I started this blog to restore the voice that I remember possessing. It seems I have reached a point where it has become exceedingly rare to find the time to talk, let alone someone who will listen. My hope was to begin to make something, stone by stone, where I currently see nothing but rubble and weeds. It strikes me, however, that in order to begin the hard work of re-building, I need to first pay my respects to what was. However much I might wish for it, I am no clean slate.
The act of remembering is a powerful one. It is the difference between submitting to the events of one’s past and owning them, shaping them ever so slowly that they might even someday become our most prized possessions. In memory is both recollection and recreation. It is only now, years later, that I have found just enough strength to look back.
April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire
– T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland, Part I, The Burial of The Dead
I was delighted to see the name in my inbox. Even though many years separated our friendship from the present, he had been a good friend, one of those rare people with whom it felt good to be myself, even in high school when such a thing was practically unheard of. The greeting in his mail made me laugh out loud: “Happy 4/20!”. Of course, this was the day when marijuana smokers across the globe celebrated their mutual love of the “herb”. I had been the radical teenager, close on the heels of college, who loved to smoke joints and posit the answers to all of the world’s problems. It was all so simple.
I wondered if he would think that I’d “sold out”. Indeed, I wondered if I’d “sold out”, not because I hadn’t smoked a joint in as long as I could remember but because teenagers have the power to believe that they can change life before it can change them. I looked down at my giant belly and resolved to write back as soon as I returned from my appointment. He would surely be amused by my current status: expecting twin boys in just a few months. But I was late to the hospital. And I couldn’t think of a simple way to explain a non-stress test to a chronic pothead.
I knew the drill. Relax, put your feet up. Twin A was in his usual spot, buzzing away. Twin B, I assured the nurse, was right there. But he wasn’t. I knew instantly yet I remained calm, allowing her to keep searching, more for her sake than mine. I focused on the monitor. There was still a heartbeat in there. Nothing can be done for the dead. Mourning is for the living.
The nurse fumbled with the ultrasound machine, visibly agitated. It was the first of countless times that I would regret the burden that I posed on others. It was the first of so many times that I would feel the need to do the soothing.
I wouldn’t step outside the doors of the hospital for another 6 weeks. We chose not to meet Twin B but rather to see him as he might have been, alive, in the appearance and gestures of his identical twin brother. I don’t regret that decision. We never gave him a name. I do regret that decision, but it wasn’t mine alone to make.
Now 2 years later nobody speaks of him anymore. It is an old story, a sad piece from a newspaper long since recycled. I don’t dare ask my husband G if he also finds himself wondering what it would have been like. How would g have been different if he had a twin brother? We are both grateful for what we have.
Still, when pot smokers around the world are lighting up in celebration of their favorite plant, I will light something in his honor.
I will remember.