In the Event of
05 February 2009 at 3:04 pm
She uses that tone of voice I've heard more than a few times in my life, voice raised slightly, almost sing-songy in the way she delivers the now-standard line, always after the conversational pleasantries to ensure a bad day will not be made worse:
"Well, I have some bad news."
The cadence puts the emphasis on the "bad;" the rhythm of the syllables, were it in iambic feet, would look like this:
/ || ˘ / ˘ /˘ ˘
"Well [caesura], I Have some bAD NEws."
They are words that used to make my breath catch in my throat, used to fill that place right where my rib cage meets with butterflies that have been doused with bleach and peppermint oil.
Sometimes itís that my cat was hit by a car. Sometimes it's that my parents are getting a divorce. Sometimes it's that a blue chair I was set to inherit was desecrated by cat piss.
Now, I've gone through enough emotional trauma to know that it'll all be alright, no matter what. And besides that, no bad news affects me personally, not the way I live my life, in which nobody depends on me and I don't depend on anybody. Bad news is just unfortunate, but it's never a life-altering moment, not anymore.
This time itís, "Your uncle Jeff has cancer." Not the good kind, not like the kind that my brother beat when he was 19.
My breathing is steady; no psychosomatic knots form in my center. I offer my condolences. I offer to go back there for a week or two if the family needs help. I think of his two children and wonder how they feel about this. I think of his semi-estranged wife and wonder how she feels about this. I wonder what I would say at his funeral. I wonder what he would say at mine.
We finish up our conversation, chatting about my upcoming trip to see my other family in DC, discussing how frustrating it is for us when people don't know how to communicate what they want, ensuring everything's fine on the job front, the friend front, nothing new to report.
It's not so much that life goes on, because that's not always true. It's not even an apathy that arrives as a result of recognizing the finality of a problem that wasn't your fault but is now your responsibility. It's not that I can't do anything. It's that none of it ever matters. Every day somebody is warning somebody else that he'd better sit down. Every day somebody is fretting over how to break somebody else's heart. No matter what you do, somebody is dying, somebody is learning that they are going to die, somebody is discovering they can't live life the way they thought life ought to be lived, so you may as well do whatever you want, for as long as you want to, and if you want to be really clever, figure out a way to get somebody else to pay for it.
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