Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Somebody asked me today -- well, yesterday -- if the days seemed longer. I asked what he meant, but I knew. Part of it was just me being careful with meaning. Mostly it was a way of keeping distance. The days of anticipation. I keep distance even from myself. Yes, it’s better than Christmas, but that’s not saying much. The things we get for Christmas are just things. I’m getting my son back.

All night long the phrase has been echoing through my mind. To love is to be hostage to fate. We can always be hurt, and we know we will be. The pain we suffer on our own account just makes us angry. Maybe afraid. Depends on our character. But anger and anxiety are their own sort of security -- the comfort of the known. We have no power to take onto ourselves the pain of the ones we love. Nothing we can do can ensure their safety. We are helpless, and no plan or prayer can be trusted as a promise. There’s nothing more helpless than a hostage.

But my son will be back tomorrow, having passed unharmed through the fire of war. I see myself waiting at the airport, calm, impassive almost. I’m good at keeping distance. Then I’ll see him and smile and we’ll hug. Not a lot of eye contact, from me. I’ll be a little shy. Like when he was three, and I met him at the airport, and took him from his mother’s arms and held him like he was a part of my body, and we smiled with our hearts, and were glad beyond words, and he was a little shy.

I’m good at waiting. I’ve learned patience. That’s what life is -- outlasting hunger and thirst and poison and betrayal. It’s a little dramatic sounding, I know. I must be wrong. Life must be something other than just this. Oh. I suppose outlasting hunger comes at the pleasure of good food and sweet water. I suppose that poison changes places with the joy of health and vigor. I suppose that betrayal finds its anodyne in love.

We can’t be betrayed unless we trust. I think we can love without trusting. Maybe it’s that we know some people can’t hurt us, yet. But that’s a sort of trust. No matter. There’s hardly any need of trust at all. We know how it ends. It’s just a question of what we do in the meantime. We define our lives by our conduct. We are patient and generous, or petty and arrogant, as it falls upon us to be. I suppose we have a choice, but it doesn’t seem that way to me. It seems arbitrary. It seems like we are hostages to fate.

I’m not in a mood. This is what I think. The days don’t seem longer. I’ve been waiting for five and a half years. I've been waiting my whole life.



brent said...

Another sleepless night, I suppose.

Jack H said...

Well I hope you sleep well. Or did you mean me? I'll sleep the sleep of the just. Peace fills my heart.