Jane Doe? That means she’s dead, right?
“No, that’s not her posthumous ‘name’. She’s been off the radar for quite some time now. An intentional move. A choice. She could possibly still be alive... maybe in a shelter.”
You’re talking about one of your aunts?
Not the one who married the Fro…
“No. From the other side... from out of the light, not the shadows.”
“What I still find peculiar is the way things have kind of just happened. Like the last time I saw her, I don’t remember her even speaking to me. I could hardly recognize her through the window. Not that the fasting had changed her looks other than making her appear painfully thin, almost skeletal if it weren’t for her healthy color.
You see, she still was good about nutrition. Very careful in fact.
The 'her' I didn’t not recognize didn’t acknowledge me. We had no conversation that I can recall.
But, as it turns out, she’d remembered me because she left this…
Here’s her writing on the inside cover.
Her message... her ‘recognition’ of me comes mainly from a time before I was even ten years old. And she still pegged it. Even after all that time... and this time.
When she first came to visit, before I was ten, her presence was discovered quite by accident. Behind a closed door of the spare bedroom was a steady and indecipherable voice that, to a child’s mind, at first sounded like some kind of alien.
|"Pasted on the inside of the book was 'everyone'"|
Despite being scared, we opened up the door anyway. Kneeling on the floor, hands on in the ‘prayer position’ on the bed, was a woman with her eyes closed and speaking in tongues. She was kind enough to explain that a little later when she had finished her communion or whatever it was.
During her ‘visit’...”
Wait, I thought you said she was homeless?
“Yeah, she’s been homeless for as long as I can remember. Homeless in the sense of having no fixed address and no more possessions than what she carries with her. Admittedly, she has taken advantage of shelters from time to time. Or a family’s hospitality. She knew people.”
About that visit?
“Okay... yeah… that visit. That was probably the first time I met her. Or even knew that she existed. Definitely different. Different for a number of reasons. But before I get into those, I have to thank her for taking the time out to recognize who I was, even at that age. I mean, nearly ten and with no brother around, I had no one to wrestle with. Wasn’t about to try that with Step-dad-one. At that age, most adults wouldn’t rough house with kids. But she would. Tough and strong. Now that I think about it, her survival routine would have kept her in very good shape. At least when she wasn't 'sick'.”
You once said she’d taught you things?
“Yeah. She taught me about carob and how to sing הבה נגילה.”
But you are גוי?
“Yeah, I guess. But there was other stuff.”
“The big words that named the problems. Kind of like the art she left, pasted on the inside of the book.”
And she left you that book the last time you met?
“Yeah, the last time we met. When she didn’t even acknowledge me, so I thought. But she was speaking to her little sister, the one who ended up taking care of everyone. And I still haven’t got the stories straight.”
“Yeah. Like how nervous breakdowns seem to run in the family. 183’s father was 160, or somewhere around there. He’d actually belonged to the club, that roundtable where ‘intelligent’ people are supposed to sit. Only thing is, people were waaay too far into their own heads to really know how to communicate. No one would listen. Not where he was.”
“Yeah. Peculiar. 183 was even brighter. Which is somehow related to her idiosyncrasies, her choice to ‘not belong’ to society. Now, her navigational skills may seem fairly remarkable to some, but when you live on the streets, you pay attention to when libraries are open where there is plenty of time for reflection. And she could and did read. Areas with mild climates allowed her to ‘live in the hills’ with nothing more than maybe a tarp.”
“Yeah. Just remembered how her younger sister said we weren’t to use the plastic blue sheet when we were painting. 183 had complained we were messing up her home. Apparently, that was her shelter for the hills. Where she lived.”
Why now? Why all these thoughts and memories?
“If I could answer that question… no… it doesn’t need answering. What’s important is that I am able to have these thoughts and memories. I hadn’t seen that book, really opened it, in quite some time. Only now am I able to kind of understand where everyone was coming from.”
Because everybody’s clock keeps a different time?
“Yeah, and maybe this one too:
BECAUSE GOING NOWHERE
TAKES A LONG TIME
Something in the climate of a hammer
Struck him when young. Call a
Sparrow a lamp, you’ll still need
The liking of chairs to settle
What is at bottom only painted over
Cloth; and that flat cunning of plates,
How little it speaks above the soup’s
So roundly directional bravura. Count the sky
A pan, you’ll still be hard put to find
Any flash in its like. But ah, alas, alas,
Lottipo . . . the mushy marshes, those tree-lined woods,
The so-small journeying, and the trivial occupants thereof . . .
There, too, and all else, alas, are only real. So may we
Remember once again how the grasses cause the wind to move . . .
Ah, alas, dear Toppilo, what then is this realm that seems
So like a cell, without jail or judge, or witness even . . .?
And that we love! Is this not proof of something?
No, I admit – not necessarily of heaven . . .
And now, for that song..."