On this warm April day when only the most eager of bushes and trees are showing green, I sit by a lake on the yellow, snow-flattened reeds from last summer and I decide that if I ever have to make a bed outside, I will come here, gather the reeds and lie down.
At first I think it’s probable I’ll get shivery from the wind, determined in its constancy, but the cushion of reeds has made me sleepy and the silver sun is pushing closed my eyes.
This morning, I had been thinking about yesterday, at the creek, with the boys, with Betty, and how I said, “Don’t get your shoes wet.”
Ian tossed big stones to make a bridge across the water to the sand bar. It was inevitable that he fall in because he was trying so hard not to. Pook, using an unbendable stick to pole vault his way to the sand island, also touched water, deeply and cooly. Betty pulled taut the 15 foot length of her leash. Me, I was trying to forget about the house and all its showings, trying to predict the outcome of things. It’s a weakness I have or maybe it’s an arrogance, like when I finish other people’s sentences because they’re not talking fast enough, not getting to the point. So that’s what I was thinking about this morning, how is it that a person can just live moment to moment? That’s how we get free, right?
But then later today, as I was waiting out the open house, I learned that a high school classmate had died.
Ricardo Accorsi played drums, briefly I remember, in a band with my brother Brian, with my best friend’s brother, Frank, and my boyfriend, Tato. Once we went to Ricardo’s house. I remember it had two kitchens. I remember that there was a poster of Leonardo da Vinci’s man, all symmetry and circle, spreading. I’d never see it before.
Later that school year, I saw Ricardo at a party. It stands to reason I was very drunk, probably high, speed climbing up fool’s hill. We hugged like we were long lost friends until the floor became slippery and the walls swayed and I crashed into the patio door. Did it shatter? I don’t remember.
What I do remember is being at the hospital in a room with my best friend, Susie, and laughing hysterically until my dad walked in.
“You think this is funny?” he said. Yes.
I have a scar from that night, a small horseshoe on my right hand, on the webbing between my fingers.
I don’t know anything else about Ricardo’s life after graduation. I don’t know how he lived. But I do know how he died because my dad died the same way.
I don’t usually think about how ALS makes a person’s muscles go slack, limp and dragging, or how boisterous laughter and uncontrollable sobbing are interchangeable. It’s more specific. It’s about the mouth. Food and speech and song and giving tender kisses are taken away, cruelly, it seems. And, at the last, it takes away your breath.
This is what I am thinking about this moment with the sun flashing on the water, beacons of jumping silver light beckoning me into the heart of this beauty. I am free in this moment. I can’t help but think that that’s where Ricardo is right now, deep in the heart of beauty. And we, like the ducks on this lake, have our heads submerged, tail feathers in the air.