Wednesday, November 29, 2017

My Listener Has Died

If all had gone as planned, I would be preparing to walk down to my car and drive across town to a regular Wednesday appointment. A reminder from my phone’s calendar just rose into the center of the screen as though out of nowhere. As though from the dead.

When once I write about him, I told myself a few weeks after his death this past summer, I am that much closer to never writing about him again.

When once I write about the office and the routine and the chairs facing one another, I am that much closer to not needing to ever again.

When once I write, I am that much closer to silence.

When once I write, I am that much closer to a silence that no one, it seems, could possibly have a way to change.


He had been the one to write each Wednesday – quick occasional notes during session after session. Those notes have entered the silence for which they had seemed always to be destined.

The notes were not the substance – the listening was. I would look up. Because his writing was not constant, it caught my attention at those moments when he put pen to paper.

I hear now that three other clients of his have received in the mail the files he kept of just such notes. His family, it seems, is making an effort to get the session notes to the clients involved. They will not know where to send mine, however, unless I notify them of a change of address.

Our regular Wednesday session the last week of June fell exactly between the Monday when professional movers had been scheduled to clear my apartment and the Friday I needed to leave those rooms broom clean.

On that last Wednesday of June, a printed notice hung in one of the windows flanking the door to the office waiting room across town: “All appointments have been cancelled.”

I met the silence of the listener to whom nothing more can be said.

I feel like leaving those session notes in the same silence.

Monday, November 13, 2017

C9 Christmas Lights

I arrived early in a neighborhood where a friend and I had agreed to meet for dinner. It was a cold evening two years ago, and the darkness had settled. Pedestrians whose paths I crossed were moving along the sidewalk faster than I was. I had time to kill before the Groupon restaurant opened, and I had not wanted to sit in the car.

I passed down several blocks of Boston triple-deckers whose windows were dark. I could see holiday wreaths on some doors and occasional orange light bulbs topping old-fashioned plastic candles before pull-down shades. The decorations had an effect. They had the distinction of being something where there could very well have been nothing to set off the season.

There were pockets of retail establishments in this residential darkness. From time to time a laundromat, a hairdresser, a convenience store spilled light onto the sidewalk. It was the display window of a hardware store with its aisles of crowded shelves that got my attention. Amid shovels and bags of rock salt stood an artificial tree with one string of large C9 Christmas lights threading its branches.

I was helpless to explain the draw of those bulbs; they might have come from the front porch of the house I grew up in. My mother used to direct my father in December to hang a string of such large multi-colored lights around the front door with its side panels. Each night before dinner one of us would go out onto the screened-in area and insert the plug at the end of the string of lights into an outdoor outlet.

The cold air on that porch would suddenly get bright red. Our hands and faces took on the color as well.

My mother was earnest about her simple decorations.

Two years ago I went into that hardware store and passed displays of screws and nails and extension cords and paint brushes. I found the boxed Christmas lights in a back corner of the store. I stood for a while with a C9 string in my hand.

This past weekend I located the still unopened box amid the last items to unpack in a second-floor back room. When I got downstairs, I popped the individual bulbs out of a plastic webbing that had kept the string safe in its packaging. I stood on a chair next to the sliding glass doors in the kitchen and tucked the string of lights behind four nails evenly spaced along the top of the door frame. The ends of the string hung down evenly on both sides of the door jambs.

 I inserted the plug into the outlet.