I need to put up a barrier to prevent her memory overflowing into my life. I need to coat my heart with a glass shield. Why does this world provide us with everything we need to live, then bend itself to our destruction? The Second Law of Thermodynamics not only destroys us, it obliterates any record, any memory of us once we’re gone. It makes no exceptions. Eventually nothing of her will be left with me. Her body has been gone for twenty-six years. The few letters of hers I have left, as well as all the photos, will fade, disintegrate, turn to dust. All I have is memory, saying the name of the lost and the dead on my living lips, keeping her alive. Even those memories grow vague, become shapeless with excessive handling or dim from misuse. They are shards of shattered bottles, sunk to the bottom of the sea, rolled smooth by the ceaseless motion of the tides. They are seaglass, collected from a beach, small and smooth, put in a bottle on the sill of the sunny window beside my bath.
Two generations will pass and she will be forgotten. I passed a woman on the streets of Halifax today, a stranger, and the perfume I smelled, her frown and weary-eyed burden was more real to me than my long-gone dead one.
What is a ghost but something we create to understand what can never be understood?
What are loss and fear but figments of our imagination?
I tell her story because, when she fades, what does that say about my life?
The cabin becomes warm and I float, as if rising on a thermal to circle in the sky above. When I wake, the wind has picked up and blows branches against the metal roof. I am left with human silence. Everything else sounds louder. The bats in the ridge of the cabin are scrabbling around, anxious to get outside but unable to fly in this weather.
You’re stabbed with a poison-tipped foil after all that thrust and parry, all that love and effort and pain, and you have nothing more to say. You lie in pain in a hospital bed and are jabbed with a morphine-filled needle after all that love and effort and suffering, and you have absolutely nothing left to say. But for those left behind, the silence has a different quality. It’s insistent, impossible to ignore, like bats in the ceiling or the arms of trees scratching against your roof. It is a silence that’s louder.
I need to talk, to allow my voice to squelch that silence.