Thursday, July 30, 2015

July 30: Red Pajamas, Wormhole Existence, Sharon Olds, "The Present Moment"

The night before, on Christmas Eve, after spending the evening with Luis and the family in his living room after a lamb dinner and after making toasts to friendship and love; after Luis had left (around midnight) and Ives had finished talking to his daughter and his sister, Katherine, about the next day's plans (dinner at his daughter's and son-in-law's apartment at three), he got into bed beside his wife; after carrying on to Annie about the cruel and selfish changes in the political climate of the country in regard to the poor and disadvantaged (unfairly condemned in Ives' words to "a hopeless future") and after kissing his wife, Ives slept through the night serenely.  That morning he awoke in his bedroom to find his son, Robert, about six years old, in red pajamas and thick black stockings, alive again and playing quietly in the corner of the room with his toy soldiers, jousting horsemen, black knights versus white, moving them across the floor.  And even though Ives knew that his son had been dead for nearly thirty years, he now saw the boy looking out the bedroom window of their old apartment on Claremont into the courtyard, which was glaring white with falling snow...

Ives frequently dreams about his son in the years following his son's death.  Sometimes, Robert is an adult, serving as a parish priest in a church.  Sometimes, he's still a teenager, getting up early in the morning to deliver newspapers.  And, sometimes, he's a little boy, playing with toy soldiers in Ives' bedroom on Christmas morning.  Memories and dreams and visions of Robert haunt Ives for the rest of his life.

This afternoon, I went to have lunch at the surgery center where I worked for my sister for 17 years.  Many of my friends still work there, including one of my very best friends.  All the people there know my sister.  As I sat at my old desk, eating, I looked down the hall, to the door of my sister's old office.  I could see a sliver of light under the door, on the floor.

For several strange moments, I actually thought that the door was going to open and my sister was going to come out of the office, calling out to me the way she always did, "Hey, Mart."  She would be dressed in her blue scrubs, the surgical bonnet on her head and her shoes covered in blue booties.  It was as if I had somehow stepped back about four or five years.  I could actually hear her voice.

Of course, that version of my sister is gone.  I know that, just like Ives knows Robert has been dead thirty years in the above passage.  But, where I work, I'm surrounded by reminders of my sister every day.  Walking through the medical center parking lot some mornings, I still catch myself looking for my sister's van.  I'm living a wormhole existence, in the past and present simultaneously.  I think it's because, out of everybody in my family, I spent the most time with my sister over the last 20 years.  Ten hours a day, five days a week, not counting weekends.

It was literally painful this afternoon when I realized that her office door wasn't going to open, that she wasn't going to come out.

Saint Marty needs to have lunch somewhere else tomorrow.

The Present Moment

by:  Sharon Olds

Now that he cannot sit up,
now that he just lies there
looking at the wall, I forget the one
who sat up and put on his reading glasses
and the lights in the room multiplied in the lenses.
Once he entered the hospital
I forgot the man who lay full length
on the couch with the blanket folded around him,
that huge, crushed bud, and I have
long forgotten the man who ate food--
nor dense, earthen food, liked liver, but
things like pineapple, wedges of light,
the skeiny nature of light made visible.
It's as if I abandoned that ruddy man
with the swollen puckered mouth of a sweet-eater,
the torso packed with extra matter
like a planet a handful of which weighs as much as the earth, I have
left behind forever that young man my father,
that smooth-skinned, dark-haired boy,
and my father long before I knew him, when he could
only sleep, or drink from a woman's
body, a baby who stared with a steady
gaze the way he lies there, now, with his
eyes open, then the lids start down
and the milky crescent of the other world
shines, in there, for a moment, before sleep.
I stay beside him, like someone in a rowboat
staying abreast of a Channel swimmer,
you are not allowed to touch them, their limbs
glow, faintly, in the night water.

Care to follow me through the looking glass?

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