Friday, July 11, 2008

The Living

July 20th, 2006: When I first met Paul, I told my friends that when he died I would not go on without him, that I would rather become a nun than remarry. Now he is gone and I, still living, sit here like a hard nail secure in the wall. I have not yet remarried and have long since changed my mind about the value of becoming a nun. I would be unhappy as a nun, and Paul taught me better than to seek unhappiness.
I remember when I first told Paul that I loved him. Sitting on the old wooden bench in a small park, the trees above us covered much of the sky with their leaves, so the sky looked like exquisite blue lace. His hand firmly held mine, but the firmness turned our bones soft as silk as if to signal the luxurious texture of the moment. Our kiss, too, was rich as velvet, and all our other gestures became like garments to clothe our interwoven minds and souls.
We returned to that bench in the park many times during college; each kiss we had there reminded me of why I loved him (not that I ever really forgot). We always moved slowly on our walks, indifferent to time or the false necessity of conversation. Our communion with each other was based on the idea that the gesture (our smiling eyes when they’d meet) was pure and perfect. The talking between us came from me. I often tried at first to talk about things: my day, my view on this or that issue, something I had heard about another person. All the while, Paul stayed quite and looked at me with a smile on his face that said that he knew the futility of my efforts and that someday I would know it, too.
His hand held mine all through these walks, his arm gently swinging with mine as if our bodies had the purposeful motion of a grand father clock ticking evenly. I came to know all his gestures: if he stopped walking and pulled on my hand like a rider slowing down his horse, I knew to stop walking and to kiss him. At first, I was confused by the forcefulness of this command. He would stop me while I was talking, and it offended me that he didn’t want to listen. But it didn’t take me long to realize that he had cut me off not just for a kiss, but to show me that this was the meaning of it all, of life and thought and action: this, to express the human ability for happiness, guiltless, unbridled happiness, and not just the happiness of one person alone, but happiness that is multiplied when it is shared between two people.
I am now old and know the art of silent confidence, the art of fearless understanding. My love is long gone, and I continue my life without him still exercising my ability to use my mind. But I will say that I miss him immensely.

Lewis Cline sat in a blue leather armchair in the study of his mother’s home. The sun reluctantly peeked through the partially open dark green curtains, and many fuzzy particles of dusk hung to the angular light. The sunlight dust made the shape of a triangle, which contrasted with the round fold of the forgiving curtains. Cline, having just read proof of just how bad his mother’s Alzheimer’s had become, began to shake, but he did not notice his reaction until a big drop of sweat dripped down his chin and splattered on the paper which he held with a pulsing hand.
A tall, sturdy man entered the room. He had the look of hard-earned confidence, the kind of confidence that comes only from having your values and strengths tested many times. This look of self-assurance made his eyes bright and wide open, but somehow gentle in a kind of quiet indifference. He looked to Cline and expressed his greeting by silently nodding his head. At first, Cline opened his mouth to conduct the typical spoken greeting of “hello”, but then, remembering that he did not need to put on airs with his father, went silent. It was his father who spoke first after sitting down in the blue arm chair beside Cline.
“It has been this way for a long time.” He expressed these words with no fear, no sadness, no regret, in the same tone that he would have used in introducing himself.
The enormity of his mother’s condition swept over Cline, as if his father’s words were a flashlight illuminating something hidden but there all along.

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