Sunday, August 18, 2013

Revisiting Peter

This morning I went to Peter's apartment for the first time in weeks.

When I walked in the man at the front desk stopped me.
I'm going to 903 (a month and a half ago, the week after Peter died, he looked at me knowingly and nodded me on without my having to say anything).
Do they know you are coming?  Already picking up the phone, I will call up to make sure they know you are here.
Oh-- no, no one's there.  My uncle lived there.  He died.  A little while ago.  I'm just going up.
He stared at me long and hard as if trying to know something more from the words I said, until I walked out from under his sight.

Loosing the fact into the air felt sickening.

Some days it doesn't; it feels like fact.  But this morning, the words webbed into the air, I feel vulnerable to the bone: he lived and now he doesn't: a weight pressed hard to my chest.

Our culture is a strange one in how far we stand from death.  Even when a person dies we have no rituals of touch, of how to say goodbye.  Both times I have stood with people after they've died, I could not stop touching them -- cold hands, fingers, arms, face, head -- the last time I would touch their skin, those hands I've known.  How to ever stop, to allow the last contact and walk away?

He lived and then he didn't.

We can't stop it, the fact that those we love will cease to be with us.  We don't lie in wait for the next beloved to die -- we can't -- but we know it's out there, the ambush when once again we'll be seized to the point of breathlessness.

The waves will come.

Today is cloudy and wet.  It's in the 70's but the air is thick and damp.  I feel myself getting sucked into it, waterlogged.

I am sitting in the car outside Peter's apartment building where I've brought down a bowl of cherry tomatoes I picked from his still-living vine, rich red in the bowl.  My front seat is piled with suggestions of him I've carried here: a palm-sized white plate, a wooden spoon his hand held, a can of coconut milk he bought with some plan in mind, a mixing bowl, a book about prayer and one about writing.

I want to sit here, to sink farther into the seat, to become the seat for a little while as the humidity gathers on the windows.

So I am forcing myself out of the car, out into the muggy world -- where leaves are thick on trees and people are breathing -- to walk in it.

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