Remember, Write, Live
The scene is this: My grandpa and I walk up to the glass doors with a keypad lock. He pulls a comb out of his pocket and drags it through his hair. He punches in the sequence of numbers he's etched into his heart. The door clicks, and we enter. Through another door with a buzzer, hang a left, and then down the hallway. Her's is the first room. I enter first and a smile immediately comes to her face. Her eyes light up and I can tell that she recognizes me and she says something that I can't remember. It's just so much more than I expected; to be remembered. My aunt is already there, as she always is, taking care of her and helping her. We talk for the next hour, but it only feels like a couple of minutes. This wasn't one of those easy-going conversations that I remember having with her a couple years ago, talking about music and school and politics. Sometimes the response is not what you expect, or one conversation gives way to another in a moments notice. Occasionally she starts a story in the middle, with her and some other unnamed woman at a church selling something and then it trails off, as she realizes that somewhere she has forgotten the start of it. The subject is harder to pin down, and sometimes it is all over the place, but I know that we are all communicating, and I know that we are talking about life and love and I know that it is beautiful. They all tell me how smart of a woman she was, she is, and how it hurts to see her struggle. I guess I didn't have the life experience to appreciate our conversations more when I was younger, but as I grow older and think on those times more and more, I realize she must have been the smartest woman in all of Osage City at one point. I don't remember all of the details of our conversations, but all of them, from the first to this most recent have been beautiful and true.
Memory is a fragile thing; I must write.
The scene is this: I walk up to the base of the arch which towers above me. I've only ever seen pictures, but never imagined it being this tall. It reaches up into the sky and seems to disappear, but I know that it touches back down somewhere on the other side. My entire life I've been told that I am too big. I'll never fit in the elevators. Why would someone my height even want to go to the top? The door for the elevators is only four feet tall, two and a half feet shorter than I am. I duck and share the small room with five seats with four older woman, all of whom make a joke about whether or not I'm going to fit. It's a short ride up to the top and then a small flight of stairs to the observation room, the very tip of the arch. I'm surprised to find that I can stand tall right at the top. I begin to wonder if anyone who told me that I wouldn't like going to the top had ever actually seen the arch. It's been a long day on the road, despite the short distance, but now I know why I ended up here so late in the evening. To the east of the arch, I can see the shadow reaching across the Mississippi to touch the Illinois shores. To the west the sun sets over St. Louis, flooding the streets and alleys and stadiums in a golden bath that gives the town a certain glory, a certain beauty, a certain shine. But the arch is so much more than all these things. A gateway, a threshold to be passed, a symbol of all that America is, a symbol of all that America isn't. I could take pictures, I could take video, I could write tomes on this sculpture, this building, this monument, and all the thoughts I thought and all the things I felt and yet it still would not be enough to capture everything that it is. Writing, no matter how big it seems on the outside, may still be too small on the inside.
Writing is a fragile thing; I must live.
The scene is this: My car is surrounded by water and lightning. I'd say that the road looked like a river, but then what could be said about the sky. That sky which saw it's last glimmers of light as I passed from Missouri into this forsaken darkness. It only takes so many drops of water to make a glass, so many glasses to make a bucket, so many buckets to make a river. The raindrops beat against the roof of the car with such speed that it sounds less like individual drops and more like the sound you hear if you stand at the bottom of a waterfall. But add to the river of rain flowing from the sky, and the strikes of lightning that shook the world with a moment of light and color amidst the darkness, a wind that blows from the north as if it wanted to command everything to march southward. And therein lie the two limitations. If the car went much above 70, it would get swept up by the wind; much slower than 60 and it would lose traction and wash away. So I had to keep a steady 65 through the river or face disaster. Of course, it's not so for the trucks. Their weight holds them down, and so they pass me with ease, enveloping my car in great waves that I'm sure maybe my death each time they strike against the glass. The radio blares, louder than usual to overcome the uproar, playing Margaritaville, or some other song I wish I could change if I dared to remove my hands from the steering wheel for a moment. I don't. At least the music can transport my mind, back to before I was on this river road, forward to the hotel room and the firm, unflowing ground. If I can make it. But I must. And I do. But as I drive 'I do' remains 'If I can'.
Life is a fragile thing; I must remember.