A STORY ABOUT THE NATURE OF TIME
A long time in the past, a door opens. Four young men carry a gurney with a living body on it out of a building. The body is wrapped in a sheet, and bleeds onto a disposable mat. The body’s fingers hold the mat in place. Its face looks toward the sky, where there is no rain, only an empty eye.
The men step down the stairs like large show horses, in unison. The oil they emit from their bodies dissipates into the air in a metallic spritz. They put the body into a vehicle, then take it to an emergency room, where it is scraped. Its liquids are low like a receding tide. Before it goes under, it feels its death drive beat inside it like a live fetus.
The body wakes up, receives a bag of blood, eats iron. The iron travels through the body like a benevolent knight. The body doesn’t even have to acknowledge it’s being repaired.
Leaning on the power of the iron, the body can rise like a shitty tower. The body climbs a StairMaster at the gym, rising above everyone else.
The body has dreams, even now.
When we met to sign the paperwork
It was in a coffee shop called Hungry Ghost
The paperwork consisted of two certificates
And when the funeral director handed them to us to sign
Her face was grim with practiced empathy
Hungry Ghost is a term from Buddhism
For beings who are driven by need
And unlike regular ghosts
Hungry ghosts died in unusual circumstances
Or in their lifetime did an evil deed
Why this is a name for a coffee shop I don’t understand
As much as I don’t understand
Why we chose to meet the funeral director there
She had offered to bring the certificates to our apartment
But my immediate reaction was to say no
That I didn’t want her inside my home
Though I would later allow her in
But not yet
Hungry Ghost was full of people on laptops
Doing the ordinary work of their lives
Scrubbing through film clips
Or editing an endless document
Like this one
All the tables were taken
So we sat in a row of three on a bench
A large painting of a bull behind us on the wall
The funeral director, my husband, and me
I ordered a small caffeine-free tea
I needed to order something
To pretend we were there
For a normal reason
On this day in October
Just days after my daughter
Came out of me not breathing
I sat behind the barrier of my husband
So that I could hide my face if I needed to
And he covered me with his huge emotional wingspan
Even though he was also feeling devastation
And as I signed the paper I screamed in the silent forest of my heart
And the queen’s corpse
Which was my corpse
Rattled with the force of my voice
I gave the paper back
And held my undrunk tea
In my freezing hands and felt its heat
Radiate into the little calcium of my bones
I had been to Hungry Ghost the day before the birth
I had been feeling good
The contractions were occasional
But already strengthening
I sat with my longtime friend
Who used to tell me
When we were kids
That I was too secretive
That I should feel okay about letting people in
When I’m having a hard time
That I should let people care about me
The way that I care about them
She had the barista take a picture of us
While she pointed at my belly
I saw the photo only once
But I remember exactly
The way it looked
The way I looked in it
Dear friend I am having
A hard time today
Once there was a sunflower on a fire escape across from my own. It grew slowly, as plants do, from a small pot. I did not notice it until it was huge, its big head on its small stalk, wobbling hilariously in the wind. The surprise of seeing the sunflower made me laugh. It’s so big, I kept saying. How did I not notice.
I have a blind spot. I now know this.
In the maternity ward, there was an emblem on our door of a calla lily, the flower of funerals. The emblem was there to warn anyone entering about the atmosphere of the room. All the other rooms in the ward received sunflower emblems.
Behind my funeral door, so much of my blood was gone that I felt completely dried of everything. But urine still leaked from my catheter, a muted yellow, my body ejecting more than I thought it was capable of ejecting.
In the lily room, they gave me the blood of a stranger, and I took it and let it rehydrate my body like a plant being watered.
Sunflowers are like a total eclipse. They are dark in the middle, with a corona that extends.
During an eclipse, animals and plants go to sleep. They start to wind down, tucking their legs under their bodies, closing their leaves. Bats begin hunting. Mosquitoes start biting. When the eclipse is over, they experience stress because what happened is not what they expected.
I realize now that you came from the eclipse. You were sucked back into it when it was over, when our time together came to an end. You were beautiful and world-ending. You shocked me with your beauty, and I became so scared.
A blind spot burned into my retina. A permanent hole, like film chewed up by heat.
Sunflowers are sunny. Why wouldn’t that be.
Later at the grief group, each participant brought in a flower to create a big bouquet. We were sad people in a room, and the bouquet was for all our babies. I brought in the biggest flower, a sunflower. It had the tallest stalk. It had the biggest head as it glowed there, dark in the middle.