Here I am, in another of these present-tense happenings and becomings. In this one, I become a godfather — or, more accurately, Sarah and I become godparents. The tale involves a bounce house, a ceremony, a gathering with family and relatives beside a canal. I go around doing what is asked of me for the sake of loved ones. Moments of sitting and listening bring no peace. Dipping back into Toni Morrison’s Paradise, I come upon the phrase “people lost in a blizzard” (272). Curtains covered with anchors is more how I’ve felt of late. Blue anchors, white background, pink trim. Morrison’s novel features a midwife named Lone who believes God communicates through signs to those who don’t play blind. “Playing blind,” writes Morrison, “was to avoid the language God spoke in. He did not thunder instructions or whisper messages into ears. Oh, no. He was a liberating God. A teacher who taught you how to learn, how to see for yourself. His signs were clear, abundantly so, if you stopped steeping in vanity’s sour juice and paid attention to His world” (273).
‘Tis suburbia, of a more intense sort than any other of the various elsewheres I’ve lived. Yield signs, flags everywhere. But also gardens, hydrangeas, bunnies. And some of the houses are quite lovely. Did I mention the bounce houses? Sarah and I counted no fewer than five such structures within a one-block radius of my sister’s house this afternoon as we returned from lunch. To live this way is to affirm castles on canals in some uprooted, replanted Venice Upon Oyster Bay. Despite reprehensible “Back the Blue” stickers on the backs of pickups and other bones one might pick with the place, why bother? Others have picked them clean, them bones, yet there they remain whether we attend to them or not. As do the seagulls, the waves, the motorboats. A cool breeze tickles behind my ear and down my neck. The wonder of a quiet moment. Thumbing the pages of Frank O’Hara’s collected poems, I happen upon “Autobiographia Literaria.” The poem reminds me of my own beginning, early stanzas equal to my own early sorrow. But with the affirmation of its final stanza, the poem arrives and I arise transformed, accepting both the good and the bad with equanimity.
We rearrange ourselves beside a canal among people with good stories. A seal docked beside me with a smiley face sticker atop its face prompts me to imagine the addition of hieroglyphs to the text message emoji/emoticon lexicon. Mermaids hover to my left, and to my right a friend’s new romance novel: Joanna Lowell’s The Duke Undone. A trip down memory lane. “Down By the Bay” theme song performed on ukulele. I eye the book’s prologue and note its relationship to another of the friend’s novels. Female protagonist. Third-person subjective narration. Yet there the similarities end. Or so I imagine.