Write On!


In Responses on March 1, 2012 at 10:13 pm

by Tara Wiley
2:00 a.m. I check my watch, make sure the little alarm clock symbol is lit correctly. Brin slaps my hand. She can’t stand it. She knows I can’t help it, and she can’t stand it, and once and for all, she is determined to make.it.stop.

I love her for her passion, for her optimism, even though I know it is – I am – hopeless. I focus my gaze on her, stare into her liquid violet eyes, so youthful in their shining hope, and I know I must try not to disappoint her. I must rise to this occasion, be her hero conquering this villain I have faced day in and day out for years.

She is determined to go all the way back to the root of it all, and to that end, she has brought along a book of poetry that just happens to be more than 211 pages long. She has read to me since midnight. She has carefully meted out two bottles of champagne between us during those hours, just enough for a pleasant buzz as we enter this hour.

It is 2:01 (I steal the quickest glance while she turns a page) when she begins to read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My hands are beginning to sweat. She reads –

Then lead round the mare,

For it’s time that we began,

And away with thought and care,

Save to live and be a man,

While the keen air is blowing,

And the huntsman holloing,

And the black mare going

As the black mare can.

Come now, be a man! Be a MAN! I cannot stop the shaking. She smiles calmly, the very essence of ease in the way she turns the page, and it is 2:04, and she has timed very carefully her reading speed so she can read page 211 at 2:11, and I know this, and I feel the moment creeping in, and I begin to hyperventilate.

Brin hands me a paper bag. In between phrases she whispers, “Breathe, now, breathe,” rhythmically, almost hypnotically –

And at 2:08 I get suddenly angry because she is so calm, and doesn’t she KNOW what is coming, and what if I don’t survive, and it all has to do with that damn book I read as a youth, and the memory rushes at me like a tidal wave and crushes me and makes me want to crush her for making me be here, facing this number and this moment and this page in this book all at once. It is too much!
Crushing, crushing, like the earthquake crushing my abuela at 2:11 while I read in my room. An oblivious, carefree child then, so blissfully unaware yet of the crushing of 211.

And now, 2:11 is almost here, and she turns to page 211, and I wait for it. I wait for the earth to begin to tremble, or the lights to suddenly go black. I wait for the walls to tilt and spin, and I am holding my breath, and so they almost do. Again, she whispers, breathe, love. I breathe. In, one-two, Out, one-two. But the breaths seem labored, and I know this must be it, this is the end, and she reads Emily Bronte’s poem, and though I know she means well, it feels like a dagger to my very being, as if she is holding up to me the very standard I cannot ever reach –
No coward soul is mine, No trembler in the world’s storm-troubled sphere:

I see Heaven’s glories shine,

And Faith shines equal, arming me from Fear.

…Though earth and moon were gone,

And suns and universes ceased to be,

And Thou wert left alone,

Every existence would exist in Thee.

There is not room for Death,

Nor atom that his might could render void:

Thou -Thou art Being and Breath,

And what Thou art may never be destroyed.

“Breathe, love, breathe -”

And the alarm goes off, it is 2:12, and I go through my usual shenanigans: check my pulse, prick my finger and wait for the bright oxygenated blood after the comforting tinge of nerves reading pain, all signs of life still existent, even though we read past page 211, even though we read DURING 2:11, an unthinkable thing, and I wait for it. I wait for the relief.

She is watching me, now, staring into my eyes, looking for a signal that this time, the relief is not simply a temporal one to be revisited at the next 2:12. I cannot promise her that. I can only kiss her when I want to slap her. I can only thank her when I want to hate her. I can only be grateful she loves me still as I live past 2:11 for the 7,211th time.


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