Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Point of the Story

She screamed into the dark
waving her arms like a policeman directing invisible traffic in a bright pink pajama set.
I followed the detour of her signs across my driveway and into hers
rerouted the plans for my evening:
if past behavior predicts future, this could take a while.

Tomatoes, she said with her hands, gesturing around her kitchen
You take.  Eat.  My son.  J. I. M.  Jim.  He brings tomatoes.  Tomatoes.  Tomatoes.
I eat.  Eat.  Eat.  Sick of tomatoes.  No more.  Finished.
More, more, more.  You take.  Jim brings more.  You eat them. 
Good.  Very good.  You eat.  You like.  In salad.  Delicious.  Take more.

So many tomatoes, I say.  Thank you.  Look good.  Thank you.
I turn to leave, unsure how to finish the conversation as I attempt to hold my tomatoes. 
She grabs my hand, puts the tomatoes on the table. 

Come. She says.  Must meet husband.  In bed.  Sick.  No talking.  Very bad.  91 years old.
Woman comes to bathe him, dress him.  Nice man.  Will like you.  Meet my husband. 

We round the corner into a bedroom with a hospital bed and a twin bed beside. 
She shakes his foot and his eyes open, slowly. 
He looks at me.  At her.  At me.
She says something to him I don't understand.  He doesn't either.  She pats his hand.
He smiles, wiggles his fingertips against his chest.
See?  she says, beaming, proudly.  He tries.
They look at me, expectantly.

His blue eyes pierce my skin, and inadequacy creeps up my back and across my face. 
Nice to meet you.  I live next door. 
He stares, and I reach over the bedrail to touch his hand. 
He smiles, beautifully, soulfully,
and 91 years of words crash in my mind.

My husband.  Me.  Married.  65 years.  Married 65 years.  
She pats his hand.  

Very hard now, she says. 
We're still in love.

They both stare at me, smiling,
awaiting any communication,
breathing, together, unaware of the noise.
I say goodbye and leave them
to fill in the empty spaces I left,
knowing they're the only two who can.

In my dark and empty kitchen, I wash tomatoes
hoping to leave you signs such that, when I reach the end,
and allow resignation to live in my flesh as my only success;
when I invite Defeat into my bones so she can live as Triumph at last;
you will love me harder when I speak through finger twitches, involuntary,
and love us together as we breathe our conversations.

Leave my long-sought perfection under my skin,
soaked in by no longer thirsting pores.
Siphon out my flaws with kisses
trace tender fingers over hidden scars
suck the ugly from me
and bury it deep between your lungs and vocal chords
so you can forever sing my essence
every time you breathe.

The irony of this poem
written for a Deaf man who can no longer communicate
is the point of the story.