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bickering with the echoes of the soul - Transience Divine
August 20th, 2008
10:37 pm

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bickering with the echoes of the soul
I found out yesterday that one of my grandparents (the one through my mother's second marriage) was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. He refuses to take medication. And his birthday is Thursday. What do you say to a terminally and painfully ill birthday boy?

Last night, I had dream that was told in a thoroughly narrative voice, and since I plan to be a writer some day (I haven't decided which one, but one of them), here it is.

I had been working odd jobs for a few years, never quite destitute but barely keeping up. I lived with my girlfriend in a run-down neighborhood. A couple years earlier, I had introduced her to a good friend of mine, and now she took week-long trips with him every month.

It was one of those weeks when I was home alone that her uncle called. Her father was old, and the uncle said that he probably had very little time left. I explained that I had no way to contact her, and the uncle asked me to come instead. So I packed sandwiches for the long drive and went.

Her father and uncle lived together in a small house, almost an hour from a city. I arrived to find her father in bed in the front room, looking very frail. Two other friends were over, and he was speaking to them. One of them was crying. They had a tape recorder to record these last moments.

He called me over. Just then, my cellphone buzzed with a text message. I tried to be polite as I glanced down and decided to send a quick reply. He began telling me about his life and about death and the small Egyptian town where he grew up, as I looked down and circumscriptly touched my phone's keys. At his pauses, I would empathetically say "uh-huh" and "go on" and "I see". He finished just when I did, and I got up from the chair by his bed.

I talked briefly with the friends, and they expressed admiration at the conversation I had just had. They insisted on playing it back, right then. I was surprised as the tape recorder unfolded a unique interplay of old and new world. The old man's voice expressed one wise insight after another, punctuated perfectly by my distinctly America accompaniment.

They collected their things and left. The dying man had fallen asleep, with a shallow breath.

I talked to the uncle about plans and rites and treatments for the body from their homeland in Egypt. He showed me part of a traditional mourning dance-- jumping around in a circle on one leg with one arm in the air-- that I could do when I reached a crossroads.

I went outside for some air. It was very cold, with a swirling breeze. One of the friends had unknowingly dislodged one of the stones that led to the house. I felt that to other eyes it would look like the natural decay of a house in the process of requisition. I found the stone lying in a ditch and put it back. I waited a little longer in the cold before going back inside.

The old man was still asleep, and the uncle told me that he would probably stay that way for the rest of the night. I asked the uncle if the old man had any plans for his death. There was a small hotel nearby, he told me, where the old man wanted to go when it was time. They would bring him whiskey there or whatever he wanted.

I had to work the next day, and it was already late. I said good-bye to the uncle, and gave him my condolences and told him I would send my girlfriend, when she came back. He thanked me and showed me out. He left the door open as I drove away.

A Cambridge friend, Super-Id, says that whenever she thinks about me in Brazil, she imagines me with a grass skirt and maracas. I wonder if truth is stranger than fiction.

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From:msmemory
Date:August 21st, 2008 11:56 am (UTC)
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I imagine you wish the birthday boy a happy day (just not Many Happy Returns or something).
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