When I was a teenager in Boston, a man on the subway handed me a card printed with tiny pictures of hands spelling out the alphabet in sign language. I AM DEAF, said the card. You were supposed to give the man some money in exchange. I have thought of that card ever since, during difficult times, mine or someone else's; surely when tragedy has struck you dumb, you should be given a stack of cards that explain it for you. When Pudding died, I wanted my stack. I still want it. My first child was stillborn, it would say on the front. It remains the hardest thing for me to explain, even now, or maybe I mean especially now - now that his death feels like a non sequitur. My first child was stillborn. I want people to know but I don't want to say it aloud. People don't like to hear it but I think they might not mind reading it on a card.
Most restaurants fail. The sad ones are stillborn. The mad ones flourish within the bustle and excitement of fame, notoriety, the thrill of the new. But they rarely sustain the glow. They are balloons kept aloft by a restless crowd. Only the strange, the freaks of restaurant perfection, can sustain life beyond a few years.
It is often by a trivial, even an anecdotal decision, that we direct our activities into a certain channel, and thus determine which of the potential expressions of our individuality become manifest. Usually we know nothing of the ultimate orientation or of the outlet toward which we travel, and the stream sweeps us to a formula of life from which there is no returning. Every decision is like a murder, and our march forward is over the stillborn bodies of all our possible selves that will never be.
Should he make a note? He felt for the smooth shape of his pen in his pocket. 'Theme for a novel: The contrary pull... " No. If this notion were real, he needn't make a note. A notion on which a note had to be made would be stillborn anyway, his notebook was a parish register of such, born and dead on the same page. Let it live if it can. ("Novelty")
Consciousness is a pitiful hostage of its flesh-envelope, whose surges, circuits, and secret murmurings it cannot stay or speed. This is the chthonian drama that has no climax but only an enedless round, cycle upon cycle. Microcosm mirrors macrocosm. Free will is stillborn in the red cells of our body, for there is no free will in nature. Our choices come to us prepackaged and special delivery, molded by hands not our own.
Instead he thinks up the worst ending imaginable: Hemingway has Catherine die from hemorrhaging after their child is stillborn. It is the most torturous ending I have ever experienced and probably will ever experience in literature, movies, or even television. I am crying so hard at the end, partly for the characters, yes, but also because Nikki actually teaches this book to children. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to expose impressionable teenagers to such a horrible ending. Why not just tell high school students that their struggle to improve themselves is all for nothing?
To realize the value of 1 week, ask an editor of a weekly newspaper. To realize the value of 10 years, ask a newly divorced couple. To realize the value of 4 years, ask a graduate. To realize the value of 1 year, ask a student who has failed their final exam. To realize the value of 9 months, ask a mother who has given birth to a stillborn. To realize the value of 1 mont, ask a mother who has given birth prematurely. To realize the value of 1 minute, ask a person who missed the train, bus or plane. To realize the value of 1 second, ask a person who has survived an accident. To realize the value of freedom ask a person who's in prison. To realize the value of success, ask a person who has failed. To realize the value of a friend, relative, family member or partner, LOSE ONE." Time waits for no-one, treasure every split-second.
Marvel comes quickly, cloaked in the mundane. It's the woman waking to the smell of smoke as fire spreads, miles away, through her brother's house. It's the sharp flash of recognition as a young man glimpses, in the ordinary hubbub, the stranger with whom he will share his life. It's a mother's dream of her baby, blue in the cold store, six months before he comes, stillborn, into the world. Even the Church Fathers admitted the category of marvelous- or mirabilis, as they knew it. For them it was an irksome classification. A grey area. Compare the marvel with it's less troublesome metaphysical kin. In the thirteenth century, the miracle reflected the steady-handed authorship of the divine- truth made manifest. Similarly magic, or magicus, demonstrated with tell-tale showmanship the desperate guile of the devil. The marvel, however, was of poor performance and tended, therefore, towards ambiguity. It took shape in the merely mortal sphere. It seemed to lack the requisite supernatural chutzpah. Here, the clergy were typically surplus to requirements. Yet, if less outwardly compelling, the marvel was also less easily contained than either the miraculous or the magical. It remained more elusive. More stubborn. And if finally reducible in time, with the erosions of memory, to rationalization, anecdote, drinking tale or woman's lore, the marvel also rarely failed to leave behind a certain residual uncertainty. A discomfiting sense of possibility. Or, on bolder occasions, an appetite for wonder.