The girls are in the bedroom with the sun washed over them, mouths slung open. The water here is either too hard or soft, it’s hard to make a lather. I’ve been up more than 24 hours flying, eating, drinking, swimming, watching the World Cup, horns up and down the hillsides.
I ate breakfast before the airport then lunch at the airport, lunch on the plane, breakfast on the plane, lunch again after landing, beers throughout, then down to the pool, a day without night crossing the IDL, defying time, going forward, moving so fast my hands and feet have swollen.
The cold water is good; there’s a recessed pool half a foot deep you can walk circles around with stones to stimulate the circulation. I hold the hand rail and catch the same woman I saw earlier on a bike going past, with misshapen arms, they just hang there and make me think of dead tree limbs. Something you notice, then pretend not to.
The writer Sherwood Anderson dedicates the book to his mother, Whose keen observations on the life about her first awoke in me the hunger to see beneath the surface of lives.
I take a shower, brush my teeth, get back into bed. It’s hard to keep quiet in a 500 year old house. The second shift birds are out now, mid-morning. Cars in the distance, the tic-tock of a clock you can follow if you want to go mad. The space behind my eyes opens to a cave where you can find things, see things, hear things, whatever you want.
I set the book down and a chill came over me: the book I had been looking for, Paul Auster, recommended by a friend: he said I don’t know why I recommend books you don’t have time to read, but I wanted to, to prove I did, and so I looked for him, Paul Auster, in the airport book store, not sure was he new or not, and I looked for him in the Costco, but he wasn’t there either.
We walked up to the market to look at the chicken, because mom didn’t trust the supermarket chicken, but I decided against. Instead, I had to take a nap to feel better, to go home before we went out again.
There was a sound under the vines that grow up the side of the house and I stood below it, listening, bees. I had to go to the bathroom so I looked for a book, and there it was, Paul Auster, the same one my friend finished and said reminded him of me. And it made me wonder where it came from, who put it there, written in the mid 80s, this copy unread, you could tell by the spine.
And I went from the first person to the third, to a past and future of make-believe. It was Tuesday now, Dienstag, and they decided to take a drive to a town on the Romantic Road. They parked outside the alte stadt and crossed a wooden footbridge. The town laid on its side for them, the same, still. They ordered boiled beef with horseradish sauce and red wine and held hands, looking out the window. He said, these are the days now.
After, they walked to the church to admire the paintings, the history, the faces looking up, looking down, the same story made its way along the river here, too. And the faces in the paintings were drawn from real men before they made photographs. Some were imagined, too.
And they go from third person back to first, sitting outside a restaurant again, laughing about language, how mom says to the dog Lay down, but that can also mean Lick my ass: the same as the word for humid, how it can mean gay too, if you’re not careful. It’s gay outside, today. Like the time I held my hand on my stomach after dinner in France and declined more, saying no thanks, I’m pregnant.
I call my mom’s dog Ginger because he’s a dog too and I think of my dog when I talk to him, but his name is Merlin. And I try to keep still on my back, supta baddha konasana, until I can’t feel my legs or tell if my hands are touching, and decide to end with the story of the sculptor my mom met, how he came to her house the night before his big opening here, in the town.
My mom includes the important facts that lead to the conclusion and what to make of it: here, this man she met through chance, through distant friends in a nearby village, come to deliver some pieces she bought from him, how she can’t remember why she invited him into the house, how that didn’t seem to make sense because she was in a hurry and he was too, but upstairs they went to the sitting room, and that’s when it happened: he pointed at something on the shelf and held his mouth, shook his head, no.
It was a form from a sculpture he made in the 60s but had to sell, the only one missing, here in my mom’s sitting room, come all the way from Pennsylvania, back to Germany. And we talked about it and wondered what it meant, was it the piece of art drawing itself back to its creator? Was it just a story that can’t be explained, to remind us of the mystery of life and our role within it? Or did it speak to my step-father John, his influence over us now even in death, how he connects us in ways that can’t be understood, like this book in the bedroom, Paul Auster?