Unaccompanied

standard | Published on March 3, 2017 by Michelle Wirth

I play one of Madeleine’s favorite recordings, Yo Yo Ma performing Bach’s Cello Suite No.1 in G Major. In my mind I am in our old house, on a massage table, watching the afternoon sunlight fanning across yellow walls, as Madeleine digs her elbow into some tender spot.

The embodied memories of having been married to a deep tissue massage therapist.

I spent last week on a tropical island in the extraordinary space created by magnificent people from around the world. I learned the fluid embrace, the cradling and the expansive space of Lomi massage. I experienced Madeleine and embodied her in her absence as I could not have in her presence, standing in a place at the table where she used to stand, moving as she used to move, reaching for her as I stepped into the space in my own right.

I walked barefoot on the black sands of Hawaii, the way I wanted to when I first saw the picture in the social studies book in elementary school. Before I could imagine that I would one day float in the Dead Sea with my wife, and we would come home with a part-siamese kitten who had bitten her hand on the street, and that he would be endlessly loving without ever getting any easier. If you had asked me then, I would have sworn my adult self would have gone first to the Redwood Forests (this land is made for you and me). From Hawaii I crossed the ocean and drove up the California coast with my boyfriend. We are holding off on a trip to the Redwood Forests, for a longer weekend, for a more languid ride. We stayed at a hotel on the beach and I collected rocks rolled smooth by the waves, because that is what I do. There is a Jewish tradition of putting pebbles on grave markers. I have a flicker of thought about whether I will place one of these on his marker, or if he will place one on mine. I crack a joke instead about how, having filled my pockets with rocks, I could walk into the water like Virginia Woolf.

On our way up the coast, we had stopped at a gas station for the bathroom and there were two women ahead of me in line. They said the guy ahead of them had been in there for ten minutes already. I knocked on the door briskly and asked the guy if he was alright (he was). One of the women remarked that I have more balls than she does. I explained that if someone’s using heroin in a public bathroom there’s a short window of time to use Narcan in the event of an overdose. She looked at me oddly so I clarified that, of course, there were a lot of other sudden ways to die that don’t involve overdose – stroke, heart attack, aneurysm. She asked if I have a medical background. I said no, I have just become familiar with a lot of sudden ways to die. This seemed like a good time to leave and find an available bathroom. On the flight home, as we sat on the runway a man went into seizures. While we waited for medics to arrive the woman sitting next to me went into detail about how she nurses her husband through his diabetic seizures. I turned my gaze out the window to give our fellow passenger some privacy as they wheeled him off the plane, and I listened to my seat mate detail her seizure response habits, with the new found patience of one who now knows how turbulence evokes turbulent memories.

I crossed the continent and came home at midnight to an empty house.
Today my wife’s siamese-ish cat cried and cried harrowing my soul like nails on a chalk board until I yelled at her – at Madeleine – “All those years of yelling at me from another room no matter how many times I told you I can’t make out the words, and now you leave me with a f#cking cat who cries from the basement. FUCK YOU.” And then I laughed until I cried. And I thought, finally, something about this is funny.

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