35. The Death Dialogs, I

You can talk here. There’s no WiFi, no FB, no listeners,

just the two of us, how unusual is that? It’s unnerving,

Imagine, hearing yourself talk. Who the hell are you?

It hasn’t changed much, the consuming tropics in consummate

rot, raucous fauna and even the flora, peasants still painting garish

scenes from the porches of grass huts on blue lagoons. You liked it here.

But it’s not the same, nothing from the past is. You can make it up.

I thought I’d come here to die, you know, the romance of the exotic.

Do you think it’s more meaningful to die somewhere else? Does Caroline

know where you are? She will guess. But will she come? I remember

we went in a dug-out canoe one morning looking for a pig

from a neighboring island, and I had to hold it during our return,

the pig of slippery squeals. And then the next day it was hanging

by cinched legs outside the kitchen, throat slit, blood draining. Protestants

were coming to visit and Ernesto wanted to show them a good time.

What do Protestants eat, was the overpowering question of the week.

Do you really want to die alone? You’re here. Not yet. You invited me.

We could talk and then I might be here. About what? Talk about what?

I can’t think of anything to say after years of writing down everything.

There was a vacant hut–usually occupied by a young couple,

friends of Ernesto’s, I’ve forgotten why they were there–filled

with dead scorpions, the empty carapaces of scorpions, like troop

carriers after a devastating war, like the aftermath of a rain of locusts,

and when Cecelia and I walked across the floor they crunched.

She was from England and I thought of making love to her on the bodies

of the scorpions. Caroline says you’ve never been without a woman

in your life, one right after another (and maybe more than one at once)

that might be one of your problems, you don’t know how to relate

to yourself, only to women or through women. You’re co-dependent.

Oh, please, we’re on an empty island, don’t invite psychiatry.

What do you think? Is that different from a man who is married

for fifty years to the same woman? Nobody criticizes him.

The afternoon storm is gathering over Costa Rica, you can see

the women rolling on the clouds like courtesans on silk,

their languid fingers feathering the waves. Can I stay here by myself

until I die with nothing to do but watch the lake, listen to the birds

singing, eat beans and rice, contemplate you, my strange other self?

Is it possible you’re that interesting, that all consuming that we’d

fill up time with our insights, become a kind of scripture, holy?

What happens when I die? Can we talk about that? Can we figure it out?

That would be worthwhile, I’d think. But hasn’t that been done, uh,

to death? Well, yes, the dead know all too well. I want to know at the time

of my death, be awake for it, feel what happens. And what do you think it is?

1:00 AM can’t sleep after Oxycodone for the pain in his kidneys

and Ativan for the pain in his heart. The moon as big as perfect realization,

but invisible to the human eye, which is turned inward, watching

the vanishing self, the moon as clear as extinguishing, the moon

in every vessel of perfect round light, moon in hands cupping water.

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