Carry On Tuesday – Stop All The Clocks….(W. H. Auden)

Little girl with a dead bird , Jens Adolph Jer...

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Gayle had been sick for years, but her demise was so slow, so painstakingly slow, that it was difficult to judge. She was always very soft-spoken, she talked with a delicate, hushed whisper, always. I always thought if she were an animal, she would be a beautiful young doe.  She was to me still  a beautiful doe, but now older deer and very sick. She wanted no visitors, no-one at all except for her beloved husband of 55 years who remained the love of her life. They wanted only each other through good times and bad; it seemed unimaginable, a love like no other. As you get older that there are not only few happy endings but none.

Her doctor has sent his nurse to their apartment once a week now to check her vital signs; that was the most he could do for her. Her breathing was labored, her muscles had atrophied, she no longer could walk. Paul, her husband, did everything for her; he carried her from room to room, he coaxed  her to eat a teaspoon of chocolate pudding, he sat near her when she was sleeping. He didn’t want her to wake up from a long nap afraid, her voice was so low he was afraid she would call for him and he wouldn’t hear her. He had workers come and put intercoms throughout their house. It made him feel better, to know they were installed even though she probably didn’t have enough strength to push the button.

One afternoon,after she was asleep, he went to his office for a few moments to pay some bills, to grieve for a few moments by himself. This burly, big-hearted man had become nothing but a shell of himself. Once burly and robust he was now thin, his face sallow, the light in his eyes gone. He rubbed his face with his hands, dried the tears, and a long, deep breath and slowly walked back into their bedroom.

He knew something was wrong the second he opened their door, he could sense it without seeing anything or hearing anything. “Gayle” he shouted, “Gayle, wake up” but of course, she didn’t.  He sobbed and shook her, his beautiful wife, cold and stiff, dead, like a tiny dead bird. He screamed, “It was just one minute, why, Jesus, why did you have to take her in those few minutes?” He laid down next to her and bawled like a child. This was a love so primitive, his only love.

He didn’t know what to do, he couldn’t do anything for a long time. He stayed on the bed with her, not moving, not being able to call their children or close friends.”Stop all the clocks, let time stand still, I can’t go on without her” he sobbed. He got up once, many hours later when it was dark outside. He tiptoed to his locked cabinet where he had secretly kept a gun that no one knew about. He got back on to the bed, next to his beloved and at some time in the middle of the night he shot himself in the head, and died next to her.

Nobody knew for two or three days; a concerned friend, after trying to call them for days, finally called the police. The police found them together, in bed, both dead, Life was not worth living without his wife, he had always said. He meant it.

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Always Elizabeth

Deer

I associate french fries with Elizabeth. Still, to this day, I can picture her face when the french fries that she DID NOT WANT appeared on her plate. I can’t forget her face. She looked like a deer, with white, almost translucent skin and dark, dark eyebrows and eyes.

When I was in High School, a long, long time ago, in Jamaica, NY, in the early seventies, I was good friends with a girl named Elizabeth W. I don’t want to give her last name since she seemed to disappear and maybe she wanted it that way; I hope that’s the reason.  This was a friend, a dear, enormously talented friend that wrote amazing stories, poetry; I think she was an artist too.

I remember we cut class together and would go to a pond or grassy area right near the school and talk about writing and life and everything esoteric. What sticks in my mind the most is that this was one tragic, sad girl. I cannot call her “young woman” because nothing about her wanted to grow up or change. She was the daughter of one Child Psychiatrist and another Psychiatrist or Psychologist. Elizabeth was one very sick girl. I am not sure if her parents knew how sick she was.

Back then, as my daughter would say, in the land of dinosaurs, no-one knew what Anorexia was but certainly that is what Elizabeth had. I remember vividly going to a restaurant and Elizabeth told the waitress at least twenty times that she did not want french fries with her sandwich. She said it over and over and I also told the waitress to make sure they didn’t bring french fries because I knew how Elizabeth would react, badly, of course. Sure enough, Elizabeth, never Liz or Lizzy or Betsy or Beth freaked out. Deep down in my stomach I sensed that would happen and I swept the offending french fries away and started to try to talk her down. She was inconsolable, she cried and trembled and cursed; we left immediately. I want to say we went to a show or a movie after that but I don’t know what we saw. I think there were kids throwing candy and that upset you, and me, too.  Poor Elizabeth, no one knew much about your illness back then.

I remember your very pale, very skinny body that seemed to shed it’s own skin. The hair on your arms were black or maybe that’s just how I remember them. We took a trip to Philadelphia once, I don’t know why, but we did. We took the train together for a day trip, did we visit a museum? I remember nothing about what we did there or where we went or even why. I had an aunt and uncle that lived there but I am not sure if we saw them. I remember nothing but your face, dear Elizabeth and the photo in our yearbook; etched in my brain.

Rumor had it that you went to a small all-girls college, Smith maybe? I tried to track you down but never found you. I was your friend and then you were gone. Nobody knew anything about you, it’s as if you were a dream of mine, that you existed only in my imagination.

I just wanted you to know, if you are still out there in this enormous world, that someone has not forgotten you, that I remember your big dark eyes, and your wistful little smile, like that of a tiny kitten. I hope you are well, I hope more that you are still alive.