Thursday, June 30, 2016

Eighty-four

Leonard came over to my place this morning and said he had a sad story to tell me.

He thinks it's no longer safe for him to drive, so I’ve been driving him to his doctors’ appointments; but last Saturday he drove up north by himself. I assume he thought this will probably be the last time he’ll see his family.

He doesn’t have long distance telephone service (Nor do I. It’s one of the luxuries neither of us can afford now), so he wasn’t able to call any of his relatives before he left and tell them he was coming. Not surprisingly, it being the weekend, most of them weren’t home when he arrived

He went first to Rick’s farm, then to Joe’s and Sarah’s. There was no one home at either.

When he arrived at Jason's, there were police cars parked outside. Cindy, Jason’s wife, had hanged herself in the garage.

Leonard leaned forward and shouted this information at me in a loud voice, as he always does when telling me something he considers shocking, perhaps because nothing anyone does shocks me and I don't bother to pretend it does. 

Apparently not only suicide, but death, shocks him. He’s a Christian fundamentalist, as are all my neighbors; but instead of facing death serenely, confident of waking to eternal life, they’re all afraid of dying. 

Leonard refuses to visit friends or family members when they're in hospital, or attend their funerals (He didn’t stay for Cindy’s funeral). I, on the other hand, visit all my neighbors when they’re in hospital, and attend their funerals. 

They say they’re grateful for my visits because their friends and family members seldom come to see them. I do what I can for them, but it’s only out of habit. I no longer feel compassion for anyone. 

I’ve been rereading Dante’s Inferno, and it moves me as though I’m reading it for the first time. It’s not the good news of god's love, like the Paradiso, but Christianity as we know it now; a dark poem for a dark age. I should have paid more attention when I first read it, and heeded Virgil’s advice not to pity the damned.

Leonard said no one else in the family knows why Cindy killed herself, but he knows why. It’s because her life’s work was done. Amanda, her only child, no longer needs her, so there was no reason for Cindy to stay alive. 

Of course he was thinking of himself. He says repeatedly that he wants to meet god, but stays alive because Jennifer still needs him. 

I ask myself repeatedly why I stay alive. It's not to help others. Buddhists say illusions attach us to life. My illusion was to think I could help anyone. The damned choose their hell.

I stay alive because I can't bring myself to kill Bunin. No one is going to adopt a twelve-year-old cat, so I'll have to kill him before I kill myself.

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