Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Invisible City of Lead Weights

There used to be a lightness to me. There were even moments when I became a dirigible and viewed the world from a lofty effortlessness that came with happiness. Things used to be easier for me, like walking, like moving my arms, like breathing and showering and eating and talking. Now when I speak my words fall on the ground like stones as soon as they leave my mouth. Attached to my arms, my legs, my fingers and ankles are lead weights. I wear a weighted jacket that compresses my chest when I lie down. I can feel it crushing my ribs. It makes it hard to sleep.

Where once there was a relationship with gravity that allowed for the occasional flight, now there is only the pull of the earth, holding me firmly in place. My feet have to be peeled off the ground. It takes great effort and so more often than not I just stand in one place feeling myself sink into the floor, the dirt, the sand. There are deep impressions of my feet in front of the sink, in front of the stove, in the shower outlined in cracked porcelain and just inside the door of Willa’s room. I stand in these places and cannot move.

I used to see the world around me, but my eyes are too heavy now. The tears that constantly run from them are pieces of marble. You hear them clink clink clink in the sink, you see them collect in a concave depression on my pillow. They blur all vision.

I used to see people who stood in one place. They looked like lampposts, gravestones, markers for other people to navigate around. They just stood there, in front of the laundry, at the outskirts of a party, at the dinner table. I could not then see that they too were held down by lead, burdened with immeasurable weight. Just trying to remember how to untie the strings, or, trying to discover how to make the knots tighter.

In the Invisible City of Lead Weights we are never alone, though we have no idea of this. Our thoughts do not travel, and none come to us. The air around you grows stale without use. From overhead comes the faint sound of propellers and you just hope that one day you will be able to fly again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heart Walk

Today I take a walk in my heart. Crawl through vena cava and ventricle. Revisit all the old places. I feel my love for you all around. It pounds in my ears. I take a seat in the chamber and watch the scenes from our life as they play out across the walls. Blood cells slip through my fingers. In the air they flit and hover like ash, or petals. Remember when you were inside me my heart was right above you, an apple on the bough? Your heartbeat was the first thing we heard, no, saw of you. The senses are befuddled translators in such subterranean things. I close my eyes and let the atria beat out the code. It goes over lines made of vein, filled with ash and petals. I must be careful. I am a platelet. If I stay too long I will seal something that needs to be kept open. But you, you are my heartbeat, insisting you are still here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

All the Things That Died

Willa died. Then our car died. Then our phones died too.

A month after we were on Plum Island. It was hot but perfect and August. B. hadn’t seen me since all this and she took me around the rented cottage, pointing out all the things about it that fascinate a three year old. This lasted a while. She knew that Willa was dead. She knew that it was something very big.

At one point we were in a little room off the living area. They had stored their bikes in there. Out of the window you could see the driveway. She pointed at her car. “Our car died.” She looked at me. Her eyes widened. “Or car died too” I said. She had started to really circle the thing now. I knew it was coming. She had said the word.

We left the room. Moments later we were all in the kitchen, Colin and I, her parents. We adults were pouring wine and opening bottles of beer, salting fish to wrap in aluminum foil for the grill. B. said, “Willa died. And she’s not coming back.” Her eyes panicked. She had said it in such a strong clear voice. It was a phrase that had been worried into diamond hardness in her mind. It came out a gem, uncomplicated, sheer, ruthless in its beauty.

I nodded. “That’s right honey. Willa died.” B. ran to her mother’s legs. She buried her face in bare knees and cried.

I remember this all perfectly. I remember the stunted sound of the waves coming up over the dunes, the radishes next to the salt and butter, the phones ringing in other houses. I remember the light. Perfect summer night light, still warm, moving toward orange and pink. It would be light for a while yet which felt wonderful because it would be cooler but not dark. The dining room table was wood. It was beautiful and used and dark and covered with sand and wet and crumbs. I remember the smell of the salty fish. I remember the wine in the glass, water forming to slide down a stem I hoped I would remember not to snap in my fingers.

These are memories made after Willa died. I will not have any memories of Willa that are new. Only memories created around her absence. Colin and I have photographs, videos, toys, clothes, medical records. We have the crib, the car seat, the highchair. But we have been cut off from bringing Willa with us into our future. She won’t touch anything new.

Willa died. Then the car died. When we took the car seat out of it her sunglasses were revealed. That’s where they were. There were stains on the upholstery from the times her feeding tube came detached in transit. And we left the car. We bought a new one. She never saw the new car. There are no stains in it Willa made. It is our car now, Colin’s and mine. Not Willa’s.

Then our phones died too. Colin and I used our phones almost exclusively to take pictures of Willa and video. All day while he was at work in the city I would send him updates. So he could see what she was doing. Because she was so funny. Because she loved to be on camera. Because he missed her so much. Our phones were choked with images of her. Then they died. We had to buy new phones. She is not here to take photos of anymore. There is no new video. She never held these phones. She never saw all the wonderful things they could do. She would have wanted one. I know. She would have thought they were absolutely magical.

Someday we will try to sell this house. We will move to a place she never lived. Those walls will not echo with the sounds she made a long time ago. There will be no phantoms there of memories. She cannot touch the taps. She cannot bathe in the tub. She cannot make marks and stains and crumbs because she died. And she’s not coming back.

It scares me because there are my memories, the ones that live in my mind. And then there are the photos, the video, the pictures of her. Which is more reliable? The pictures start to invade the place memories live. Do I really remember that or am I making it up based on an image I have of her? Which is real? Which is more real? If all the memories become those of the static page, or the 30 second video, will I forget the more nebulous ones? Will they take over and destroy what cannot be corroborated?

I look at the pictures. There are only so many. There will only ever be a very specific number. That will be it. I can get no more. No new pictures will bring Willa into the future, will flesh out her life, will expand the time we have with her, will break the incredibly sharp limits of her time here. We only have so many. I am so scared of what that means. I am so scared of thumbing them to death. Of working the images over so many times that they take her away from me. They take away my full, rich, deep memories and replace them with this limited version. And again, that means that she really is dead and gone. She isn’t coming back. I can never have more. I will never have any more of her.

We just saw B. before Christmas. She loved the locket I was wearing, the one with Willa’s picture and a lock of her hair inside. “Willa’s hair was very short. Mine is long” B. tells me. “When she grows up it will be long. “ For a three and a half year old just because she may never come back doesn’t mean she doesn’t still have to live by the same rules. Hair grows.

And so it does, even on the dead.