I’ve been thinking about something. I’ve been thinking about it while I surf, while I ride my bike, in the early mornings when I’m neither awake nor asleep.
It’s June. I don’t know what that means to you, but it for me it dislodges something that lives deep in my bone marrow. It brings me flashes of unthinkable doctor visits, sudden plane tickets, a long morning run when I understood exactly what was happening even though I didn’t dare to say it, and the surreal sensation of packing suitcases for a trip that wasn’t a vacation. A lot of those days turned into poems.
Probably, eventually, if I live long enough, June will just be June. It will be different. Everything is always different, eventually. You can quote me on that if you want to. You can bet your life savings on it.
After June comes July. July reminds me of long walks, fruit and vegetable markets, chemotherapy appointments, and the ER. August follows, with more of the same. September is a hard month that takes me on a trip through the process of dying. Getting out of your body is as messy as getting into it. And then there’s October with its interminable silence. Clocks tick 24 hours a day. The sunlight is sharp and cold.
THAT WAS 3 YEARS AGO
You wonder how many more times I’m going to tell you this story? I don’t know. Imagine how many times it tells itself to me.
It’s a good story. If today was the end of it, you could say it has a happy ending. How’s that for optimism?
I read once that every 7 years every cell in the human body is replaced by a new cell. Have I written about this before? I might have. I think it’s important.
I’m writing about it now, because I’ve been thinking about my body. Almost half of my body wasn’t even there, three years ago, when Pio and I took off for Milan. These hands are only sort of the hands that packed the suitcases. The feet that walked through pairs of shoes on the streets of Milan trying to make space for all this—those feet are only sort of my actual feet, today. Half the cells in my body—from my ankle bones to the synapses in my brain—never even knew Pio. Half of these eyes never saw him. Isn’t that crazy?
And this: half the cells that make up my brain where the stories are held aren’t even the original ones who recorded the stories. They do the job of remembering the stories they’re told, I guess, but they weren’t even there in my head on the airplane, or at the market trying to remember how to say “cauliflower” in Italian, or in front of the TV together splitting a beer and potato chips (because at that point, why not?), or in the hospital room holding hands when that was all that was left. Imagine. A few years more and not even one cell in my body will have been there.
We remember things experienced in other bodies.
I think that explains everything. It explains how we can go on living. Because with every hour and every day, our bodies turn into other bodies that haven’t even experienced our own stories. Our brain cells that remember them were told the stories by previous generations of brain cells. It’s more hard poetry than hard science, but what a perfect place for them to meet. The stories remain, but something about the sound they make is different. Something about the tone. The sound coming from my bones is there, but it’s more of a hum, less of a scream.
You can’t stop it. You can’t make it hurry up. If you just keep eating some food, drinking some water, sleeping at night, and staying out of the jaws of crocodiles, it happens on its own. It’s beautiful. It’s brutal. It doesn’t really matter what you call it.
Do I sit around ruminating on this all the time? I do not. But it’s June. Part of me commences a 4-month walk through The Valley of The Shadow of Death.
It’s alright. I fear no evil.
Everything, eventually, is different.