So many words get lost. They leave the mouth and lose their courage, wandering aimlessly until they are swept into the gutter like dead leaves. On rainy days, you can hear their chorus rushing past: IwasabeautifulgirlPleasedon’tgoItoobelievemybodyismadeofglass-I’veneverlovedanyoneIthinkofmyselfasfunnyForgiveme….
There was a time when it wasn’t uncommon to use a piece of string to guide words that otherwise might falter on the way to their destinations. Shy people carried a little bunch of string in their pockets, but people considered loudmouths had no less need for it, since those used to being overheard by everyone were often at a loss for how to make themselves heard by someone. The physical distance between two people using a string was often small; sometimes the smaller the distance, the greater the need for the string.
The practice of attaching cups to the ends of string came much later. Some say it is related to the irrepressible urge to press shells to our ears, to hear the still-surviving echo of the world’s first expression. Others say it was started by a man who held the end of a string that was unraveled across the ocean by a girl who left for America.
When the world grew bigger, and there wasn’t enough string to keep the things people wanted to say from disappearing into the vastness, the telephone was invented.
Sometimes no length of string is long enough to say the thing that needs to be said. In such cases all the string can do, in whatever its form, is conduct a person’s silence.
My heart is weak and unreliable. When I go it will be my heart. I try to burden it as little as possible. If something is going to have an impact, I direct it elsewhere. My gut for example, or my lungs, which might seize up for a moment but have never failed to take another breath.
When I pass a mirror and catch a glimpse of myself, or I’m at the bus stop and some kids come up behind me and say, Who smells shit?—small daily humiliations— these I take, generally speaking, in my liver.
Other damages I take in other places. The pancreas I reserve for being struck by all that’s been lost. It’s true that there’s so much, and the organ is so small. But you would be surprised how much it can take. All I feel is a quick sharp pain and then it’s over.
Sometimes I imagine my own autopsy. Disappointment in myself: right kidney. Disappointment of others in me: left kidney. Personal failures: kishkes.
I don’t mean to make it sound like I’ve made a science of it. It’s not all thought out. I take it where it comes. It’s just that I notice certain patterns. When the clocks are turned back and the dark falls before I’m ready, this, for reasons I can’t explain, I feel in my wrists.
And when I wake up and my fingers are stiff, almost certainly I was dreaming of my childhood. The field where we used to play, the field in which everything was discovered and everything was possible. (We ran so hard we thought we would spit blood: to me that is the sound of childhood, heavy breathing and shoes scraping the hard earth.) Stiffness of the fingers is the dream of childhood as it’s been returned to me at the end of my life. I have to run them under the hot water, steam clouding the mirror, outside the rustle of pigeons.
Yesterday I saw a man kicking a dog and I felt it behind my eyes. I don’t know what to call this, a place before tears. The pain of forgetting: spine. The pain of remembering: spine.
All the times I have suddenly realized that my parents are dead, even now, it still surprises me, to exist in the world while that which made me has ceased to exist: my knees, it takes half a tube of Ben-Gay and a big production just to bend them.
To everything a season, to every tie I’ve woken only to make the mistake of believing for a moment that someone was sleeping beside me: a hemorrhoid.
Loneliness: there is no organ that can take it all.
“When we hold each other, in the darkness, it doesn’t make the darkness go away. The bad things are still out there. The nightmares still walking. When we hold each other we feel not safe, but better. “It’s all right” we whisper, “I’m here, I love you.” and we lie: “I’ll never leave you.” For just a moment or two the darkness doesn’t seem so bad.”—Neil Gaiman’s Midnight Days, Neil Gaiman
“And when the universe has finished exploding all the stars will slow down, like a ball that has been thrown into the air, and they will come to a halt and they will all begin to fall towards the centre of the universe again. And then there will be nothing to stop us seeing all the stars in the world because they will all be moving towards us, gradually faster and faster, and we will know that the world is going to end soon because when we look up into the sky at night there will be no darkness, just the blazing light of billions and billions of stars, all falling.”—The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon