Memoir Hybrid by Wes Jamison
The following morning, I wrote only a total of four observations about the moment — four, which could grammatically have been five, had they been interrupted by another comma. The sparseness of these was a result of having realized only too late that it was the kind of moment about which needed to be written.
A professor once described these as surfeits of meaning or events or objects that uncannily align like planets, and, even if we do not immediately recognize them, we at least feel them, sense that the universe is speaking to us from somewhere in there, in the air or, as it were, on the ground. And that to stop our ears to it and to walk away is always a choice.
In the moment, examination was not my intent: I walked away, because my empathy makes a surfeit of anything overwhelming.
(Do you remember, did you even notice, how I cried each time I went to a service with you, and how I kept crying on the way home, not because god was omnipresent or real, but because that belief of god’s being real was uniform and permeated everything — filled the entire physical space despite those high ceilings. How I regrettably absorbed it all.)
So the incomplete and few statements of fact came later — hastily typed into my phone as I walked in to work, because the moment rang still so loudly inside me that even the distance created by sleep and the approach of work could not silence it.
And those steps up to work made the composition feel clinical, perhaps because I had failed to listen to or decode the alignment, or perhaps my work’s environment, itself clinical, was made manifest. Or perhaps I simply did not yet know how to begin. So perhaps writing it down, then, was to remind myself less of that which aligned and more to return to and examine that alignment.
You were touching it when I walked back to it, then, in the moment, having only a moment before walked away from it. Your fingers were golem — as stiff as clay and straight as if phalanxes were connected by stone rather than cartilage.
I recognize now that this is how we touch that which we fear: these are the same fingers used to check our tolerance of hot dinner plates, the same to touch sources of electricity, and the same we use when we are told It is okay despite our entire bodies’ fright.
(If I ever told you about the time I turned my car around to sit with a dying deer in the ditch, I would conveniently have glossed over the fact that it was very much agitated, and I was thus too frightened to reach out to it.)
Repulsion filled me from sole to tongue, because you should not have been the one to. I returned to it precisely to be the one to say It’s okay, you can go now, a possibility of which I was robbed by your slow prodding of its fur, as if you were digging for the meaning I could not bear.
You bent the way you did — folded, as if arthritic — either because arthritic, indeed, or because whispers are always that quiet. But your lips moved, and I think I could read It’s okay or You’re okay, and I wanted to yell that it — the it or the you — isn’t. (What a childish, selfish thing to say when it isn’t in my own voice.) The difference, I suppose, is sincerity: my desire was for its comfort
(I never told you that there is a certain dignity in the prevention of suffering. I never told you that, in 2001, when Andrea Yates confessed to drowning her five children, I understood how a bathtub filled with urine and feces and bruises would take John, Paul, Luke, Mary, and Noah in their innocent years, up — away from the ever-encroaching Satan. Because I never told you that I believe that every thing is exactly as real as we believe it to be.)
and yours was to be savior. The contradiction sticks in my throat despite how much more relaxed I imagined my fingers to be.
In the single quiet moment before you realized exactly what had happened, I was certain it was trying to right itself after its trauma, which indicates that I, too, did not yet realize what exactly had happened. And that quiet lasted only until it seized a second time, the time I watched in awe — only until its body seemed to revolt against the ground that I imagine displaced vertebrae and thrash against it like a maggot in its own wound.
After one particularly violent spasm, it swelled with breath, which had not been alarming, though the sudden exhalation, as if a pant of frustration, was — perhaps specifically because it seemed angry at being unable to recover. Then, each subsequent posture and movement became hyperbolic and unnatural, as if containing itself within itself were increasing in difficulty.
(You told me on numerous occasions that you are related to Mercedes McCambridge, whose name you never said, the primary voice of Pazuzu from The Exorcist. Did you know that I never believed you. Can you guess that I sit here, now, comparing your and her photos, looking for the truth that I simply cannot find. Or perhaps I never challenged you because I have trained myself to believe that I can find similarity and pattern in any two things (mathematically an impossibility) — that, if I believe it is there, it will be if it is not already.)
The horror of the movements would end either at its recovery or its death. This was not something that I wanted to see, not anything that I was invested in determining, but I watched to be certain that one or the other did happen — to know that there was an end in view for it.
And before that end came, I exclaimed with my hands over mouth, the way we do in our cultural imagination, despite the actual infrequency of the gesture, and I walked away. From it, yes, but also from you and from us. Because I compulsively sacrifice so that I do not have to watch someone ardently thrash against loss.
The sound of it resonates like a feeling, a physical sensation, still, somewhere between my tragus and helix.
(My mother still feels her dead father’s dream head against her own, right here, above the right eyebrow. She has described this so often and so vividly that I do, too, right here. And this is that kind of sensation.)
This doesn’t seem to align very well with auditory-tactile synesthesia, but it has fewer similarities to the more common ASMR: when I recall the event, when I will myself to conjure certain details, I hear it again — like a hallucination in that it is actually perceived by my temporal lobe, not like a memory of a sound — and I feel it thud against me, as if I were the very ground against which it broke.
(I was actively offended when you suggested that I wrote about a golem because you hurt me. You were that one golem, that once, yes, but your narcissism prevented you from understanding that which I did: that golems are each interchangeable and all placeholders for the desires of their creators. And, if the mythology teaches us anything, we know that we are only dirt at base, anyway — automatons always already created from base material and given life that we will never know how to rightly use.)
This sound was like something soft hitting something much firmer, though not something without give; it sounded like something aerodynamic coming to a complete, abrupt halt, like something that should bounce but didn’t, like a powerful bilabial expression of air that vibrates like a v, though certainly not for long.
And I didn’t then, but now I know of what that sound was sign, and I can’t help but bring my ear to my shoulder and rotate away from it — as if to walk away again, because I know what comes next, and from us — for much the same reason.
(You never understood this about me, that which I call intuition when I want to identify it, though I rarely ever do — because saying I know is precisely as accurate as it needs to be.)
I would not have been able to tell you, and I didn’t, and I haven’t, but I came to know just then — the way that one knows things that cannot possibly be known — that you did not love me the way that I loved you.
(I know now, too, that you had decided that you did not love me as you had once professed you did. Whether I knew this then, too, or not, this was a physical manifestation of what your voice could never produce. Or this was the universe forcing me to take notice of that which I had ignored. Perhaps you did not know, and this was that same moment of clarity for you. But then why did you not look up at me, see me seeing you do the thing that I wanted to do. Why it instead of me as the object of your affection. And never just it, but also him and them and so many but me.)
Just as the mythological apple designates the fall, and its own fall signaled to us the very reality of gravity, this squirrel’s body hitting that ground (that same from which you were made) meant that more than just it would rot there.
(The fall, that lapse from wholeness into language and neurosis is the exact reason, I know, that you cannot believe in it. Intuition is precisely simply access to a time we already knew all we need to know. Like Freud says (and why did you never believe it) (because it was Lacan, maybe), there is a specific trauma that comes when we discover we have to name that from which we are suddenly separate — blanket, mother, bottle.)
Maybe some would call this an omen, but I am not sure that I believe in those, especially not their application here: there is nothing in its body, its fur, its attempted flight or fall or vestigial thumbs that symbolizes our relationship or its end. Instead, it fell in front of us, at the exact moment we were passing by, and I left and returned, and you stayed behind and never did.