The pain in my gut has gone for now, probably because I ate and drank as little as possible today — well, I still had a goodly pint.
Tomorrow, instead of hanging myself from a sturdy hook at the top of the door frame
I will go to the plant shop and buy sunflower seeds and grow sunflowers for Susan.
They will grow tall and beautiful.
The ground may still be too hard.
I will see.
But I will buy the seeds
Spring begins in my neck of the woods at 5:58 pm on Wednesday and on that occasion, instead of continuing to drown in a sorrow of tears, I will go to the garden shop and buy sunflower seeds which I will plant as a memorial to Susan, who loved sunflowers (who doesn’t?)
I think the ground will be thawed enough to plant the seeds, but if not quite yet, I will wait…
This wonderful idea came to me in a dream last night — maybe Susan put it there. As Euripides wrote 25 centuries ago: “Come back. Even as a shadow, even as a dream.”
The poet Guglielmo Michelini became old, it seems overnight. He remembers being in his forties for quite a long time and in his fifties for a somewhat shorter time and in his sixties for a much shorter time. The next thing he knows he’s seventy. And his wife is seventy-four. They have been married for fifty years.
When he was a young man the idea of marrying an older woman was wonderfully seductive. He loved women. The architecture of their bodies, the audacity of their breasts, the arc of the waist, the anticipation of the vulva, the slender ankles, the arch of the foot.
He loved this older woman, Suzanne Marrôn. They met in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. She was a poet lover with perfect arches. They were married in a hail of hope and illusion.
It amazes him that they are still together. Sometimes he cannot believe it and thinks he is dead.
They are reading in bed. He looks at her. She has a dignity and a vulnerability grown more fragile with age. She looks like a photo of his mother. He is in bed with his mother.
She looks at him looking at her. She puts down her book. She says, “You never touch me anymore.”
He doesn’t know how to answer that. He sees her eyes moisten. They look at each other for four seconds. Four seconds is a long time when your heart is dying for a leap backward.
He was a regular at the track. Brown fedora, binoculars bumping on a barrel chest, getting the bookie’s eye, a nod is all it took, five hundred on the nose of a long shot, not a chance, said the odds. Damned if it didn’t win.
He drove a silver Jaguar Mark VII. Mahogany dash, red leather interior, jaguar emblem leaping from the hood. He was always speeding. Racing time. I was the little boy sitting next to him.
Thirty-seven years is all he had. My mother’s brown eyes cried with the rain. The casket was lowered into the earth. I was nine years old. Standing on the edge. Looking down.
Hah! That’s when it hit me. My father was not down there! I don’t know how he did it but at some point in the dreary proceedings he had given oblivion the slip.
This was funnier than hell. My mother was crying and I was laughing. “What’s the matter with you?” she said.
“Daddy’s not down there,” I told her. I couldn’t stop laughing.
She knelt down and put her arms around me. I inhaled the aroma of wet wool. “You’ll be all right, darling. We’ll be all right. We’ll muddle through.”
I muddled through elementary school and the bullying, and through high school and the bullying, and through two years of college to make my mother proud. Then a car crash ended her life at forty-five and I said Fuckit.
I wandered away. No fixed address. I kept a suitcase in a locker at Grand Central Station before all the lockers were ripped out because of terrorism. I showered in the men’s room in the basement of Grand Central. Fifty cents in the turnstile for a torn towel and a piece of soap with hair on it. A procession of hapless men, washing away misery, trying to clean up their lives. Didn’t bother me. It was all life and I was alive.
When the lockers were removed, I adapted. My safety net was a limited legacy from my father. If you were to see me then, you’d see a clean, groomed guy in a designer suit. The best dressed bum in town.
I’m back in New York now, walking east on 42nd Street. I amble with the ease of a carefree man into the main concourse of Grand Central Station. I look all around. I love this place. People with destinations, hurrying to the ticket windows, the information booth, the balcony bars and restaurants, the bookstores, the trains.
Commuters and tourists and students and young and old, waiting for friends and family beneath the astronomical mural of the cathedral ceiling. Humanity coming together. Hugging in reunion. This is the center of the universe.
I look all around. I do a classic double-take. Holy Christ! Sitting at the bar in Cipriani Dolci’s on the west balcony. It’s him! Astride a stool with a drink in his hand. Nothing like a shot of bourbon, he used to say.
My heart speeds up. I walk across the terminal, keeping my eyes on the balcony bar. I climb the stairs slowly. My heart is racing.