Grief and Place

Sunday - December 9, 2012

It's almost midnight. I am sitting in the dark. My face is illuminated by the computer screen. My window is up. I hear the hush of passing cars and voices in the distance. I've studied french verbs for hours but I still cannot remember all the conjugations for the conditional, the subjunctive, and the future; they bleed together. What does it say about me that I understand math better than language? Math class was easy this semester. The numbers were beautiful, there was only one answer, everything was concrete and made sense. But french has tortured me, challenged me, shown me how weak my memory is. Tomorrow, I will take my french final and, after that, it's home and a few weeks of Christmas vacation and I find myself ambivalent about going home because I like being in this dark room by myself. I like the voices in the distance, the amber glow of the streetlamps, the branches that fan out and dip their tips in the light. I like my solitude. It is sacred to me. I both long for home--the meadows, the gravel roads, the scent of earth and smoke in the air, the hum of the crickets, the beauty of a Southern landscape that will always haunt me--and want to escape home. I've lived in the same house my entire life. Since my father's death, the house has become a prison. Everywhere I look I see him. I wonder if his DNA is still lingering on some of the surfaces, maybe his skin cells are on a door knob or a speck of blood is in the kitchen. I wish I had a lock of his hair. I wish I had a tangible trace of him. All I really have is his handwriting on a few birthday cards; it is insufficient, but comforting. His script is so tiny and neat. I cope better when I'm not in that house. Once I'm back inside those walls, the memories consume me. I see him everywhere, I see the life we had together. I know it's gone, I tell myself it is over but I will never accept it. The truth is, no matter where I am, whether I am in the house we shared or in a dorm room miles away, his death and his absence mutilate my life. And I often wonder if home even exists anymore. He was home, our family of three was home, and without him we are something else but I don't know what we are. There is no name for it. We are outside language. This grief is unspeakable.