Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Chapter Two has a Soundtrack.

There's a glass shop two doors down from my apartment on cobblestoned Coffey Street. Phil, the owner of the shop, waved me out of my Uhaul the day I moved in with a flapping arm that could have meant, "go away". I was backing onto the sidewalk when he caught me and I was afraid that he didn't like my plan to get as close to the front door as possible. I wound my window down in time to hear him yell in a raspy Brooklyn voice, "Come on, get out of the truck." I obeyed and he immediately crawled in, his knees up around his ears, and proceeded to back the boxy vehicle into place. We've been pals ever since.

This week Phil and his guys are cleaning out the shop. They bring sheets of glass to the roll-up doorway at the front of the building, ancient windshields glazed with dust, perfectly square panes with a faint line crack or a pock, and with a hammer, smash them to pieces. At first, I didn't know what was going on. From my desk, in the hum of my fan, the shattering panes sound like a great splash, a run on of a hard "k" at the back of the tongue to the "sh" in the teeth and puckered lips, simultaneous and startling.

Like punctuation, the shattering splashes mark the lonely plodding of my book. I'm working at what I think will be chapter two; its about my father's decline and death three years ago, a process that began in August and stretched until just after Thanksgiving, a process that washed me over, numbing all sense of self.

This week, Phil's reminded me of what it felt like to oversee that dying and death: the great splash of a hard "k" in impact and trauma, the hushing "sh" of grief and memory.