I read where two hours of silence every day helps the brain, that it’s better to study in silence than with music playing, especially music with lyrics. I sit at my desk without music and listen to the morning traffic rumbling past my house. Does this count as silence, he wonders.
There was a time when the road was quiet, but that was years ago. I retreat into Joni Mitchell singing “Woodstock.” Came upon a child of God, he was walking along the road… There is the constant dialogue going on inside my head, this talking to myself or to imagined people. I lose myself in writing my publisher about deadlines for blurbs and come back to the music four songs later. I return to Joni.
Watched a later interview with Joni who seemed a little worn with the world. Her voice raspy, signs of years smoking. Mark writes me several times about how Joni never seemed to find the love she was seeking—that one true forever love.
I sip my coffee. Take a breath. I find myself playing with the words—Forever is now, the poet whispers to himself, though he is never all that sure about now. The music turns to The Beatles singing “In My Life.” There are places, I remember… I sang that song to Melinda when she died, my voice working hard not to break. I’ve written this before and will no doubt tell you again and again. It’s a song that defines a world for me. When Melinda was two, and I was trying write the great American novel while taking care of her, the song was the recurring theme, the recurring song in my head. All these places have their moments, with lovers and friends I still can recall. Forever is now, the poet says again, having no real handle on what it means.
We lived in a Houston apartment, and I would play hide and seek with my daughter. Daddy, where are you, she says. I’m hiding in the pantry. She’s right outside the door. I’m in the shower, I call out. She runs to the shower to find me. And when she ran straight to the shower instead of opening the pantry door, when she listened to my words instead of her own senses, I suddenly realized the heavy responsibility I carried, this having brought a new life into the world.
We lived in Houston and I wrote at a portable typewriter, click, click, click. I walked Melinda to a park with the blue swings. In the evenings I practiced karate at a local gym. Muncher smashes my nose, and I bleed all over my white gi. Are you okay, my instructor asks. Yes. No you’re not. Some are dead, and some are living, but in my life…
Today, my brother turns seventy. Four years ago, his doctor told him to get his affairs in order as he had advanced prostate cancer. Last month he broke his foot. Eleven days ago he busted his head open. But he’s made it to seventy. We look at each other.
Yesterday, was Emily’s birthday. Tomorrow John Kennedy will have been dead for fifty-four years. The day after tomorrow we will eat turkey and all kinds of starches and sugars. I need to buy a turkey, some potatoes, cranberries, stuffing mix, sweet potatoes—I’m already gaining weight. Just the anticipation of the holidays packs on the weight.