Sep 28, 2006

Add Out

I had just sat down on my first day in a new job, in the brick and mortar of New Detroit, in the shadow of Oracle around mid morning. I flipped through the morning email. This arrived...

September 27th, 2006

Dear Mark!

Thank you for your last e-mail! (which was 3 months earlier)
Here is, your mother past away today at 6 p.m. Ten days ago she was still coming to the room even if she was weak. Then she stayed in bed but we brought her outside in the afternoon in the sun. And for the last three days her consciousness was detaching gradually. Before she had a sore knee as she was walking. She died peacefully, without pain. There was a team that kept watching over her taking turns from one another every 3 hours, reading to her and putting her some music. We feel that it was a nice leaving despite all the worries of life.

We will send you her death certificate and I don't know if something else interests you. She has very few things. She wanted to be incinerated but before that we will have a little ceremony with prayers and songs on Saturday, September 30th, in a chapel, at 11 a.m.

We express you our sympathy. She expressed nice words and asked to her children and to all the people she offended to be forgiven.

May she rests in peace!


Natacha and the family

Email has no force, even with so many errors. The voice is ambiguous, androgynous, all the words have a login quality. And after all, it comes on a screen, in impersonal and imperial type face. Without a nervous breath, without stutter and stammer.

So many questions. And so many more later.

A few minutes later someone calls from Jaffrey to cement the news. I'm almost home. It's a French voice. Brigit. I don't remember her. "We will have the funeral on Saturday," Ok. Seems a little soon I'm thinking. Not asking me, telling me. And would you sign the death certificate? Yes. Then Brigit is gone; she'll call back.

Meanwhile, I'm like Marcel with his stranger heart, knee deep in dust, walking up the road to see what had become of his dead mother. That's what I thought of. I went to literature first for bearings. Otherwise, no sensation. White line fixation, but nothing behind it.

And then another call. From the mortician in Cranbrook, an hour or so west of the commune. He explains that since there was no doctor present at the death, there must be a coroner's inquest.

"Yes, I'm agreed." I always thought that place would make a great soundstage for an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. A Canadian commune. French accets. The choir in the background, the people toiling in the field, the intruiges growing everywhere. Rumors of two sets of books, money stolen from a wealthy benefactor. Money borrowed and not paid back.

The mortician hangs up.

The rest of the day I go floating down the Ganges of memory. It was quite a life, say what you will. Quite a life. From uncertain wealth to more certain wealth, to poverty, to self banishment, to a room no bigger than a bed. From New York to Paris to New York, to Hollywood, to New York, to Paris, to Canada, to Morocco a year ago last June. See those posts for a photograph. But what a life. Grew up in Paris after World War I, the step daughter of an aid to General Pershing, was a cover girl at Harper's Bazaar at the beginning of World War II; learned tennis from Bill Tilden, at the beginning of the Korean War, you should have seen her moving around the court, with a man's forehand, 'like a tiger at the net', roving back and forth on the baseline, in the sleepy Zen peace of a long rally.... She had several tennis lovers, stars and bums alike, and her share of movie stars, famous and not. She gave dinner parties one moment, the next it seemed she was down on her knees at Bendal's in New York, literally pulling shoes out of boxes for women who had once sat at her table, and it was a great mystery to them, a Du Mauppassant story if there ever was one, of a woman spun off like overly ripe fruit in a farm wind, who finally ended up in Le Domaine Du Bonfin. Which has known better days I can tell you.

As for Morocco, it was no good when she came. That was a faux ending. Any writer would throw that out, save some mystery writer hack. But the better ending, a scene from Flaubert, would have been she and two other women sitting on chairs in a cinematographer's late afternoon light, telling you all about their lives and loves in August 2004...

No comments: