On Thursday I went into town in time for the midday Mass, and afterward I met a friend for lunch. He went back to work. I tried to study - tried to get ready - to focus my attention at least. But I couldn't do it. The course to start on Friday morning was The Literature of Resistance, and my theory book was fascinating and my poetry book entrancing, and the lyric mourning of Elie Wiesel's Night almost too beautiful for sorrow, almost too sorrowful for beauty ... well, I just didn't have it in me to read The Little School or Woman at Point Zero. I think perhaps I'd already gone as far as I could go without company. I needed my classmates with me for the rest of the material.
Because I'm still me. I'm still the me I've been becoming all these years, and I was once the me who could not witness verbal arguments without beginning to shake like a sort of nervous purse dog -- or survivor. And what did I have to survive? Who could be sad in Pleasantville? Sadness is just so very unpleasant, and I'm sure it was not allowed.
Thursday night, I walked to another neighborhood eatery. The places for meals and conviviality are as thick as the falling leaves in that neighborhood. A visitor once asked some of us if there was a place close by where he could get a good beer - and we laughed at him. "Go out onto the sidewalk," we said. "Throw a rock, and head to whatever building it hits. There's probably a good beer in there. A burger too, if you want one."
It's been a long time since I met people for a 6:30 dinner and didn't leave the restaurant until 8:30. One glass of wine - Prosecco, actually - because Prosecco goes with nearly everything in a pasta place. One meal of Rigatoni Zuccati. Only a couple of pieces of bread. And the conversation flowed, and the food took me an hour to eat, and it was good all the way to the bottom of the dish, and perhaps if I ate every meal that way, I would always sleep like a contented baby, safe and quiet inside, safe and quiet surrounding me.
Because I am still me. I am the me I have been becoming my whole life, and I was once afraid to be. To be in the moment. To be at the party. To be without performance or presentation. I've learned at last to be, and to be happy at dinner with people who are interesting because they're interested. (It's even more fun when they're in love.)
And Friday morning came. What is the speech act of testimony? What is it for? What does it do? How do we listen and how do we try not to listen and why?
The boy who wanted only to be his father's son and never can forget the sounds of his own fear as they beat his father senseless - never can forget the sounds of his father's death. The woman screaming about the chimneys and the fire and made silent by her fellow prisoners in a cattle car, who even then could not imagine chimneys and fire and silence. The Plague crept in and stole the people away. They did not stop it before it closed their town. Plague could not happen. Not now. Not here. They could not imagine it. We cannot imagine it.
Because that is what it is.
It is us.
We. You. Me.
We could not imagine it, and so it happened.
And we're still us. We are the us we've been becoming our whole lives.