Their house wants to breathe. It wants to shake off boxes of unsorted papers, bags of art supplies for the schools. The house would rather have the books than these white temporary boxes. The books are neat in storage, complete. The incomplete junk fills the house. The mother and the daughter move around junk, stumbling sometimes. Who is going to pick up the junk and throw the stuff away? When will they be able to walk from the hallway through the living room through the dining room through the kitchen to the hallway again, so that the house can breathe?
“But Achilles, fear the gods and have mercy on me, remembering your father, for I am the most piteous of all men, seeing that I must reach forth and kiss the hand that has killed my son.” The words echo 3000 years. Someone you love is dead. What must you do for comfort. Their next door neighbor died on Monday, after the snow storm. He was the first of the six black blockbuster families to move in. The mother and daughter are of the third family. The six families have rocked steady for 52 years. This death breaks the circle.
Quotation is translated from Homer, Iliad 24:503. See http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/ to read Greek and Latin literature online. You can click on each word for a translation and/or read the original side by side with an English translation.
It’s night. This day had too many tasks. Maybe the daughter will go to Deep Space Nine on Netflix. Or maybe, she’ll go to Phaeacia on Audible.com. Yes Phaeacia, she has her earphones on and she’s listening to Odysseus talking to Nausicaa among the Phaeacians. There was no time to write this morning. She sent out an invoice. She thought about Marian Anderson. And Beowulf. And a lotus blossom sword. For students. The phone rings. “You’re back! What? No, I’m not bringing a thing to the St. Patrick’s Purim party.” Black. Irish. Jewish. And listening to Odysseus. Sisko is next.
It did not happen. That’s what the mother says. Shirley did not die this morning. The mother’s niece did not call and say to her, “Yes, Shirley, your Bible study partner, Shirley who is so much younger than you are, Shirley whom you love, died this morning.” It happened in the Hospital Emergency Room so early in the morning, a gasp for air that was unanswered. The daughter returns to the house from Kiwanis meetings in Silver Spring. The mother tells the daughter, “Maybe if I sit still enough. Maybe if I believe hard enough. It did not happen. Shirley did not die.”
This is the March 8, 2014 installment of my daily exercise of 100-150 non-fiction words describing some portion of the last 24 hours. For now the collection is called, Two Women In The House, describing moments in the life of my mother and myself.
But the daughter is dishonest with herself. She doesn’t ever read the Style section later. She imagines that she is a lady of leisure, and that at some comforting returning each day time, say at lunch time, she lingers over the sandwich, reading about the latest photographer – Walker Evans I think it is – or what they are doing this time with the Big Chair in Anacostia. What really happens is the Style sections pile up, some on the floor, a couple on the table, while the daughter gazes into her computer screen. What is she doing? What is so important?