.

 

Basic Elegy

An urgent memorial.

9:52
I haven't had time to write a thing in weeks and I'm about to go out of my head. I'm about to replace my mind with ball-bearings and chicken-wire, then send my real mind on a fun-filled trip around the globe. People have shown up to sleep in my apartment. I want to see them, but instead spend time with my computer, warm at the wrists. I am now self-employed.

9:54
I need to work faster. I need to find a large clock with an accurate second-hand, break time into tiny chunks.

9:54
The things I plan to write are thick in my head. I want to write about grieving for my grandfather. I miss him every day, and I can't shake the feeling that, were my hand to reach out to the phone, pick it up, and dial the number in the 610 area code, I would still be able to call him. It makes me funny, missing him this much. It makes me strange. I want to endow a moment with magic and live inside of it.

9:55
The phone area code, east of Philadelphia, used to be 215. Now it's 610. After I moved away the phone company changed it. All the numbers changed, all the codes I used to access my family. My old home phone number, burnt into my brain by repetition in kindergarten, changed. My world shifted.

I'm glad it changed before he died. Had it happened now I would feel the loss enormously, as if he had been taken even farther away by those three numbers.

9:57
Right now, with a piece of work making me insane, something where I can't make it work, where I can't figure out what's expected, and they can't get the work they need out of me, I wish I could hide my head under the blanket and call him. He would say, "hey Buddy." And I would say, "I am so glad to hear your voice. It is so good that you--"

9:58
--are not gone from us, that those feet of dirt and all that embalming fluid didn't matter. Thank God for telecommunications. Listen, I have two minutes, I waited too long to call you, but did you know I love you? Did you know? Have you been fishing? Is there a heaven? I'm doing okay.

9:58
And Pop, I only have two minutes but I wanted to tell you that I know you're gone, that the soul is just an invention of the genes, but that I wish it. That I

9:59
wish so much I could take your hand, that it could still be solid, the old skin on the old bones, and look into your blue eyes, the same blue as me, and hear you tell me how proud you are. I have only seconds and now

10:00
the clock has turned and I must turn back to my machine.

I love you old man. I keep calling.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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