Now that so many bad things have happened, all my good jokes have been taken away from me. Can’t talk about death anymore. Can’t talk about loss. Can’t sound too negative. This would make the entire situation worse.
My sister says to me on the phone, “Write something funny! You always sound so sad or drunk!” I Elmo myself on the couch with my phone in my hand, once again wishing that someone somewhere would recognize my speech impediment.
"Well there’s nothing funny to write about anymore,” I burp, slurping down my ninth martini and eating pot like it was Kellogg’s. “And I personally don’t want to slip up anymore.”
My sister does her dangling-love thing through the phone wires and I respond accordingly. We kind of know how to deal with one another, but she has more experience than I do because she’s older. The last thing we want to do is upset our parents. We would not want to do that. It is an idea that is drummed into my mind.
I try to think of a funny thing. I can’t.
I sit around and abuse my cats with too much photography. When the youngest was maybe 12 hours old and I had no idea how to raise or feed him, the shelter-lady who came over for free said, “They don’t like it when you take pictures. Wait for his eyes to open.”
I hate to be cautioned.
I pretty much knew I could get my kitten through the early stages. I ordered the shelter-lady out of my house and proceeded to nipple-feed for two years. I took wildly flagrant photos of my baby, despite the ill will it would bring to his health.
I couldn't help myself.
Good things are happening, but who wants to hear about the good things. Who wants to know that my garden is growing. Who wants to hear the story of when and how I learned to type. Who needs to be reminded of the heavy strength of a big dog sleeping next to you in the night.
I continue to search for something funny, mining my best Steve Martin lines, my best David Sedaris impersonations. I cannot find the humor within me. “Let me try this one on you,” I say to my patient sister on the phone.
“Go ahead,” she says.
“It’s more like a poem,” I say.
“Just read it,” she says. I already feel arrested.
I love you so much and I have never stopped loving you
not through the spring of absence, not through the summer of wine,
not through the fall of another man. Seeing you now makes me sit up taller,
but my spine straightens and my shoulders go back like this is round four
and I have to win. I check my collar bone to see if I have enough meat on it.
I pull up my sleeves, but I end up taking off my dress.
I finish reading and we wait for a few kindly moments.
“Is that it?” my sister says.
“Yup,” I say.
“Are you alright?” she says.
We sit there and resonate with one another over the great losses. We agree that these things can’t bring us down.