33. Wading to Costa Rica

 The time of being alone arrives, after the children have flown

home and the old friends returned to their gardens, Caroline

more distant as he deteriorates. She’d rather walk the dog.

“I can’t take care of you,” she says, “I haven’t got the strength.”

Who does? We can barely care for ourselves. Tests show how

little time he has. Pain in his spine, the permanent mass in his brain,

the headaches. He sits in the early morning dark of the zendo,

its essential loneliness. What he did not want was to die alone,

and here he is. He buys a ticket to Nicaragua, returning to the islands

at the south end of the lake, to a place called Paraíso–subject

of one of his poems–and moves into a cabaña with cold running

water and black beans and rice prepared daily by a woman he knew

in the 70s, Gloria, an artist and mother of a martyr of the revolution.

He knows it’s dangerous for him there, to be alone and so far

from medical care. It will be a painful death, perhaps, but also

a return to something he once cared about, the tropical energy,

the optimism of poetry. He was a young man watching

the afternoon storms roll in, stretched across a hammock,

trying out Spanish rhymes and English declarations of love.

But there is always the lake, like Coleman’s balcony, right there,

a long wade to Costa Rica, a slow return to dreams, like a man

he saw once in the river, water licking at his lips. He made

a list of everyone he wanted to be with him in the room when he died,

and now begins to think it was vanity. It is his death, no one else’s,

not a spectator sport. He even talked about memorial services,

one on each coast, as if he might matter to so many. Bi-coastal memories.

He imagines that a friendly doc will give him the drugs he needs

to go out alone. He imagines a sunset and the excitement

of the birds as he also turns toward the dark, so simple.

After that he imagines nothing. There is nothing.

It is the blessed end of imagining, of remembering.

Having a pity party, are we? No one’s going

to give you the suicide pills if you leave hospice

and go to Nicaragua. And you’re too chicken

to wade into the lake and drown. We know you.

You’ll stay right here and invite your friends to visit

and they’ll come and lament and praise you–

Oh, bless your strength, they’ll say–

you’re such a model for us all with your candor

and genuine pain–we can’t afford to lose you–

but they will and then they’ll forget, even Caroline,

who’s already forgetting because she doesn’t

want to be with your pain, to take it into herself.

You’re pathetic. You know there’s no WiFi

on those islands? You know you’ll be cut off

from everyone and everything? No one will even know

the date of your death. Is that what you want?

And who, by the way, is going to complete

your timeline on FB? Inform your friends? Does

anyone have your password? Do you want to live

forever as an FB fugitive? There is that eternity,

you know. It’s possible never to die in our world.

We want that for you. We want you. We want all

of you. If you do go to Nicaragua and wade

into your death, please have someone post the picts

of you sinking into the sunset of the lake.

He holds an iPhone before his face, the camera lens turned

toward it, and can see in the glass his bald head, diminishing

eyebrows, no resemblance now to the man he was, unrecognizable,

it is a death mask, a Noh mask, and snaps the picture, and posts it

to FB, so easy to do. You cannot see the pain in his eyes, nor

hear the pounding in his head, but it’s all there. He says goodbye

to his 1000 friends, he says he’s going, and a few click “like”

before they realize he means for good and then there are

protests and lamentations. It’s true no one knows how to close

his FB account. But it’s also true that after awhile even the closest

friends stop checking in, when there is no medical news,

when there are no new poems. His face on the page an artifact.

When there is no visible sign of resurrection or reincarnation.

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