on their own, put themselves in this screaming man's place? Did they all want to scream "I love you Tulsu!" whether man or woman or child or adult? Maybe this man, by crying and moaning and screaming, is proclaiming that he loves Tulsu on behalf of us all.
He crumpled to the ground and stayed there. They left money in front of him. The crowd broke up. He remained there a while. I wondered if this had been some sort of play. Was he, like everyone else on the parade grounds, just playing a part? After a bit, he gathered himself up. He saw me. We said hello. He collected the money off the ground.
"Come on," he said. "Let's get to the post office and send a telegram."
I asked if he was going to repeat the same show. No, he could only do it a few times.
"Do you say the same thing every day?" I asked.
"No," he said. "I'm not some kind of actor. Every moment, life is changing, and my voice and words change with it."
We went to a post office. He leapt up the stairs with vigorous steps I never would have expected from a man his age. He looked for an empty table in the huge lobby where he could write his telegram.
I stood at his side and saw him write, "I love you Tulsu." And then the fake address. I saw him take it up to the window and I saw the postal worker there show it to the worker next to him and make some snide comment. In other words, they already knew him, but nevertheless they accepted the telegram.
We left the post office.
"Now I'll send a telegram from a different post office in town and leave this city."
"Where are you going?" I asked.
"How should I know?" he said. "Any place where I have a hope of finding her."
We shook hands and parted. After a moment, I looked back. And it was like he had understood, after going a ways, that I was watching him. He, too, turned and looked back at me. He waved, and then I waved.
Then I returned to the post office. I took a paper from the window and wrote, "I love you, Tulsu." Who could I send such a telegram to?
Then, my dear V.D., you came to mind. I wrote your address, and gave the telegram to the officer at the window.
"I love you, Tulsu!"
There is something you will not be able to understand in my telegram, I'm sure, but who knows? How surprised you must have been!