October 23, 1994
Austin, Texas 11:30 p.m.
A delight, finally to hear Victor Borge in concert. John kisses me at the door, a polite, thoroughly proper peck. I do not invite him in. Do I love him? I am not sure. I am not even sure it matters. I put on Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” I open John Donne’s Meditations, specifically, the seventeenth. “When men die, they are translated into a better language.” I hunker down. The words with their creative spellings blur before my eyes.
The phone rings. Blink. I do not answer. As long as I do not answer, my life stretches out in two directions, unblemished, full of memory and possibility. Past: the golden days his high pitched laugh he swims and saves my doll swept out to sea his helicopter lights blink over the beach the red Volkswagen churns its wheels through a swollen creek that pure clear tenor voice sings try to remember the kind of September when the Saints go marching in we play catch in the twilight it’s okay for girls to play softball every place that George Washington ever slept books bought for me in airports tears stream down his face as he reads it is a far far better thing I do now than I have ever done physics explains the mysteries of the universe.
Ring. Blink. I do not answer. As long as I do not answer, he is here with me still. Present: methyl ethyl ketone perhaps I’ll get a chemistry degree we could learn chemistry together it explains the mysteries of the universe how can O.J. be guilty he has such a nice smile Jesus could never be a Republican I wanted to buy you a car for graduation but your mother wouldn’t let me you’re either engaged or you got into the University of Texas at Austin you sound too happy it must be Austin do you love him does he love you we never liked those other boys you deserve someone extraordinary you are extraordinary no it doesn’t hurt not really I’m just tired Jesus didn’t deserve what he went through either he will heal me I will be healed.
Ring. Blink. I do not answer. As long as I do not answer, he is not dead. Dance with me at my wedding sing to my first child accept me when my tenuous grasp on my faith dissolves yes there is more for me than Occam’s Razor read Plato’s philosopher king again with me you’ll see that Plato’s forms explain the mysteries of the universe and we will recite Goethe in German and sing once a jolly swagman do not go gentle do not go waltzing matilda without me into that good night.
Ring. Blink. My hand stretches out, unbidden, to pick up the receiver. “Hello?” In that moment, the scream starts, somewhere near my solar plexus, the scream that shatters my world and its assumptions, the scream that says the one who made me no longer exists, yet I am still here. “I’ll make the flight arrangements right now.” Scream. “Bereavement fare.” Scream. “Sometime late tomorrow.” Scream. “I love you, too.” Scream. No one can else can hear it. My father is dead.