It was four months since I'd last gone to see my friend.
I went to Gertrude's place. The door was hanging open a little bit.
The place had been ransacked. Gertrude was lying on the floor in her bedroom and had been dead for at least a few days or more.
I stepped back and I almost fainted. It looked like someone had played a joke with a dummy dressed in her housecoat and slippers. The skin on her ankles was mottled purple. I ran out of air to breathe and my heart went into shock and I stumbled out her front door and called 911 to tell them I'd found the body. They patched me through to the county coroner. They carried her out on a gurney with a sheet over her.
I looked around her place. Stuff was missing. Her metal nest with the colored stones in it, her ruby necklace, the prescription medications on her nightstand. People had come into her house and taken stuff. Why was I noticing this?
Because I wanted to grab something too! I'm ashamed of this and I'm weeping. Am I crying for her, or for myself?
People stepped around her and got her stuff and did nothing. They didn't care. They got into her kitchen cupboards, opened the stale crackers and dumped them out on the kitchen floor. They took some books by the covers and flung pages everywhere. They threw her sheet music all over the player piano. They took the velvet throw from off her couch, and they smoked cigarettes and left them to make burn marks on the top of the coffee table.
The whole place stunk of rotten flesh, cigarettes and rotten food from the fridge, natural gas, mothballs and lily of the valley perfume that got sprayed all over. Did Gertrude let them in?
I took Gertrude's address book. It was on her desk. Most of the names in it, so carefully written, are crossed out. I'm keeping it.
My heart is a vacuum. She deserved to have me or somebody there holding her hand and blessing her, seeing to it that she got a proper farewell, and buying her flowers. I will take the ashes they bring me in a plain, brown box, and I will probably put them in an urn sometime as soon as I find a nice one. Goodbye, my friend. I'll never forget what she showed me. She helped me with my disappointment. She helped prepare me for middle age and beyond. She told me stories. Goodbye, Gertrude.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
I can take the bus to Gertrude's place, or I can walk, or drive. Today I've decided to walk to her place, but just right now I need to sit down and write this on my tablet.
I'm in one of those little neighborhood parks where there's a small play area for the kids, a small fountain and a couple of saggy, paint-peeling benches, surrounding a historical monument for someone who achieved...something. I can hear the traffic all around me. Somebody missed the trash can with their crumbled McDonald's bag.
But I'm in a state of near-ecstasy. The sky above is full of clouds, and it reflects from a little puddle in the concrete below my feet. The clouds look as if the wind shredded a cumulus cloud and painted it shades of soot and wool. The sunlight is hidden but what comes through is a side-lit glow. The greenery is also lit from the side, and so there's a lot of dark green but the tops of the bushes are shining with translucent, glassy green. And there are scrub rose bushes with pink blossoms, also lit.
I've got my earphones in, and my music is playing Jethro Tull, and the song is Teacher.
I feel a little cold on my face and hands from the wind gently whipping its way through every crevice, twig, and finger.
I haven't written this blog for a long time because I injured my shoulder. The pain has all but gone completely away. I just have some nerve-sensation in my index finger, but still a lot of weakness. My shoulder still reminds me that it isn't whole or strong anymore. But the good thing is, it's taught me the value of exercising my body. I used to be so strong, I thought I'd stay that way. But I'm going to be fifty years old in just over a year. The strength and energy ebb like the ocean. Injury can bring pain like a tsunami into my carelessly-built life.
I might be able to find what Gertrude found out decades ago: the identity of the human being I am.
I think of her, the way she's kind of perfectly imperfect. The thing is, she knows it. She's so beyond that. Not me--I still think I should be something other.
So, on my way to visit her place, I hope to get a little more of that completeness you find when you visit there.