the life of richie

TO LOVE WHAT IS MORTAL

Posted in is by Rich on September 29, 2011

On the same day that Gerri is having half her liver removed and my twenty-year friendship with Goli is coming to an end, Caroline gives birth to a girl; to Gigi.

At Stockton I run into a former student. He says, “I heard Gerri was sick,” and I explain. He does not look at me while I am relating the prognosis and explaining the course of treatment (surgery; six weeks for the liver to regenerate; six months of chemo); he looks sideways and down at the ground. “She’ll be ok,” I tell him. Joni calls later to report that the surgery had gone better than expected; that Gerri might be released on Saturday and not next Tuesday as was first thought.

Joni says: that what they took from Gerri was the size of a nectarine; a deadly nectarine. Like defusing a bomb, they took it carefully from my friend, and patted themselves on the back when the work was done.

And then: this thing with Gol happened. I write to Linda: Tonight, Goli and I had a falling out. I fear it is irreparable, perhaps. Perhaps she has become a toxic asset herself [as she used to manage]. We just have different ideas about the world: we look outside and see different worlds. I am disgusted by what she sees, and I think she must think what I see is a naive version of things (too idealistic, perhaps). So I just –– told her that, so I didn’t end up hating her, I couldn’t talk to her for awhile. This has been building for several years now: ever since she “retired” to sit around on her gold investments, savagely protecting her way of life by shoving the weak on to the pyre in her place, I think. So I told her I didn’t think I could talk to her for awhile: for a few months or a few years. Maybe forever.

(“So that I don’t end up hating you, you see: and so, goodbye.”)

The doctors grab onto the tumor and wrest it from the host. Is that tumor a part of us, then (homegrown), or just a foreign entity that takes up unlawful residence? (And when did this thing inside me turn into something else, into something hostile? Was it insidious, always there; or were there environmental factors that triggered its malignant genesis? –– the recession maybe; when you left the hedgefund after the economy had collapsed?) But what is done must be done: it is survival. And when it is done, we are weak; exhausted.

Caroline texts early in the morning to tell me the news: Will save you the horror story details! I have been in the hosp. since monday. @ 11:07 tonight, gigi katherine l–– was a successful vaginal birth! she’s perfect!

I call her and she says they were about to perform a c-section when Gigi, determined, pressed her head out into the world, and the midwife said, “Are you ready to push?” and Caroline pushed. And then it was done. And she was here. And she was perfect.

To Linda: I’ve been thinking about Caroline and the new baby and have been overwhelmed with a happiness –– I don’t even know why (the world seems so wicked anymore); somehow, though, a new baby still seems to offer up a hope for something, for something greater than ourselves even…

And Linda, she writes, Mary Oliver says it best in her poem “In Blackwater Woods”:

…you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

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LIKE A LOADED GUN

Posted in is by Rich on August 6, 2011

On Monday mom goes in for what I refer to as her “boob job.” The next day she gets a call back: something suspicious with her Mommyography. This causes much concern for the family. Mom is unable to sleep the night before her second appointment, which is on a Friday.

Meanwhile, the debt crisis is –– well, catastrophe is averted! for now. (“Wake me when we are all finally bankrupt.”) Aunt Margy will get her social security check. She will be able to eat, at least this week. How many more weeks of food will there be?

Life becomes more and more desperate for the living. The images of starvation on t.v. ––

(Amanda texts: “I’m engaged! Call u soon!”)

“Where is the honest to god rock bottom?” one must wonder. “How can anyone not be made with desperation?” What is there left but to –– run away and start a new life? Maybe that is just what Caroline is doing: starting a new life inside of her, fostering in her womb a new world in a child. What is it that will be my child? I wonder; knowing, I know. So why not just do it already?

(And Amanda –– starting a new life, too.)

On Friday, the doctor reveals the confusion: calcium deposits! Mom nearly collapses with relief. She dodged another bullet, she says. This one more time. But how many more times can we just dodge the bullet –– when the gun is already loaded and cannot be unloaded? Eventually it must fire. Eventually.

And on that day children…

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THE END OF JULY

Posted in is by Rich on July 31, 2011

The last in the Grace Kelly-Hitchcock series at the Arts Center is Dial M for Murder. Thirty minutes in, Caroline slides in next to me, just come from her latest doctor’s appointment, while the two men are plotting the wife’s murder: how it must be done and why. She has appointments all the time now (Caroline). After class and before yet another, she stops into the law office on Friday to see me, to have lunch, and to complain about how her body is not her own anymore. It has been rented out to a noisy tenant, like those surfer boys next door. She can’t wait for the end of the summer: for the eviction. “I fart all the time,” she limns. “I never used to fart before. I used to pride myself on my not-farting.

The boys next door hang out half-naked on the downstairs porch after spending all their days surfing, and all their nights drinking. A fussy old lady comes into the law office before Caroline, to bitch. “Has anyone else complained about them?” she wants to know. “They’ve been vomiting into my yard. My husband –– he’s just had surgery. I can’t sleep. I’ve called the rental agency, but they won’t call me back.” I tell the woman I will make a note that she has called. A few hours later, through the blinds I can see them emerge, all glistening flesh like the vampires in the Twilight movies…

On Friday night, after locking up the office (all of the lawyers are away: my mom and dad in Hudson visiting my sister; his partner off on a spa afternoon with a state judge), I take my mom’s convertible over the bridge to Somers Point to attend a gallery reception. I think of Anne: in June, I drove to New Haven, and then with her up to Boston for a wedding. (With the top down, the whole world is yours, to be played with and tossed aside.) At the gallery, the porch is overflowing with mismatched characters from many of the stages of my life. I find Joni and Gerri on the patio. “I’m just going inside a moment,” I explain. The gallery itself is a furnace, all the artwork thrown into this kiln to be melted down (one might think), to meld together into some new life risen like a savior’s bread when the buzzer sounds; devoured by dogs. Some friends of mine (of my parents) are welcome distractions from the temperature, but after talking a few minutes, I escape back outside, where there is a coy yet sometimes willing breeze.

The reading of four poets commences. I stare at my friend Gerri standing on the porch, her gray hair pulled back into calculated serenity, and smile. Afterwards, we go to Joni’s condo that overlooks the water, where there are boats. We drink wine and talk about literature and college. The next day, I think of this year at school, and recommend to myself a new course. This year will be a vengeance, I have decided. I will strap myself to the college, but. When I go this time, I am gone, and I will not (will never) come back again. (I want them to hear this. I want them to know this and to be ashamed.)

For when the heat breaks, there is usually a terrific thunder. This is how it shall come to pass.

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MOSAIC

Posted in is by Rich on July 23, 2011

Caroline and I catch To Catch a Thief on Monday at the Arts Center. “My grandmother used to say, ‘Grace Kelly is someone who doesn’t sweat,'” Caroline says. We are not yet sweating ourselves (…though we will be by Thursday). On Tuesday, we meet Karen for lunch at Mosaic. Karen is taking a pottery class. She comes to lunch speckled in the day’s clay. Her teacher says: “The clay doesn’t care about you. But you must control the clay and not allow the clay to control you.” We eat jerk chicken and rice & peas and sweet plantains and cool, unsweetened iced tea. These are the last cool days ever. On Wednesday, as Karen and I drive to the Union game in her Jeep Wrangler, with all the windows open, we can sense that It is coming. The heat doesn’t care about you. We stand in the parking lot drinking Anchor Steam and Summerfest beers, long after the official start of the match against Everton, and leave the stadium not too long after the half. There is still no score when we leave, but later we find out that the Union has won (the Union have won). On Friday, after work, dad and I drive down to Avalon to pick up his pants from the haberdashery there. The heat index is 115-120°. We are in the oven now, thrown into the kiln (the kiln doesn’t care about you) being cooked, and who knows what we will look like when this is all over. “Sea Isle is a strange town,” my father says as we drive down through the shore towns; I am wont to agree with him. Norway is struck by a bombing and mass shooting; we listen on the radio as Obama announces that the debt talks have broken down. “How can anyone support the Republican party?” my dad says. My Libertarian friends on Facebook rile me up again. (I find Libertarians insufferable: I’m sorry but I do.) By Saturday I have had enough of It all: of the heat, of the news, of Libertarians, of the tourists, of my car as the air conditioning compressor breaks again. I want to just leave my hot car in the middle of the street and walk away.

I want to just walk away from it all.

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IN THE OVEN

Posted in is by Rich on July 13, 2011

Everyone says it is very hot and very humid, but here on the Island it feels all right. I meet Caroline at the Arts Center on Monday for a free screening of Rear Window. She says, “Remember when New York used to be affordable,” as if we could actually remember. We sit outside, and she is very pregnant and looks so tired (her eyes begging for something to give). She says she’s always tired now, and lifts up her feet to show me her painfully swollen ankles and red manicured toenails.

We talk about school and our summer classes. There is a breeze. Didn’t we maybe sit here when we were just teenagers come over from the middle school? Just thirteen or fourteen or so? Did we leave behind bits of those people here for later? For when we would need.

Caroline says that she might not go back to teaching at the college after the baby comes; says she’s had enough, and I understand that, I do. Perhaps I am pregnant with something and will give birth this year and not go back either. Everything must change, but still –– a part of me feels like the child in her is a time bomb, ticking, and that when it goes off, that will be a new end to our friendship. Will we still be able to sit here, just the two of us, catching a bit of summer breeze and quiet after a free film? (I almost imagine a tug from some phantom infant on her pant leg, and it startles me.)

My mom, too, feels she has lost her sister [my aunt] to my cousin’s children. She says, “It makes me very sad, but I need to realize that my sister [my aunt] is gone (at least for the next decade or so), and that we won’t be able to meet for lunch like we did, or go shopping like –– or coffee. I need to say yes to myself and to invitations from other people. I need to go out.”

And I have felt like this, too: like I desperately need to get all new friends like one might decide that he has nothing to wear and so can’t go out. (But you understand what I mean, married friends and friends with children; you understand. Just as you needed to seek out other married friends and babied friends, so, too, must I seek.) It’s like a survival instinct has been triggered, but I feel too lazy to socialize (I’ve always loathed July; who wants to make new friends in July? and like Alex used to say, “It’s too hot for other bodies about,”) and it’s too hot to be bothered the next day [Tuesday] –– and I text Karen that next night: “Will you be terribly sad if I don’t make it over tonight? The heat has me feeling rather unsocial,” and she says, yes, “Terribly,” but understands, I’m sure.

Instead, I stay at home and think about writing, but can’t write anything. I watch Grand Hotel. I fix myself a Pimm’s Cup with leftovers from the wedding in April. A whole new life, one thinks; and it would be so easy. To discard all of this, this apartment with the disposable IKEA furniture, and the job without a contract, and everything and just –– just GO. (It is very exciting, so much so that I need to sit down, to steady myself.)

(To just run away…)

But not in July.

July is no kind of month for anything.

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