We are still wallowing in the wake of an afternoon at Ai Tre Scalini, complete with coppiette, when Carlotta reminds me of the May 15th letter in Beth Ann Fennelly’s Great with Child:
Sometimes when Claire passes out of one or another of her cute stages and I get anxious about her getting older, I think of the waiter in London’s Chinatown and grow calm again.
We’d just come out of a long matinee at the theater, and we were very hungry, and I was three months pregnant. We wandered among the crowded neon joints, then chose a restaurant down an alley, behind the main drag. The restaurant’s sign wasn’t translated into English. We pulled open the oversized red door and stepped inside. It was dark, and there were no customers. We would have turned around and slipped back into the fading day, but already the smiling, bowing waiter was gesturing toward a russet banquette where we should sit. We couldn’t read the menu, and the solicitous waiter could tell. “I bring?” he asked, and we nodded.
After a few minutes, the waiter brought the first dish. As he set it down steaming on the table, he promised “more coming,” and disappeared. Who knows what it was called, pork and fried scallions in a tangy sauce, unbelievably delicious. He came back after another few minutes, picked up the empty plate, and set down a new dish of something marvelous, promising again “more coming.” I think he was concerned that we’d fill up before we’d sampled all the piquant riches he could ferry from the kitchen doorway, masked by the prodigious greenery. As he removed each empty plate, I felt a pang thinking I’d never know what the dish was called or perhaps ever eat it again—but suddenly there would be an intriguing new dish in front of me, bathing my face in steam. No worry, he told us. More coming. More coming.
We think, together, of Panino Man, and those long lunches on the Aventino. How he would look at you and say, “Ci penso io.” How you knew it would be just fine.
Later in the week Tamanna sends over a book—an early birthday present. (She has broken my rule about no-birthday-presents, but it’s a book, so maybe it’s okay... Maybe even, books are always okay...)
In it, some lines about how this feeling will pass, this workload will pass, and these people will pass:
But look at you, with the gift of memory.
(...look at you, with the gift of imagination.)
You can time travel to the good stuff just by
closing your eyes and breathing.
It feels like it’s been a long summer already, and it’s not even August yet. Andrew and I are overworked, undervacationed, stretched, off-balance, too-often-sweaty, and understandably crotchety. Maybe even umpty, as Peter Flump might say.
But when I remember to try to be grateful, I find that it’s possible. More than possible.
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[giovedì 25 luglio 2019 ore 10:46:30] [¶]
And suddenly there is less of the year left than you might like. In a month that feels even longer than it is, thirty-one days and so many of them at or around thirty-one degrees. So many numbers anyway. Prince would have been sixty-one. Your mother has been dead five years. Your father twelve. Your brother has left the last fifteen months of your emails, messages, and calls unanswered. (Except for that one time in February. Woohoo.)
Sometimes I count and sometimes I don’t.
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[domenica 21 luglio 2019 ore 18:19:30] [¶]
Not just for the days that are like this one, but also for the three hundred and sixty odd others that aren’t, I love to go back and forth through the archives of the Poetry Rx column at The Paris Review. Like a pile of leaves I rake and rake again, or like photographs of people I have loved in a previous life. Like playing Spin the Bottle with a bunch of selves that I have been, am, and will be some day. Maybe or maybe-not, hopefully and hopefully-not.
This though, coming indirectly and tangentially from the Mother’s Day edition a couple of months ago, is for today. It is a poem by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz:
“There Are Places I’ll Remember”
Mom always told us she wanted In My Life
to play at her funeral. When we removed
the machines from her body, the ones
keeping her alive, I pressed play on my phone
so that it could be the last song she heard,
if she was capable of hearing it. It played
one hundred and forty seven times in a row,
before my brother could finally stop it,
the nurse calling her death moments later.
I untagged it in all devices, not wanting
the song to surprise me while I was driving,
or trying to write, or trying to live, whatever
that even means anymore, now that she is gone.
But the song remains there, airy and beautiful
in my iTunes, in my Top Ten Most Played,
an anchor dragging me back to the bottom.
That moment. That room. The machines
aching in their silence. My mother’s labored
breathing. My phone, trying its best, wailing
its song. Our hearts breaking in slow motion,
our hands holding on to whatever still felt warm.
This is the first year in which no one in the family WhatsApp group seems to have remembered what today is. Though of course that’s not true. There is at least one person, besides me.
I show the poem to Andrew. I show him the line break at labored. We listen together to The Beatles. I try to tell him some things, and of course I fail.
[Santo Spirito, Firenze]
[lunedì 08 luglio 2019 ore 23:08:04] [¶]