She sits in her room trying to figure out a way to reverse time. To go back. To change it. To make it better. To fix it. To fix him. To fix that one moment when her world came crashing in on her. There was a trajectory then. A direction that life was going to follow, and rules that would guide her. And nothing had bumped into that trajectory. She followed the plan. And the plan loved her. And it made sense.
She was in France. She was in love. She couldn’t think of anything else she’d rather do than fall in love and move to Bordeaux and live. Plant food. Feed ducks. Eat French peasant food. To wake up in the morning and do the work of the day. To go about the incredibly beautiful endeavor of just living. She woke up next to a beautiful girl, and they made life. They drank the wine they made together. Well, not really. She wasn’t there long enough to drink the wine she made. She was only there long enough to get stuck in Paris at a train station with her hands in her head, broken. Amidst gold. Gold buildings. Gold statues. Such vast beauty.
The train ride from Bordeaux to Paris had been the longest goddamn train ride she’d ever experienced. In Paris they were going to say goodbye. It was the most absurd thing. Some Giavanni’s Room bullshit. They sat together. Holding hands. Time was going to kill them both. It was like a goddamn anvil on her chest, like in the cartoons. It just kept falling on her head and pounding her into the earth and she would straighten herself out, and it would drop again. They didn’t say words. She, herself, sat wide eyed and stupefied. She had to practice breathing. It had been her intention to live on that farm forever. It had been her intention to build everything. There. For good. For ever.
And on the morning, she woke up. She went into the kitchen and started to make breakfast. She was always the one in charge of breakfast because she was the one who got up earliest. She liked to watch the sun rise. She liked the softness. The whispers. The sleepy eyed children scratching their little butts and rubbing their eyes and taking bites off of the fruit she cut up for them. She liked her deep, rich, coffee. She liked it when her girl came in and grumbled.
On the morning that her world collapsed, it was as simple. She told the children what the day’s plan was. She made pain perdu that morning-French toast. She loved making it for them because they always acted so surprised and pleased to taste the marzipan.
They were dressed now. And were about to start the day.
Her cell phone rang. It was an American number. It was one in the morning there. She didn’t think about that until later. If she had thought about that, she would have steeled herself. Maybe. And would have known.
It was her big sister.
She listened. Closely. As she felt herself drift away somewhere safe.
“terminal. come home quick. dying. calling out for you in hospital. come home. dying. terminal. come home. love. you. dying. sick. time. Uncle Genius. death. calling out for you. hospital. not going to make it. come home. Uncle Genius. plane ticket. Paris. Tomorrow. come home quick. there’s death in our lives now. it’s death baby, death. come home. Paris. Tomorrow”
Uncle Genius got sick.
And life lost its trajectory. And she was flying over an ocean that could swallow her whole without so much as a ripple. And she had said goodbye. And they had cried at the train station in Paris-like all those fucking books and movies. And they held each other as long as time would allow-and she didn’t have time. Time hated her. They held each other.
I wish you were coming with me. I wish you would come back home. I wish this could survive this.
I wish life meant something.
goodbye lover. goodbye.
Uncle Genius was dying.
She went straight to the hospital from the plane.
She walked into the room and saw him. He’d been sick too long-and she’d never known.
You made it baby girl you made it. Did you bring me anything? Where’s that French girl of yours?
She stayed there. We said goodbye. I’m home now.
What? You didn’t bring her? The only reason I got sick was to get you to bring her back with you. I wanted to meet her.
You could have flown to see us.
You know I hate flying.
You hate everything.
I love you baby girl.
She laid her head on his chest in his bed amidst tubes and machines.
You can beat this.
Baby girl, I’ve lost. I was just waiting for you.
Uncle Genius, you’re strong.
Uncle Genius got sick.
And she cried, sitting on a street in Paris on a Wednesday afternoon with life swirling around her.