In a coffee shop writing to you. I'm writing.
We're together at a restaurant now, hearing Sinatra. Our son has been shot but we don't know why or who or even where, only that they took him to the hospital. Answer your goddamn cell phone.
And she answered it.
"Coming. I am coming."
~ ~ ~
The hospital coffee is weak. Watery with grinds. I drink. I'm trembling, want to drink six beers because I cannot control this. Jessica is sobbing into her hands. I am standing away, fingering my lukewarm coffee. When the security guard looks at me, I feel ashamed. I smile at him and break eye contact, sweating. I am guiltless, yet I feel guilt.
Not watching movies. Not reading novels. Newspapers have piled up at the front door, have begun to dissolve into pulp. They have betrayed me.
Years. We don't look at photographs. He was sixteen. She has become distant. I don't close my eyes when we make love, and when she looks at me, I am ashamed. I turn away. She had her womb removed recently.
Have my coffee in the morning and caress my purring cat but am gazing distantly at the old black gum and wondering, trying out dialog, structuring narratives, looking for a pattern.
~ ~ ~
"You're always fucking bringing him up. When are you going to stop doing that? Jesus. It's been six years." Slammed door. Cursing. She pounds the wall with a fist: one, two, three. The cat is begging me for wet food and, speechless, I stroke her back, but he did love this sugary cereal. It will be my secret now.
~ ~ ~
Trying to put this the right way. Trying to tell you what happened, why it happened. I didn't know who he was, but there are plenty of photographs documenting his brief life. I walked into the study and she was clicking through them on the computer. Click, click. The monitor is flipped off. It was like I had discovered her looking at pornography.
~ ~ ~
I'm rinsing the chard when she falls. A dull thud. It's strange. Once again, I'm going to the hospital. She is speechless. It is just low sugar. Something.
I pay for the gasoline inside and get coffee, newspaper, pack of gum. This is a moment of clarity for me. I tell the teenager there, "Thanks," and ask, "Cancel for credit?" He nods, wipes his oily hair behind a pierced ear. I want to ask him, "How's the night going? That a good book?" I do not. The car is running.
~ ~ ~
Clicking through the news now, dissatisfied. Frustrated. Checking this and that. I notice my cat has groomed a hole in her coat and a smear of red is on her white fur. She looks at me, eyes wide, confused. I cry.
~ ~ ~
Jessica has divorced me two years now. I sleep on the couch but have become fascinated by the bed we used to share. I don't drink coffee anymore. Anxiety. I am detoxifying myself, juicing, wheatgrass, jogging, that stuff. I agree. I am a brick. Distant, mopey, all of that.
But I'm free to indulge now--I go through his paperback books, his board games. I try to set up one of his video games but the technology is beyond me. I look at his miserable handwriting on notebook paper and am fascinated by his e's. In a few months, I’ve read everything he’s ever written. What is this?
~ ~ ~
Disengaged. Struggling with my work. My portion of the project has been taken away and I’ve been asked to put in for leave. Not hungry. Yesterday, I cursed out a man who was in the road with his blinkers. His rusted car had stalled and he trembled and sweated as I cursed and honked him. And then I felt ashamed. Afterwards, I laughed about it. Later that night, I drank six dark beers, ate some fried food, and threw up into the toilet. Gazing into the slimy water: he was an old man. So am I. I decide to call Jessica.
~ ~ ~
Meet her on his birthday. She is still driving the Honda—all rusted out, but the tires are new. I smile when I see that. She is a silver beauty, thin as a razor, all smiles. She enriches me. I want to talk forever. Forever. We walk to his grave and she says he was a good boy, though this is awkward. We get breakfast. I have already eaten, so I get water but am absolutely miserable for coffee. She gets toast with maple syrup and powdered sugar, cuts it into tiny pieces and dips it. I am fascinated by this. Magical. She is genius. I order coffee. I haven’t had it for months, and so I buzz. We talk in circles. My words can’t come fast enough: work, cat, house, car, no I haven’t read anything. My failures are politely evaded. We go through my prescriptions. Hers. I hold her hand and she wipes away a tear: “So this is how it turned out.”
We make love at home, but there is a sweetness and awkwardness to it, like we are afraid to hurt the other. I do not finish, but she masturbates on me and cums silently. After, we nap. A good one. I wake up and she's watching streaming videos. I know we are married again.
She is more successful than I am. She is organizing a consortium on something, making phone calls, e-mailing, dropping off fliers. I am a fiddler. I cannot commit. I dabble. My ecology is a basement with a guitar, a garden, a few tawdry collectibles. And some books.
~ ~ ~
~ ~ ~
"I am coming. What the fuck do you mean he was shot? You've got to be kidding me. Are you fucking kidding me? Get in the god damn car. Jessica. Jessica, put it down. Calm down, Jessica, please."
She is crying, I am driving and crying. I am leaning heavy into the steering wheel. My teeth are chattering. Can you hear them? I almost run someone off the road exiting.
Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars. Let me see what spring is like. On Jupiter. On Mars.
He is dead when we arrive. I am telling you the truth. His face. His mouth closed, lips drawn tightly.
He is keeping a secret from me.
She sits on the couch in the living room, her hands in her face. I am standing away. She sobs in great huffs and I stare at her, gritting my teeth, because it was her gun. She keeps asking me questions. There is never a clear motive save the ones we invent, we try to imagine, the stories we tell.
The funeral. More crying. We decided on a Methodist minister and Rabbi.
He's fragments. An Indians hat. A few notebooks. Some eagles. I'm smelling his t-shirts, holding up his pants. And nothing.
My son suicided. It is beautiful for its narrative unity.
~ ~ ~
This morning I drive Jessica to the airport. She's going to a conference. We listen to German immersion. "Ich heisse…Mein name ist…" She takes off lipstick, too rich. She looks clownish, she tells me. We have coffee before security. I am charged with the excitement of travel, although I am staying in Ohio. I feel sentimental and so I cup her hands. "What's wrong?" I don't know. It's lonely this early in the morning, when the sun is still rising, when the business travelers, with their shiny hair and their shiny shoes, strut through the airport, clopping, clopping. It is lonely here. I don't want you to leave.
She kisses the apple of my cheek and stands in line for security. It's miserable there, watching her take off her shoes, watching her expose her beautiful feet to the airport floor. I stare at her, see the sacredness of her. Her smile.
It's a strange thing. I drive home. I turn off the MP3. It is silent on the freeway. The semi-trucks are passing me heavily, snakes of light hissing as they go by. Somewhere high above Jessica is climbing over the clouds, approaching 600 miles per hour, though she is also sitting down, asking for coffee. She will receive coffee and perhaps a snack. "Cookies please." "Coffee and cookies." She will smile at the attendant who gives them to her before she breaks open the plastic wrapper of the cookies, sips on her coffee, and cracks open the pages of a paperback. This image of her fills me with joy.
But I am on the side of the road. And yet, the coffee has quickened me. It is wintering. There are a few hours until sunrise.