Loss

You learn, sometimes too late, what is needed for the voyage, and what must be left behind

✎  Wayne K. Spear | March 29, 2018 • Essay

W

E ARRIVE TO THE WORLD naked, with nothing but a connecting thread to those who, with any luck, will love and nourish us. Soon enough there will be clothing and bright light, crepundia, a crash of voices, perambulation, the blush of passing foliage, a human parade. Soon enough, a world of objects and subjects, of wordless wonders. All this, before there is a you and me, before the arrival of that indelible space that separates, all before the problematic ego, before the untidy business of living.

You learn, years later, that a hotel is not a place. You learn that you came into the world with all that you needed. You learn, but it is the forever too late. Somewhere in the distance is that place you call home, or once called home, where the woman who once loved you washes dishes, or stares into the distance, or does none of these. A hotel is not a place, but you are a man filling the requisite chair, a quadrate, among the absent unknowable others who are between an elsewhere yesterday and tomorrow. You learn, too late, what was needed for this voyage and what must be left behind.

Time passes. You learn the trick of putting names to things. You understand that evenings, when you are alone with yourself, are the most difficult. This is the time when unnamed things belabour themselves to the water’s surface, demanding to be named, needing to be sorted into a taxonomy of mourning. Grief has many hands. It overturns even the most hidden of stones, reconstituting origins and descent, questioning everything, anatomizing the fossils, naming.

You throw yourself into a world that does not see and does not care that everything has changed. Everywhere is a hotel. You begin to notice strange and inexplicable things, for instance that the sky is not the familiar sky. The cashier asks you how you are, and you pretend that this is an ordinary thing to say. You pretend to believe that words still mean to you what they once meant. You pretend that the ice beneath your feet is not slippery, but the moments arrive when a footing gives way and you are certain you will go down, down into the water. I am good, you tell the cashier, and she does not take your hand because she does not see the ice or the all-consuming sea. And in that moment, it occurs to you that the hand that once would have reached out to you will reach out no more.

We come into the world with only what we need, and in time we will lose everything. Some things we will leave behind, perhaps not knowing it for a time, and in other instances there will be a perfunctory kiss on the cheek, before someone disappears into the car that will never return. There will be arrivals and departures, the passing of place to place, a remembrance of love and bright light, from an unbridgeable shore. Gratitude and sorrow, the will to go on, the human parade, an ocean that forever empties into a sea.

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