PART ELEVEN

White Blues


(1)


STILL LIFE


Every day, he saw me
Standing stiffly erect
Standing still as a statue
Gazing off into the distance
Gazing off into the sky
Gazing into the sun
Gazing within

My eyes were glittering
My lips trembling
With rage

"Let me help you," he said
I did not reply
I stood stiffly erect
I stood still as a statue

"Why won't you let me help you?" he said
"Why won't you let me be your friend?"

"It's not friendship I want," I told him
My mouth snapping shut

"It's money."






I was lucky this summer:  we had only three weeks of really oppressive heat, and when those weeks were over, summer was gone.  September has been cool and mild.

My nieces have gone back to school, and I no longer go out to my parent's house quite so often, so I have had time to resume my walks to the cemetery.  What a relief it is to go there again!  How peaceful, just to sit for an hour or two under a tree in the quiet shade.  The sunlight grows mellower this time of year, as summer wanes and autumn draws near; the cicadas buzz and the crickets chirp; the freshening breezes play over my skin like a cool cloth applied to a fevered brow.  How I hate the thought of returning to my apartment at the center of town!  The stink of blacktop and auto exhaust; the smell of grease from the nearby fast-food restaurant hanging in the air; the blare of traffic and the grating blah-blah of neighbors shouting; the whine of sirens; the lack of all sense of peace, of privacy . . .  It may seem that I exaggerate too much the problems associated with living amongst people, contrast this too sharply with the quiet and solitude that are to be found at the cemetery.  But why shouldn't I?  Worries and fears constantly fret me, and I've little enough in the way of ease and comfort to soften life's sharper edges.  However, the choices that led me to my present position were my own to make, and the responsibility for their outcome is mine to bear, no one else's.  I thought that I could find a way to avoid being implicated in all the self-induced problems that take place in this modern world of ours.  I was wrong.

I grow very poor.  I tighten my belt – but to little avail.  In a sense, I have given up hope.  I simply sit and wait to see what will happen next.  Will I be able to pay my bills this month, or next?  Will some unexpected emergency arise to overtake and conquer me?  I do not know.  Almost I might say I do not care.  I have admitted defeat.  It is the death of my cat which has brought me to this point.  There are some, I am sure, who would think my reaction to a mere animal's passing melodramatic; but I cannot really comprehend why this should be.  His life was important to him, as much as anyone's is, and his life was wasted – wantonly, trivially.  I am as guilty as anyone of causing that.  The choices I made in this life prevented me from accomplishing something as simple as providing even a cat with a safe and secure home.  This is a truth I cannot deny.

I reach a point of quiet despair.  Everything would be different if I only had more money!  But I do not have more money, and can see no way to get more money.  Anger gives way to acceptance; despair to a curious sort of tranquility.  It's as if I have reached that point in meditational practice at which one observes one's own thoughts and emotions, and then just . . . lets them go.  It's not that I don't continue to feel keenly my boredom at work, my worry over finances, my fears for the future, etc.  I feel all these things as acutely as ever:  and yet I do not.  I am egoless – or, perhaps, merely profoundly depressed.  If the latter, then I can only say that depression becomes, at a certain point, a rather peaceful state.  I have turned my back on the world, and it has turned its back on me; thus it is that I begin truly to leave it behind.  Strange that this should happen in the end not by choice, but by lack of choice.  Strange that I should ever have thought it could happen in any other way.  Strange to think that I once believed that by turning my back upon the world I could somehow bring the world to me and lay it at my feet.  Yet in truth this is precisely what I did believe.  Such a fool I have been!








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