by J J Cohen
I read Eileen's moving post on insomnia and could not sleep that night. In the next day's weariness the world seemed no more vibrant. No smile, gesture or waterbowl transported me. I tried to work on a writing project, tried not to snap at family because I was foggy and overtired. Early bed and the deepest sleep.
We are in the midst of a family vacation, only this year we are walking from DC to Maine along the Appalachian Trail. We've made it as far as New Jersey, where we climb the sandy peaks of the Pine Barrens. I can't believe that Katherine has been able to tread 625 miles without complaint. I know these mountainous dunes are dangerous, and I am afraid she will topple to the city of Patterson far below. I tell her to crawl. I think that I can make out the house of William Carlos Williams, in the basin below the ridge.
Katherine might die on this walking trip I've planned. Remember when we were almost stranded on that Australian mountain? But now we are in New Jersey. I realize we've been joined by Gay, who lives across the street. We're helping her up the hill. Just before her husband died of cancer, Roger came outside to whisper good-bye to Katherine. Then he died, and that was that. Katherine cries sometimes for Roger -- Katherine who still sleeps with the empty collar of our own dog. Everything ends, we all vanish, no matter how much we like being here.
In college my "American Modernism" professor told us that William Carlos Williams delivered 100,000 babies. I think that math was not his strong point, yet here above Patterson all those infants seem a good omen. Williams was all plums and wagons, but the best story he wrote was "The Use of Force," of the triumphs that are mistakes.
We descend into Patterson and catch our breath at the Community Center. We are sitting with the Senguptas, who moved to New Jersey twelve years ago. They are watching their daughter figure skate or their son play hockey. They are curious about us -- they have never met Jews before -- but they don't say a word. The dream ends when the alarm sounds. I don't think anything remarkable was going to occur.
Like Eileen I love the vividness that intense being-together and tiredness impart. Chinese food at three in the morning, karaoke at four, games of truth at two: they stay with me. But I know that intensity arrives limned with boredom, frustration, stupid dramas, things gone wrong, gestures not susceptible to transformation, that which asks forgetting. I don't lose those memories: the ruined plans, the callous remark, the betrayal, the complainer, those who leave and never come back. I believe in vibrancy, but I suspect that it arrives only at a cost. I'll pay. I'll think about Patterson viewed from a sand mountain, Patterson with and devoid of metaphor, and continue that impossible walk towards the coast.