May 8, 2007

The Inventor

These things happen. It's 8 a.m. In just a few minutes your son will be picked up to go to school. He goes with his best friend every morning. You are with your wife, your son and your parents, if I have this story correctly and I may not. But these details are not important. You are a 50-year-old inventor. You are a happy man, according to friends. You are a go- lucky. At parties you are the life and later when it's all over people will say, 'yes, that was a little strange, the way he always had to be bigger than life.' You are unusually tall, taller than a tall man, you can see over people.

Meanwhile, you give your inventions away, to your friends and their children. A strange looking clock that lights up. You are brilliant, everyone agree, and your son is dreamy. What better quality in which to grow genius, to pass it on — than in the blonde, curly-haired head of your son.

And so here you are with these other people, including your father, which is particularly significant, and your wife who has a reputation for being 'different'. "Strange" and "odd" are the words that come to mind. You're having breakfast. Someone remarks about what a beautiful day it is. Then, for some reason that you cannot explain, you bypass that thought and all of them, you put down your coffee cup, smudging a blueprint perhaps, go into the other room, stop for a moment to get something from your drawer and then walk into the garden and shoot yourself. To death. This is not an attempt, this is through to completion. This is, as my good friend put it, irrevocable.

It's hot these days by the way and there's a strange wind, an 'earthquake wind' I call it. People can't sleep and yet the heat is popular. It's reassuring. If the world is being baked to a crisp it's still nice to have one of those langorous days, and nights, when the sounds of the city seem more vivid, and just now around cinco de mayo, when spring is in earnest, when the white rhodenderons in the park smell as beautiful as they look. What a charm it is, how they take away all other sensation for that moment that you hold them close. What could be more satisfying than the free scent of those rhododenerons.

You, another you, walk through the park with your wife. You tell her this story and smell the rhododenderums. In fact, she knows this man, these people. You don't. To you, they're names only. You vaguely remember the tall, curly blonde boy. Your wife is deeply affected by the news and as you talk about it you realize the radiation caused by suicide. How it upsets the hope mechanism for miles around.

"Can you imagine that," you say, "right now they're having to face that, having started the day as 3 and now 2. And then tomorrow morning, what will that be like? And every morning they will be reminded...."

Your wife is deeply affected by these words. It's as though you showed her a photo of the body. She cannot bear to hear it. You were stupid to say such a thing. Which is perhaps proof of how little you can feel it. The thought of it is clear and striking but can you feel it?

"Don't ever do that," she is saying, "no matter how bad things get."

No matter how bad things get? And you think of that, how bad things could get, and of course you would never do such a thing, how could anyone, and here you are with your wife and there are your children off in the wing. "Irrevocable". Just the right word. The bad check you can't recall. The deed you can't undo. But the point is, the idea lives. That's part of the radiation. It's the illness of doubt. All of a sudden, you think, that option is still on the table. And while you are thinking about it, she is saying how she told someone where she works that no matter what, she would never do that. It stunning to think that the thought would get that far with her.

So you see it is live, these ideas breathe, the denial itself is proof. Everyone has thought of it, of course, but when this happens you realize how close the thought is to the surface. And then you think about others you've known who have tried suicide. How sympathetic and angry it makes you feel at the same time. And all of a sudden the whole world seems to come flaming down like the Hindenberg.

The upsetting passes. You are back to the car. Dusk has faded to black. The fog is back in place. Out the window, the familiar vistas reappear. But you think how careful you have to be now, how absolutely careful you have to be for a while, until this little incident is forgotten.

Appropo of nothing... There are times when I'll be driving along, on the freeway, down some suburban street with houses on one side and design stores on the other, and I'll see someone in another car and I imagine that I will never forget them, no matter what, I will remember them.... Or if I commit some mistake, dart in front, drive too slowly, I minagine that they will forget this ever happened, that I will be invisible.

Lately, life seems like that. So thin, so dreamy, so... if you hesitate just for an instant, you'll see something, hear something, something so subtle you could never describe it, and it's as though you've seen over the horizon.

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