n c A R n A T E
One day i passed us on the freeway. it was 101 north of L.A., and inexplicably, i came upon the two of us, young lovers, headed in the opposite direction. So surprised was i to see us, i nearly swerved off the road. i twisted in my seat to look as we drove away in all directions with our stories heading elsewhere. .......... When our child died in April, it was an event that attached my husband to me like gravity, without which i feared he would drift up and out into the sky until i could see him no longer, a balloon that had escaped my grasp. That we could conjure up such a futile expression of life, chaos in every cell, was as if a storm had scattered the very dnA of us. days passed nonetheless. .......... Once, as children picking berries, we came upon a snake. My brave brother, who knew all the business of snakes, who had slept with boas, who had crept from canoes to take draped snakes from trees that leaned in from the shore, pinched the snake behind its head and lifted it in his purple palms. dead he concluded. i can’t recall who or how or why we decided to explore this creature, but it seemed now inevitable. it was to be very scientific, and i dashed inside our house for an assortment of knives. i closed my eyes when my brother cut that thin line down the lovely belly. When i opened my eyes, it was to silence and the terrible dissonance that stalls time into a clump of bewilderment, as when bad news is delivered upon uncomprehending adults clinging to what had just been, but was no longer. A tiny heart in the center of the snake lay quietly still beating. it was a wet trembling pulse the color of garnet, as if a ripe berry had fallen there. . . . . . . . . . .
i went weak at the knees and nearly fainted when i returned to your hospital room to find you bound by straps and gagged by tubes that coiled out from you like snakes, doctors frantic in their gestures that revealed the balloon was slipping, slipping... From your briar of needles and blood-filled vines, your eyes held mine, and we had no need to look away for the first time since we were lovers. We spoke like this silently, and it was as if we’d stepped outside the hospital room to that open stretch of highway north of L.A. while doctors tended to your body. Until there was no more talking, and our words fell away from us like pages being torn from a book. i gathered the pages up like an archaeologist and read the story backward: .......... Tomorrow we will pause on the stairs of a walkup apartment in 1989 as we once again make the path from kitchen to bed — though it is forever incomplete when we stumble out from under all the desire we’d cooked up at the stove with anchovies and garlic and the breadstuff of hunger and sink into the murmurings of a familiar story — a story being erased as it was told. . . . . . . . . . . At last your red truck with us, unwitting passengers in our present tense, faded from view, and Time — which had stretched out thin and taut and wavering — broke apart with the whoosh of a slingshot, and my memories like stones free of their stone burden went flying off into the desert. it was an act of faith to let them go.
Published on Nov 11, 2010