Tuesday, February 16, 2016

HOPE (chapter 7)
This is the chapter in which Jose dies. What, you’ve watched Jose die already? Get used to it. He dies in this book. A lot.
      At a quarter to midnight, six months after Jose’s death, Frank and I stood alone in a wind that seemed to blow directly from some northern tundra, though in fact it was blowing outside the Portland home where our grief group was about to ring in the New Year. The winter ground lay cracked and dry at our feet. Frank wore dark slacks, a white shirt, and a thinly lined leather jacket; cold has never penetrated Frank. I wore sweater tights, a denim skirt, and a triple thick wool sweater-- Jose’s sweater-- over a turtleneck, but I felt as if I were naked in the cold. As my teeth chattered beyond my control, Frank’s voice howled over the wind, shattering the small porcelain hope I can sometimes get in the last minutes of the last day of the year. 

      “You act like you’re the only one who can write. I can write!” said Frank the bluegrass fiddler. Frank the world traveler. Frank the seeker of new brown faces to love. “I loved Jose too, you know!” 

      In our shared grief, Frank and I had been inseparable. Everything we’d done had been a joint effort: Frank and Dina caring for Jose, Frank and Dina sorting Jose’s possessions, Frank and Dina missing Jose. I supposed, as I stood there wordless and chattering with cold, that Frank had assumed the writing of this experience would also be a joint effort. Guilty, I yelled back, and Frank roared off into the dark just minutes before midnight. “The bars aren’t closed yet,” he said, his voice trailing after him the way his Texas accent follows any high emotion. “I still got time to find me a husband!”

*   *   *   


Reaper was the platoon philosopher.
      “Time,” he said... “time is in the eye of the beholder. I go to sleep in May, I wake up in September. Okay, now it’s September. I go to sleep at nineteen-hundred. I wake up a month later, and it’s nineteen-oh-one.” 
      “How long has it been this way?”
      “All day, sir.” 
  The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

      In the land of memory the time is always now. 
      And now. 
      And... now. 

      The past is now. The future is now. And now it’s been so long since the past receded naturally from the present and the present walked forward toward the future that I’m no longer sure I know how, how to move forward in time.

      In the land of memory, time is not linear but recursive, looping back and back in an unending spiral, and each successive reliving of the past informs the next reliving and the next until the echo of that past is ever present and ever repeating and no longer just itself but a new thing, a thing both nourished and starved by what has happened just now. And now.

      I live in a place that looks out on the world from the wrong side of the looking glass-- or the wrong neck of the woods or the bottom of the rabbit hole, pick your metaphor, they’re all the same to me; I no longer live in the real world. And no matter what I do to finish this story, the story I wrote about my friendship with Jose, I find the present bleeding back into the past and the past bleeding all over everything. I can’t keep them separate. I live in the land of memory where the time is always now and now there’s no way out. 

      I told myself that today is the day. Any day could be the day, so it’s today. Today I begin this chapter, which is not a revision of what I first wrote so many years ago but a new chapter, a chapter of uncertainty that will somehow, I’ve no idea how, but somehow, transport me into the next phase of life: a life in which this story becomes complete, a life in which, somehow, I’ve no idea how, I can move forward, marching in sync with time. 

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