‘Where he’d really be’ (for Alfred Lambert)

dsc_0010There’d been some sun for a few minutes in the morning but then it went back to gray and acted like it would storm. The days fanned out like messily cracked eggs fumbling for the edges of the pan, legless and blind. The days repeated themselves with a sinister patience, the patience of a torturer who understands the boundaries of his victim’s pain and how to play those boundaries like a musical instrument. The days sang out across deep valleys of silence coaxed by the ticking of a clock. A life of plodding, of filling holes: holes between meals and trips to the bathroom, followed by the greatest medley of holes, sleep: the dark that disguised itself as death and the rest it refused to yield that kept him astir long enough to remind him of his suffering and the sad chasm of emptiness that could only be filled by his leaving, which he was not allowed to do, not yet. That death would not come naturally and all there was to remember now, laced in regret. It was these times in his bed propped up like a dummy, these times that were No Times and All Times he noted the dull shift in seasons, and knew one day the sun would rise without him, and wondered where he’d really be then. His existence defined by his absence, the final hole. Pinned down by the immutable weight of it, here was the book of his life he imagined for himself but knew he’d never finish. And the sky a gray no watercolors could brighten, it seemed to look back with scorn as if to say not yet, not today. 

Written for the character Alfred Lambert in Jonathan Franzen’s book The Corrections.

Categories: death, Fiction

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. So many wonderful phrases here, I don’t even want to list a few. Better just to reread the whole thing. Beautiful.

    And it might be time for me to take The Corrections down from the shelf again after all these years …


    • Aw thanks Kevin, appreciate it. Yes, I reread it and enjoyed it much more this time, but it put me in a real palpable funk. And odd, the only way I could purge that funk was to write this, to channel some of the observations I had with my grandmother when she was recovering from a stroke, kind of imprisoned in herself, and a bit of my father-in-law, when he started suffering toward the end of his life. It was so brutal, to finish that book. I hadn’t remembered a lot of it and it struck me hard, but was so beautifully told.


  2. I read more about Franzen here than anywhere else. Okay, I’m convinced. I’m afraid but I’m convinced. Start with The Corrections, I assume?

    Liked by 1 person

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