The Bright Hour

I’m reading Nina Riggs’s The Bright Hour. I can’t quite bring myself to finish it. I’ve been turning the last few pages and pausing, not sure what emotions lay waiting for me when I finish, but sensing there will be something hard. I’m quite certain this is why I am hesitating. Yes, I am savouring the pages, knowing there are only a few left. Taking in each sentence and thought and the lyricism, admiring it all. I now think that this is much like my time with Susan. The pages in a book. So finite. I am doing my best to drink in the minutes and hours. I don’t dwell on a future without Susan, much. In some ways, I just imagine myself turning older, becoming monastic-like with my teaching, and my writing, and image-making and parenting.

There were days, a few years ago, when I was making weekly or nearly weekly trips to see my therapist that I had this type of hesitation. Driving to his office, feeling or maybe knowing that something hard was probably approaching, knowing that I would most likely cough up something about my past that would hurt coming out. I knew that I’d feel better after, but that didn’t make the drive any calmer. I am also reminded of the time, when at age 15, my older sister’s friend Chuck, seeing that I had overdosed on alcohol, stuck his two thick fingers down my throat to trigger a vomit session. Barfing was a miserable experience but oh so good after. Thanks Chuck.

But now, after a few more days of hesitating to finish the book, I think I am dreading the sadness that will fall over me. Nina’s book is wonderfully written, and she shares many similarities with Susan. They are both intelligent women, published poets, loving mothers, reflective and gifted writers. And both were handed a terminal diagnosis. And so, I’ve been reading Nina slowly. In the act of reading, I go back in time, to sit with Nina as she writes. She is still alive as I read. And I think that when I finish the book I will realise that Nina is dead. There won’t be any more words to read. And I will miss her. And that reminds me that I’ll miss Susan.

I’ve been telling myself that I need to find the right place to sit and finish the book. Like when I get a letter in the mail, I wait and find a special place to sit and read it. I haven’t cried for a while and I guess I’ve forgotten that after the hurt, after the grief, there comes joy and relief.  So, tonight before I go to sleep, I’ll say goodbye to Nina.

Phlox, from Susan’s garden. (pinhole photograph)

Published by

Roy Cross

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