Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion."
— "Wait" -Galway Kinnell
The police and emergency service people fail to make a dent. The voice of the pleading spouse does not have the hoped-for effect. the woman remains on the ledge— though not, she threatens, for long.
I imagine that i am the one who must talk the woman down. I see it, and it happens like this.
I tell the woman about a man in Bogotá. He was a wealthy man, an industrialist who was kidnapped and held for ransom. It was not a TV drama; his wife could not call the bank and, in twenty-four hours, have one million dollars. It took months. The man had a heart condition, and the kidnappers had to keep the man alive.
Listen to this, I tell the woman on the ledge. His captors made him quit smoking. They change his diet and made him exercise every day. They held him that way for three months.
When the ransom was paid and the man was released, his doctor looked him over. He found the man to be in excellent health. I tell the woman what the doctor said then— that the kidnap was the best thing to happen to that man.
Maybe this is not a come-down-from-the-ledge story. But I tell it with the thought that the woman on the ledge will ask herself a question, the question that occurred to that man in Bogotá. he wondered how we know that what happens to us isn’t good."
— "The man from Bogotá" by Amy Hempel.
She sat nuzzling her palms, exasperated, on the front stoop— front stooping familiar suggestions from familiar suggestors. Her palms, typically so poetic and expressive, fault at the heartline and suggest only “shhh?”.
They’d both seen it: the speechless man’s plea for silence on the bus that afternoon. He’d pleaded; his gestures becoming more agitated the more the people disregarded him. The signs for silence—for “quiet down, for quiet’s sake”— are many, and certainly more than a finger to the lips.
More than a soft palmed repetition.
More than “shhhh”.
Elliot and Ole had both caught the bus uptown and, tired and dog-eyed, took up the only seats left; the only two seats unoccupied because so nearby was a man so visibly so uncomfortable.
Fraught. Posture suppliant for quiet.
“I think maybe it’ll rain,” Ole said, out of breath
Elliot said, “I think it’s definitely going to rain.”
And it did.
“Shhhh!” the man’s body seemed to say. The pair gave a sidelong glance, and Ole understood immediately. She pulled her phone out and texted Elliot.
“He’s uncomfortable. Our talking makes him uncomfortable.”
Upon hearing the soft sound of Elliot’s notification, the man cringed.
Ole cringed, too.
She texted again: “Silence your phone. It’s all of the sounds.”
And in return, she received: “So?”
And certainly. So?
The entirety of the bus was rapt with itself.
Wrapped in itself.
Everyone was as they pleased. Loud, indulgent. The way busses tend to be.
Ole sat in effigy to her empathy, looking across Elliot at the man whose gestures, though unintentional and (apparently) inconsequential begged for quiet.
It was a long ride home.
Ole slept on the stoop, her face in her palms.
The morning was quiet.
Things were quiet, finally.
Women can’t add, he once said, jokingly. When I asked him what he meant, he said, For them, one and one and one and one don’t make four.
What do they make? I said, expecting five or three.
Just one and one and one and one, he said."
— Margaret Atwood, A Handmaid’s Tale