In The Meantime I’m Doing Laundry

I haven’t processed this whole thing yet so in the meantime I’m doing laundry. In this moment, in shock, I reach for something concrete: one cupful of detergent; remember to clear the lint out of the dryer. Look for flights home. Go through the motions.

The news hovers over me like a storm cloud, something foreboding but not yet unleashed in heavy droplets or the pain of absence. I am still clinging to Shabbat, to the protected space in time before I knew.

On my flight, I type the words I had scrawled in inky purple just hours before, while half-tuned in to CNN’s documentary series on the 1980s. Lists of memories and anecdotes to illustrate a life, or my relationship with hers. Halfway coherent descriptions of her kindnesses and her ways. Eulogy.

When I deliver it, my own voice sounds soft to me, like I’m wearing earmuffs. It feels like reading a script and we are all just performing this thing, pretending. I am half-asleep. I say the things I am supposed to, the words that attempt pathetically to do justice to her life. I straighten my dress, fixate on the rabbis’ choices of verses to cite, and feel the flash of cynicism I feel almost anytime Eishes Chayil is quoted. In the parking lot, I am met with kisses, lipstick stains from the Young Israel sisterhood. They say the weather isn’t half-bad for a funeral.

And then there’s the way everything becomes about these technicalities – dirt, shovels, a John Deere tractor stuck in the mud, people in jumpsuits probably paid too little for their manual labor. The estate, her apartment, a discount on the headstone, perpetual care. Israeli soil and stones. An unpolished wooden box.

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I look away, bury my face in Psalms, to shield me like my earbuds protect me from the cries of catcallers, to make me unapproachable, invisible, to distance me from all the people and all the words, the Right Things they all try to say, the attempts to “lighten things” or state the obvious, the good intentions that overwhelm my sensitive, shaken, shakeable senses, clogging my pores.

I finally feel connected to Aaron’s silence — ‘וידם,’ “and he was still.’ I cannot tell you how I feel when I am still here. I cannot explain or express that in which I am still immersed. I am waiting for the fog to dissipate. 

I want to forget her body, the way I forget mine most of the time, taking for granted my soul vehicle, while also fixating on my reflection in the mirror. Making the mistake of thinking it’s all mine. I want to forget her body, the problem of it; that’s all it is at this point, something to deal with, it seems. Something about which we need to “take measures.”

I can only bring myself to whisper into the air words that praise the “righteous” and bemoan the transgressions of the “wicked,” these Davidic divisions, delineated simply, defined in pious aspirations, so removed from the earthiness, the clumps of dirt, the gritty questions we face, the ones about the legal documents, and do we have enough fruit on the platter for the bereaved, and what the hell happens now?

I close my Psalms, check in for my flight, lie sleepless and fatigued, staring at the ceiling and recognizing voices chattering downstairs. They say the Right Things and help themselves to cheese danishes, and fiddle with the Keurig coffee machine. I need quiet, and then I will respond.