Archive for April, 2019

David.

April 20, 2019

Sometimes there are pockets in the day, small tiny bursts of nothingness where the only thing to feel is the thumping of your heart, all the confetti in your brain has tumbled to the bottom and all the static has fuzzed itself out. It is in those moments, waiting at the stop light, putting a pen in my desk at work, rinsing out my coffee cup where a hand reaches from the bottom of that void and chokes me from the inside. I shake it off, trying to quiet it, and soon begin being busy again. We make little scars in time, marking ourselves one breath, one memory at a time until all the indentations we can ever make are swallowed whole. Annihilation by slow degrees.

In the turmoil of moving from state to state, town to town and house to house, I searched for calmness, or something greater, perhaps a boundary to guide my way-to lead me forward. I was such a lonely kid at times, it wasn’t until I was in the 4th grade did I feel the lightness of friendship and discovered a well of humor that kept the lonelys at bay. At that age nobody knows what anything can be, only the moments of laughter and the crackles of fear that can clutch a child, so I found solace in comic books, records and playing outside, usually in a patch of woods or nearby houses that were being constructed, with small mounds of dirt that offered enough ingredients of imagination to keep a ten year old occupied for an afternoon One constant during some of this period was David Hartzband, who my mother  was married to, whom I spent roughly 1973-1980 with, give or take a year here or there. There. Right there.

David was from the Bronx, and he started seeing my mother when our family lived in Athens, Ohio. This was the early seventies, my mother was involved with some of the radical groups in the university town, there a photo of us children, hovering around my mom’s ankle that made the Athens Messenger. We were all protesting Nixon. Certainly, there were anti-war protests and boycotts, I distinctly remember asking my mother was “ripple” was and her explaining it was a type of wine. We had buttons “Nixon Drinks Ripple”, which was part of national boycott of Gallo wines the massive wine company that was engaging in unfair labor practices with migrant workers. David was in the background at this time, I remember he rode a Honda motorcycle, had a yellow helmet and wore a leather jacket the had a patch on the left breast. Maybe it was a motorcycle insignia. Soon we moved to Youngstown with David. He and my mother got married, I am unsure if the ceremony was in Youngstown or in New York although I recall it was in the synagogue as my brother and I had to learn the proper etiquette of being in the synagogue. Our first Hanukkah was that year and I giggled as David spoke Hebrew as we lit the candles and he told us the story of how the oil and the temple. All I knew was we got presents.

After moving to Athens to live with my father in 1977, I only saw David a few more times, their marriage struggled and eventually David disappeared from my life. Like a raindrop in the trees, he had vanished only to be replaced by another man whom was much different from him, who didn’t care about comic books, or playing records for me or explaining all the small things in nature that appear big in a young boy’s eyes. Worms. Spiders. The things that wash up on the beach. Those were gone. In hindsight, a small room that was being furnished with windows was closed off within me. Childhood was a stumbling affair, left to my own devices the escape into records, comic books, and playing backyard football was the easiest way to go.

David moved on after divorcing my mother, living in Germany he got his PhD and then went to work for a variety of tech companies in the 80’s and became faculty at MIT all the while doing consulting work. Somehow, we found each other in the mid-nineties, he came to Columbus and we had dinner and then later my wife and I travelled to Boston and stayed with him and his wife. We had reconnected, and it was as if the old tiny room had one of the windows open, although we didn’t communicate frequently it was nice knowing that he was in the world, as if you knew that your front door was locked when you go away on a trip. Security.

There is a pile of clothes at the end of my bed, on the floor, more under the bed and scattered about like leaves from a tree but the tree is me. I like to do the dishes but hate the laundry. Every day I look at the clothes and as they get mixed with the clean ones, which go unfolded the thought comes that if I don’t put them away then nobody will. The panes of glass in the bedroom are not really glass but plastic, which is fitting as the house is more of a house than a home, something temporary, something soft and not something to grasp. The only hardness of the house is that it is temporary.  The neighbors are different, more of them, which means living anonymously comes easier, I don’t have to say hello, the fellow next to me drives a kind of hybrid pick-up/El Camino and hauls in boxes of beer every weekend. The trashcans in the ally are testimonials to loneliness, if I still drank there is no doubt that they would be overflowing every week. Cascading over the sides in a fountain of discarded ache. We nod to each other when we cross each other’s paths, him with his armfuls of beer and me with my headful of ideas.

My mind doesn’t stop not even when I’m asleep, I remember many of my dreams and have a unique ability to control some of them but of course this only happens when I’m in slumber mode, in awake mode the mind doesn’t stop as much as pause for scattered moments throughout the day. Of course, there is little control over all those thoughts, which tend to blend together as if constructed with watercolor paints sitting in the rain, but there are tricks to calm them. Sitting. And. Sitting. Music. And. Music. And. And. And. So, so, many ands.

Standing on fifty the losses in the past get sucked into the whirlpool of time, an existential treadmill the slips and eats everything in its path, every happy moment, every disappointment, every loss until, at some point to be determined it will chew me up and I will slide into a vortex of nothingness. Annihilation. Life is filled with forgiveness which means that life is bursting with pain, one can’t learn to forgive if one hasn’t hurt. So, the circle is blended, and both sadness and joy are mixed with the other, nothing is pure. Even in our happiest moments as adults the thought of everything is fleeting, just movement towards something else, colors everything. Nothing stays the same not even memories.

I remember holding Jenny’s hand underneath the soft hushed voices of Christmas carols on Christmas Eve 1985, the hardwood pews forcing us to sit up straight, she passed me a note. “Only one week”, our one-week anniversary, even my fingers danced with joy. There was San Francisco, sitting in a Guatemalan diner, trying to read a book of poetry but feeling the sharp stings of betrayal that welled up from feeling so alone as a youngster, and increased in intensity through other relationships, that stinging of rejection never seems to have left from those first years of my life. There was peeking through a small jeweler’s shop window in the Centrum of Tilburg, Netherlands at two matching gold and platinum rings, feeling the unspoken said enough and we put the rings on her credit card. Even then, the joyful seriousness of the event compelled me to sprinkle humor over it, I bought a bag full of McDonalds hamburgers to present to her father as there was an old Dutch tradition of giving the bride-to-be’s father a cow. My unwillingness to face the present moment in our relationship, to be an adult would push us apart. Humor is not always funny. Flash forward twenty years, my daughter nervously reading her poetry to a sold-out hall of adults as she bravely faced them, composed and poised. Authors and business leaders walked up to our table to shake her hand and congratulate her. The memories rise up, like cigarette smoke tasting the air and then the wash themselves away, vanishing while the next one gently thrusts itself out, billowing up and becoming invisible.

David died last week, I got an email from his wife and it went to my work email, for a moment I thought it was another David I had once worked with. Sitting on one of my half-couches, together they should make a couch but since they are separated, they just make two half couches smushed together. Total fucking rip-off.  I had my morning coffee, setting it upon a small stack of books whose words were waiting to be devoured, plying for my attention but only to be used to protect a new coffee table from being scarred from a hot coffee cup. I re-read the email and felt alone. The skin on my arms raised up about half a centimeter while the blood pushed its way out of my heart. Moving to the other half couch, I looked at my phone, Anna Netrebko’s angelic voice drifted in from the other room, and I thought of how David and I talked of our love of opera last spring when I saw him in Boston. I eventually called my wife, she was in our house. Her home, my memory. I told her of David’s passing, his gentle soul touching my throat. Then when I got to saying David’s name, tears spilled from my eyes, a heave of the chest and then it was gone. It was the same when she told me that our friend Edo died, a few moments of great sadness, of the body trying to rid itself and then. just. weariness. Just weariness.

There are times when I wish I was just a note in a song, a bubble of sound whose only purpose is to pop in your ear and make your mind go a flutter with emotion. And then there would be nothing. Annihilation.static1.squarespace.jpg

 

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