Now I understood why David had stayed away all those Sundays—he hadn’t wanted to participate in the farce that was visiting Patrick’s grave.
I was grieving for my mother—the mother who was a stranger to me now—not for the father who had been dead to me all these years.
One lie had sent my father to the hospital; what Mother considered the truth had sent him to his death.
We sat there, at an impasse, & in that moment of silence, we were acknowledging that this was now the way it would always be between us.
Madame Novacek had told my mother before I had even been conceived that Mother’s first-born daughter would steal her first love and become her enemy.
The steely glint in Mother’s eyes dared me to take David from her, even as they warned me what might happen if I tried.
I was not Mother’s enemy, but I was at enmity with her.
“Don’t you know how much you mean to me?” Mother asked, but I did not answer, for I did not know.
The Angel of Death had paid his visit,
& now my Angel of Life,
my guardian angel,
The words of “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”
played in my mind,
& it was David’s face I saw,
brighter than the sun.
I had prayed for him to come.
Either he or God Himself
had heard my prayer
& heeded it.
Upon my father’s brow,
my mother planted a holy kiss,
bestowing upon him her blessing
to proceed into the next life—
a procession he had not consented to.
David had kept Patrick from me—
had spared me from a life of resenting my father,
of visiting him in the hospital for hours
rather than his grave for minutes,
Mother had predetermined that no matter what,
I would resent this man
even as I would love David without condition,
for such fulfilled her purposes.
Mother would’ve never divorced Patrick
or had the marriage annulled,
for she could not be forgiven for an ongoing sin,
but she could be forgiven for that single sin of flipping a switch,
so that she no longer had to live in sin.
I trusted David with my heart & life & body
as surely as I trusted God,
whoever he was,
with my soul.
When the fog settled over the Gulf Coast
for days that seemed to run together
like a week of binge-watching,
life was like walking through a dream
in varying filters.
It was that last day in the middle of the night—
before the fog lifted—
that the 3 boys came to her door.
Their frightened faces had been framed
in the frosted oval glass,
& their owlish eyes had looked sickly
in the illumination of the orange streetlight.
They said that the Londoners had taken their parents
& spoiled everything.
She chastised herself for opening the door
for what if they’d been followed?
And it was when she thought to look back
that she realized her family had disappeared
the second she had opened that door,
just as she was here
because someone else wasn’t.
When he was alive,
she slept to escape him through dreams,
but when he died,
he haunted those dreams,
& she became an insomniac who,
from sleep deprivation,
began to see his reflection in every window
& imagine his presence behind every door.
Famous writers haunted ghostwriters,
cases were tried by the judges perfected in Christ,
& the scientists who’d practiced the healing arts on Earth,
imparted their knowledge from Heaven—
even as those who’d passed on ages before
were able to witness the wonders of humankind
while living in the presence of the wonder of God.
Funerals were truly a celebration of one’s mortal life,
& grief became a thing of the past.
There was no moving on,
for to see & hear their loved ones was enough
to make up for the loss of the other 3 senses;
this new way of life & death helped keep their memory alive,
even as new conversations with the departed
were being had.
Where there had been faith,
there was now knowledge,
save for those who believed that man had never walked the moon.
Mother & David had once been young lovers.
They had walked at twilight on the beach,
went to plays & the symphony,
& then it became a convenience,
but that must have been when they didn’t know
if Patrick would live or die.
They had floated in a Purgatory of sorts—
his life, her life, their lives,
The glory of God was intelligence,
& such shone in David,
I’d thought him my own personal god—
a father without a daughter,
a son, raised by humble ones,
& a heavenly spirit who edified all
he came in contact with.
Mother would surely go to the celestial kingdom,
where she would be exalted & placed
on the path to eternal progression.
David would remain in the terrestrial kingdom—
in the presence of the Man
whose torn flesh & spilt blood
had saved us.
God had been the fundraiser,
but Jesus had ponied up the ransom.
yet she had never known him.
Mother, who had known him intimately,
was stoic & had,
in her own way,
given birth to his grief.
I was like a ghost whisperer,
asking my father to accept the gospel in the next life
so that Mother would have to be sealed to him,
thus unsealing her from David.
He was a wood crafter,
she, a paper one.
For him, hell was a craft store,
she, a hardware,
but their shared love of dead trees
gave them the alone time they needed,
so that the time they did spend together
was spent not boring one another.
He was secular,
& when they became friends,
he showed her the humanity of humankind,
the divinity of the same.
He was into dinosaurs,
He tried to understand a world
that had ended,
she, a world that was only beginning.
When they found one another,
they lived not in the time prior
when they had moved in different orbits,
nor for the time to come
when they would be like
2 neutron stars,
colliding to form a kilanova,
but in the moment
that closed the space
The foundation of our existence shook, the pillars & posts of transparency tumbled around me. I picked up a brick, wanting to hurl it like a weapon, only to find that it had turned to sand.
I knew it was required that she seek my forgiveness before God’s. I also knew God would forgive whosoever He chose to forgive, but that I was required to forgive all.
David’s money had kept my father alive, tethering my mother to the man who stood in their way, or rather, hovered between them.
My mother had lived a life of convenience, of self-flagellation by denying herself the sanctity of marriage but not of the marriage bed. Just as she had wanted to do away with Caitlin, she was now going to do away with my father.
She had never annulled the marriage, for she could not make her children bastards as legitimate children were considered status symbols–just as Mother had chosen the label of widow over adulteress.
She’d convinced herself that because he was brain-dead, his soul had gone on, just as she’d taught her girls that unChristian women, to soothe their consciences, had convinced themselves that unborn babies were nothing but a clump of cells when wasn’t that what we all were–just many more of them.
I grieved for the father who had never been lost to me at all—the father I was just now finding, only to lose him all over again.
Midnight & Noon,
being fraternal twins—
one ushering in the lunch hour,
the bewitching hour—
fought over who was 1200,
& who was 2400.
Five O’Clock always felt he had to be somewhere,
but that mysterious Eleventh Hour—
a lady on the go or a man on the run—
was always in a rush.
Venus’s marriage to Mars was rocky,
for he was gassy,
&, according to him,
she was icy,
but remembering little associations
helped her pass Astronomy class,
sliding into the seventieth percentile
with the knowledge
that the Sun was really big & hot
& Neptune was really far & cold.
Such a course of study changed her lexicon,
for when she gave birth to Halley,
she said it was like passing
a bowling ball the size of Jupiter.
Optimism & Pessimism walked into a bar,
where they came across Realism,
looking fine as dandelion wine.
They each brought her a drink—
Optimism’s glass being half-full,
Pessimism’s being half-empty.
Killing these 2 strange birds
with one shot,
she got what she wanted,
while leaving them wanting more.
Such was genuine Realism.