I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, T. S. Eliot
I should have; I should have. But I was not. I was placed here, in this shape, in this body.
But the claws, the ragged claws. They call to me. I hear their scratching in the night, while I lie in bed in the place between wakefulness and sleep. I jerk from my half-sleep to find myself pinching the bedclothes furiously.
In the mornings my fingers are bloody, my nails splintered and bleeding, and the sheets dotted with my mortality.
Once, long ago, I went to the beach. I needed to hear the ocean roar, to feel the salt spray, to dig my toes into the sand until they vanished.
The seagulls screamed my name as they circled overhead.
It was too much; too much, too soon, and I struggled to yank my feet from the warm, comforting embrace of the sand, a million millon grains rasping against my tender skin.
I left my shoes there when I blindly ran to the car across the searing heat of the parking lot blacktop. The terror had me in its steely grasp; I didn’t realize my blisters until I woke again to my bloodied sheets. I expected the spots by now, not the pain in my feet.
I nearly screamed when I rose to empty my bladder. I hobbled back to bed with the trash can and called in sick.
They said I’m going to lose my job soon.
I don’t care.
I stayed in bed all day that day. Since I didn’t consume any liquids, I only used the trash can one time.
I feel that I am beginning to spin out of control.
What kind of a man picks his fingers bloody on his bedsheets and pisses in a trash can?
I scuttle; I scuttle ‘cross the floors.
I’m sure my pink slip is in the pile of mail that climbs higher and higher, blocking me into my home. I stopped calling three weeks ago.
I don’t remember how to use the phone.
It doesn’t matter anymore, anyway.
I can hear the ocean all the time now. Crashing, splashing, echoes of longing bursting my eardrums.
The seagulls still call my name. It falls from their beaks in rotting pieces. The stench drives people away; they seek their pleasure and leisure elsewhere, bright towels and umbrellas no longer cluttering my shore.
It is time for me to go home.
I push the mail out of the way and leave the door open behind me. This place will never interest me again: let the squatters take it, and the taggers paint it.
I’ve forgotten how to drive. No matter, my feet know the way better than my head does.
Is it a miracle that no one hits me with their careening car, that I do not breathe my last as a black-and-red mess on the double yellow line? Some may think it is. I don’t believe in miracles.
I see the ocean, and the waves beckon me home.
I break into a run, faster, faster, until at the place where the waves break on the sand I launch myself into the air.
My body arcs up and then down, sliding into the water like a hot knife through butter. The water heals itself over me, and I am gone without a trace.
The seas grow silent, and I am finally at peace.
I’m sorry, Susie, but the final place of honor must go to T. S. Eliot:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”
I could quote him forever; he’s possibly the greatest poet of all time. At least, in my book.
This past Sunday, Mel posted I Shall Wear the Bottoms of My Trousers Rolled. Seeing as how I wrote my best thesis ever on T S Eliot’s The Waste Land, and in the process became quite familiar with his other work, before I even got past her title I immediately thought to myself, ‘I grow old, I grow old.’ You can read The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock here in its glorious entirety.
Mel writes about her perception of the passage of time, at first hardly being aware of its rapid progression, and then abruptly being faced with the gulf between then and now. And reveling in it.
I was inspired to jump up to scour my bookcases for the tall, slender paperback that’s become soft and frayed from usage, The Waste Land and Other Poems. I started in the kitchen, because I was reasonably certain that’s where it was (don’t you keep books in every room of your home?), but I missed it on the first go-round. I prowled the rest of the house, but ended up back in the kitchen, where it shyly peeked out at me like an old friend.
I’m glad my husband has gotten used to my sudden, urgent needs for certain books, and to my tenacity in searching until they’re found. In spite of having so many books, I can almost always tell you at least what bookcase something is on, if not shelf, but sometimes a book will elude me for a while.
Old friend in hand, I retired to the couch, where I savored Prufrock, refreshing every line in my memory. Such beauty in these combinations of words! Such profundity! No poet has ever spoken to the hollow spaces in my soul like T S Eliot.
When I was traveling the country like a lunatic, meeting people from mIRC, I packed light, but I always brought this book. I don’t know why I stopped returning to it.
So while I do sincerely thank you for inspiring me to do some serious introspection, Mel, what I appreciate most of all was the indirect encouragement to reconnect with something I have loved so much in the past, yet not spent any time with in the present. I will change that for the future.