Last night I found out one of my childhood friends has no brain activity, but is still on life support. The news has left me distracted by the flames in our woodstove today: their gradual fade from tall yellow spires with blue arches to low orange bells, their surge back to yellow when my husband opens the damper, their decline into glowing coals once fuel is no longer added. As each log releases its energy to the fire, I wonder where the essence of Kim is — whether her soul is trapped on a hospital bed in Arkansas, or released to a cool Ozark breeze that will carry her home.
English doesn’t work for this. Its insistence on strict linear separation between past, present, and future makes it difficult to remember, let alone write about, someone caught between this world and the next. I’ve been fighting my internal dialog all day, forcing was into is the same way I did when my grandad’s dementia was at its peak. Verbs are loaded. The only safe Kim-words I can share right now are adjectives, nouns, and quotes — but only because I’ve stripped them of timeframe and explanation.
steady and gentle
“Why buy what you can make?”
“That’s just not right.”
I’d like to tell you about the time she taught me how to make nuggets from whole chickens. Or the way she tolerated my teenage crush on her brother. But I’m afraid that too much past tense would slip out — the dangerous kind of past tense written with finality. A finality that’s too soon. A finality that isn’t right…won’t be right as long as Kim is.