I wonder about language. From whence would a marriage be retrieved? Is it like a container of food, pushed into the shadow lands of the refrigerator? Is it a lost dog? A marriage dropped down a drain, irretrievable except to the thinnest wrist, the child hands.
A passage from Eula Biss' book The Balloonists feels appropriate. Biss writes: "Today I noticed a slim bar of soap lodged deep in the throat of the sink. My fingers can't reach that far down the drain. It is leaching away into the water, every day" (47).
The prison guard informed me this was the book she choose to bring as she waited at the courthouse with her soon-to-be-ex-husband. The book she read as couples around her broke into tears or did not. As they jangled their keys or did not. As they checked their cellphones or leaned against the walls, eyes cool as coming rain.
Like salt into water? Oxygen into blood? What does it mean that he-who-was-here is now gone, and if I looked for him, would I find him?
Please do not mistake these thoughts for sentimentality. Perhaps I know the prison guard's heart better than she, and I feel compelled to say what she does not. That a marriage, although dissoluble, does not dissolve. That a love, although forsaken, does not disappear. That it is these difficult decisions, the ones which tear at us, the ones which cause some pieces of us to break and splinter and even perhaps dissolve; these are the decisions that etch us. Alter our tides, our bends, our body shape.
I do not understand a language like this one we speak. More comprehensible those images behind my eyes.
The prison guard and her now-ex-husband went to the beach a few months ago. It was low tide and a school of feeder fish surrounded them in a metallic swarm. It is not an exaggeration, she told me then, to say we were wonderstruck by the number of them. The shining of them. Silver flashes all around their feet and their bellies and their hands.
Biss writes: "I pause before I dive into the water. I am not scared of drowning, I am scared of hidden things, silent machinery under the water. A giant metal fan beneath the surface of the reservoir" (62).
The state writes: The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties.
I am inconsolable.
And it snaps at us, teeth like roses, like thorns.
And we thrash in the night. We sleep like animals because we are animals.
And we dream a hundred deaths we will never have the opportunity to experience.
Jurisdiction. This court, in this place, over these people, holds authority. A gavel raps skulls as delicate as reeds.
Those decisions, never not made. Those promises, never not spoken.
Language allows us to pretend we did not do those things, we did not say those things, but we did and we do and we will continue, because we are afraid, to deny. To deny myriad realities (who we are, what we want, where we are from, what we would rather say or do or be). To deny that we are capable of the deepest cruelties (and often [oh, sorrow] when we are working from a sincere impulse to cause no suffering). What we do, the choices we make each day (take a car or ride a bus; buy takeout or cook at home; give the mendicant change or not; stay awake or fall asleep), matter in a fundamental way because they alter us and those around us.
Biss writes: "'Sonata,' he says, 'means "sounding together." It is an argument in which one theme is presented in opposition to another and they struggle until one wins, in the resolution. It is a beautiful form, it has endured into this century'" (31).
And so she suggests a marriage is a sonata, which is, I think, a graceful definition. Even after the sonata ends, one hears the echoes of its music.
One feels vibrations of sound.