Saturday, February 6, 2016

Grief, Act I

I.

Yesterday, at 10:04 a.m., 30 minutes and nine seconds into a steep uphill march on a treadmill at VASA Fitness, I read the final sentence of Paul Harding's Tinkers. At 30 minutes, fifty-six seconds into the march, Philip Glass' Itaipu trumpeted through my earbuds. My heart rate remained a steady 150 beats per minute. I held fast to the rails of the machine, reduced the incline, hung my head, and continued dragging my body forward through what my therapist calls "ambiguous loss."

This morning I woke at 3:47 a.m. from another seizure dream where my husband's eyes bulge at me like a fish, and he flops uncontrollably in my hands in some strange place where a fit is neither convenient nor safe. In the last two dreams of this sort one of us has been naked.

Loss is hard to wear. Too often the onlooker in my dreams will say: Do not give up faith! As if I have cast off some protective coat in a snowstorm, or a lifejacket just before spring runoff swells the boundary of the frozen riverbank. What I think the onlookers mean is: See! You are naked! Come. Slip back into denial with us, where we are warm and the floodwaters not yet high. But when I look down at my hand it is too late, The peach flesh has already been torn from the clingstone, and even if I were to spit out the juice, my mouth is filled with the taste of ebbing summers and I am drowning in dying light.

I sit up in bed and feel the flex of corded muscles braiding my back. They expand outward from their central origin, ripple and unfurl from a location I cannot see, living and breathing like animals between my shoulder blades. These animals threaten to continue plaiting themselves in plies of strength until a wholly new and unfamiliar creature peels open my spine, sprouts heavenward like wings or a beanstalk, and overtakes my identity.

My back: the first rung on Jacob's Ladder. Me: a reluctant angel. My husband: the clingstone peach, or at least the pit and a few remnants of the flesh that I struggle to recall as part of the whole, sweet fruit.

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