Bedtime Stories

By Hadas, Rachel | TriQuarterly, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Bedtime Stories


Hadas, Rachel, TriQuarterly


In Key West I visited D.J. Naked, the old man smoked in bed all day. And what was he to me? I wept as I sat with him for an hour chatting about the future and the past - partly for him, but more for someone he'd improbably survived. Of course there was also the memory of D's kindness thirty years before in Athens, where he helped me find a job and an apartment, even lent me sheets. I sat with him, tears running down my face for someone else. Oh, love is all displaced.

In various hospitals, in their apartments, I visited four, five, six dying men. And what were they to me? Poetry students. And I to them? Teacher, colleague, one more local friend - the chitchat of the living. Even so, conversation labored toward the end, limping as unilateral dialogues do. Talking to D.J. was like that too, or yearly visits to my mother-in-law: answering a question no one's asked while a dumb monster presses its dull mass against the window. Love is all displaced.

Dan, at Cabrini, talked and laughed and sang, but that was several months before the end. Diapered neatly, Tony lay at home on the bottom bunk. I tried to tell him about a play I'd seen. He tried to nod. Or did he? Michael squeezed my hand. Or did he? In Sloane-Kettering, James for the first time sounded afraid. A bastion of pillows propping Charlie up on my last visit kept threatening to topple. As I was leaving, his parents hurried in fresh from the airport. I folded my grief small to give theirs space as our paths crossed. Oh, love is all displaced.

His somber loneliness a smoky blaze, an elderly heart surgeon falls for me. He stares all through my talk on poetry, asks me for Christmas cocktails at the Plaza - how can I know - it's summer - I'll be busy then? …

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Bedtime Stories
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