Empty Vessels

What with all this death, and Quan’s neck and brain problems reasserting themselves, and Mum recovering from hip replacement, we are emptied vessels.  I have been unable to return to the Maine time zone since Japan, sleeping at all hours of the day, and waking at any time in the night.  For the most part I have given in to its whims, but now I must work again to a schedule, but I am grey inside and ding-y like a cartoon character with those tiny bubbles popping off around my head.

What will work be like when I have nothing to give?  I am drained to where I make that honking noise, need a sabbatical after 14 years of non-stop push, the long list of pressures swelling behind me, the long road to a successful legacy rising into distant mists before me.  Eleanor Roosevelt must have felt like this – I cannot go on, what’s the point? The sky is falling and who cares, I am old, I am old, I shall wear my trousers rolled, we must find a way through this seeming grey and sodden wall to something else, a new mission for the farm, a new relation between Quan and I.

She is resisting how much she needs me.  I gave up that resistance years ago, though I kept it up through the first years of marriage, never really accepting her into my deepest recesses until after her injury ten years ago.  And she, though loving in most respects, retained the illusion in her corner that she could clear out, be on her own and be alright.  But these recent losses, loss upon loss, have put paid to that delusion, and she knows we are in it together, for the duration, wrinkles and bags and grey hairs and menopause, all in the wan January afternoon light that makes the line between success and failure hard to see.

I am content that this is so, but my track is more determined and has found its value, while hers – all the animals – is at a low ebb; the farm nearly thrown for a pin with the hole left by Dakota, and now the rabbits being presented to us one by one each morning, slaughtered – in three months there will be none if we cannot find and stop this slinky mink.

Quan is left with the nakedness of her need, with nothing to give back, so these two empty vessels go floating through the harbor, useless, vulnerable, but wedded to one another as never before by that invisible cord of gravity we humans call love.

We would not choose it, but only by submitting oneself to annihilation – and never have we been so close – does one find that part within one’s self that is beyond annihilation.  Shocked, addled, death-obsessed, sexless, adrift – it doesn’t matter, we are closer than ever.  The more that dies – though we won’t admit it – the more we are aware of that between us which cannot die, and will not die.  This cold comfort, what we get in a Maine winter, is the icy white light at the heart of suffering.


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