In the World of Levitating Halves
A scholar gives an after-dinner talk on her study of parallel lives. We have many questions about the virgin monk who experiences heart pains when my dirty-mouthed grandmother swishes her cane because one of her children has informed her which basement she’ll be walking down to get to the afterlife.
So far there are no snags in the scholar’s findings. For example, she has had cameramen follow two “vessels” from birth to death and documented that they share a divided soul. Siamese lives. Even at the moment of passing, the plumber leaning against the steering wheel of his truck and the ballerina slumped in the alley after being mugged, at that moment their heads both fell left.
I thought of my father, combusted ash, swallowed by the park pigeons: which saint was his other half? Surely in some church registry their names are written next to each other. Surely my lover, on his commute home, has looked out the bus window at the same time another woman has stepped back from the curb and looked up.
Split, propelled by some radical cannon of fate in separate directions, ditched on a corner to sleepwalk forward. Hands out, grasping in every direction after being blindfolded and spun around. All trauma goes back to the birth canal.
Forgive, forgive, they say. But that angry fuselage is random. Who is to say it is anything but un-luck? So glorify it, they say. Dress up in your one good suit and kiss the dead man on the lips.
I’m too drunk to pay attention to the scholar. But as the wait-staff lifts away her plate, I can’t help but wonder if right now her half is scraping fish bones into a trash can, and if we were to meet this other half would we blame them for getting first pick out of that magical top hat? Or would we both explode into a flare of longing? Which of us would be the groom in this marriage? My lover checking his watch, always checking his watch.
And sometimes I wonder about the second man who knocked on my mother’s door the day before her wedding. Fare-thee-well she told him. She had found her mountain that meant north, her railroad track that went straight forward to the horizon. And it took only months for my father to be the spoiler. There is a file somewhere — all of this documented in transcribed interviews.
I was levitating, my mother said. When he touched me I levitated.
And I want to ask the scholar if there is a fair division when the splitting occurs, a pairing of opposites. I want to ask the scholar if my mother will ever get to float away with the saint my father was not.
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