Not a breath of air

Not a breath of air.

The humidity’s high and I am low. It’s two-thirty in the morning and I cannot sleep. The windows are open but there is not a breath of air. There is no air conditioning in the house. The cat is stretched out on the hardwood floor. It is cooler down there.

A storm is on the way, coming across from the northern Plains, due here Saturday. Maybe cooler then, maybe not. ‘Cooler, Hilts, ten days.’ ‘That’s Captain Hilts.’ ‘Twenty days.’ If The Great Escape was on right now I’d watch it. But it’s not so I write this— whatever it is.

The older I get, the less I can stand humidity. In the 1980s my wife and I lived in Miami. The days of Miami Vice and Sonny Crockett when the humidity was high and so was I, so were we both.

We had air conditioning down there, of course, but in Upstate New York it’s not essential. Nights and days as stifling as this aren’t that frequent. May is kind of early for it. July and August are the worst of course, but then autumn is just a couple of weeks away.

I do love the Fall. The Fall and Rise of the American Empire. America was a better place when I had my very own American woman. She had a big heart and I was inside it.

She is not with me now. I don’t know where she is. In another world I hope. Perhaps the spirit world. In another dimension in the multiverse. But God I wish she was with me now. That’s why I am low.

I don’t normally do this at this hour, but since I cannot sleep I will make myself a gin and tonic, with three ice cubes. 

The cat will rise and come and sit by me, thinking it’s either a very late or very early cocktail hour. I will wait for the first light and the departure of demons. Maybe then I’ll be able to sleep.

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The silence of the dead is deafening

When I was twelve years old I rode my bike twenty miles to sit at my brother’s grave. I talked to him through the earth. I asked him if he could hear me.

He was my older brother, twenty-four when he died on the side of the road, his head cradled in the arms of his best friend. His best friend had been driving the car and took a bend in the road too fast.

I have never received an answer from my brother.

When I was in my forties I sat on a balcony in Miami and asked my son (a Star Trek fan) to send me a signal from space, a sign that he was aware in some unknown dimension or otherworld or æthereal state of wave-being.

He was twenty-three when he swallowed enough barbiturates to kill himself three times over.

I have never received a signal from my son.

Now I am in my seventies and I sit in an armchair in the living room—now known as the dead room—of my bungalow on County Road 9 and pray to my wife to send me a sign that she can hear me, anything will do I tell her, the slightest hint, the briefest sensation, the merest brush of some sort of presence of her spirit.

For a day and a night I sat at her bedside in Intensive Care and held her hand in mine. She was deeply unconscious but her hand was warm in mine. I took that as a sign of life, of hope. I sat there for hours. Her hand grew cold.

I am still in the dead room, praying for a sign from my wife, a glimmer of hope that she is aware in some empyrean sphere.

My hope-beyond-hope spiritual longings appear to be hopeless. I conclude from these futile attempts to commune with the dead that if you wait long enough, nothing happens.

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Hoping for a ghostly kick in the rear


And then he realized — it made him laugh, bitterly of course — that his being totally alone was Cosmic Justice, Karma, Payback from ‘God,’ whatever you want to call it.

Example No. 1: The one time he didn’t call back when his troubled son made a phone call to him and got his voicemail was followed by a disastrous tragedy.

The father was stupidly following the advice of the boy’s mother. “You’ve been coddling him,” she had said some days earlier. “If you keep doing that he’ll never make it on his own.”

Tough love, she called it, a phrase that was popular at the time, although you don’t hear it much anymore. Probably because it doesn’t work.

Two days after his son made that unanswered phone call, the lad swallowed enough barbiturates to kill himself three times over.

Example No. 2: He was a caregiver to his wife — not the mother of the above-mentioned son, he would quickly note — for the last five years of her life, the last three most intensively. He loved her totally, but there were times when he became impatient under the stress and did not treat her with the respect and concern he believes she deserved.

She had said to him, at different times, that he was (1) the love of her life, and (2) that he treated her like shit. In his heart he believes the first statement more than the other, but nonetheless, the other comes back like an arrow through his heart.

Example No. 3: His older brother, who died recently, was the total opposite of him. His brother was leveled-headed, responsible, organized and ambitious — all the things the younger brother was not. He could describe several incidents that now leave him with guilt, but he just sums it up by saying, vis-á-vis his older brother: I was a total asshole.

So where does that leave him? In an isolated void of guilt and sorrow.

He misses them all more then he can ever say. Most of all his wife. And he cries that to the rafters of the old house in which he now lives alone. It does no good, of course. Their spirits don’t visit him, their ghosts don’t even haunt him.

He would be overjoyed if their ghosts would come into his house and give him a good kick in the ass.

But it’s most unlikely to happen. He can wail and yell until all the gin bottles are empty, it won’t do any good.

They cannot hear him. They are all dead. Oblivious. No sensation. Non-existent now. No communication possible, no spiritual communion, and, empirically, no ‘Heavenly’ reunion.

It’s just him now, and the emptiness, and the gin.

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