Perhaps in the world’s destruction it would be possible at last to see how it was made. Oceans, mountains. The ponderous counterspectacle of things ceasing to be. The sweeping waste, hydroptic and coldly secular. The silence.
That night in the hospital I walked in and out of the hospice ward ten or twenty times, and my eyes and hands moved through the necessary tasks. Well into the night and deeper in my brain, it came to me that as hospital workers, we were being paid to trail along behind Death as he escorted frail, wasted bodies over difficult miles, dragging their loved ones along with him. My job was to meet the traveling party at its designated way stations and faithfully provide fresh supplies for the journey. When the weary group disappeared over the horizon, we turned back, knowing that another agonized family would be arriving soon.
The doctors, nurses, and I didn’t cry because the bewildered husbands and stricken daughters were crying enough for all of us. Helpless and impotent against the awesome power of Death, we nonetheless bowed our heads in the pharmacy, injected twenty milliliters of salvation into a bag of tears, blessed it again and again, and then carried it like a baby to the hospice and offered it up. The drug would flow into a passive vein, the family would draw close, and a cup of fluid might be temporarily removed from their ocean of pain.
If fire dwells secretly in snow, how can I escape burning?
It was smaller than I had expected — as places reconstructed from borrowed memories inevitably are — and also duller and dustier. Memories sharpen the past; it is reality that decays.
“The families who gather around their beloved—their beloved whose sheared heads contained battered brains—do not usually recognize the full significance, either. They see the past, the accumulation of memories, the freshly felt love, all represented by the body before them. I see the possible futures, the breathing machines connected through a surgical opening in the neck, the pasty liquid dripping in through a hole in the belly, the possible long, painful, and only partial recovery—or, sometimes more likely, no return at all of the person they remember.”
I am forced to render some order to the events of my life, to say it began here, and then because of this, that happened, and this is how the end connects to the beginning, and so here I am.
Perhaps this is why you are blind to all that is before you. History’s truths are only ever understood looking through the backwards lens, seeing its consequences take root.