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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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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