The Elder

March 1, 2008
By Kevin Grier-Roddy, Burlingame, CA

“It is good, the emotion. I feel the swell of it in the back of my eyes and I know that the tears will come next; with their burning passage a new sense of life invades me. I know. It is good, the emotion.” I break. My lips tremble with the effort of speech, their muscles numbed by years of apathy, their movements unsympathetic to my speech. My eyes are grey with calm, the thin red lines within their whites deepened to a scarlet which tints all of my vision. My hands are steady. In time my tongue twists to the sounds I intend, but it is not the time I choose, but the time my body chooses without me. I am not sure that I am understood, but it is so clear to me that I cannot for an instant believe that I am not. I have not felt. I have not dreamed. I have not slept, not truly, for three days, three months, three years.
“It is good, the emotion. I can’t feel the touch of my fingers to my face. I am desensitized. But I feel the tears. I do.” I insist. My mind has gone all muddy with the effort, stirring the clear waters to distraction. I am not so sure anymore that I am speaking at all. It would be the first time in a year.
“It is good, the emotion. The pain of it is good. The pleasure of it is good. The totality of it is good. Without it nothing is good. I feel like cardboard.” I do not feel. My chair is not so soft as I thought it must be. With all the pillows and the supposed care, it pretends at comfort. It does my walking for me. I can no longer rise. My mind in a sack, my body in shackles I try to find the way to free myself. It is not easy, not without the will. I do not know if I have the will anymore. I have not willed myself in days, months, endless time. Space is nothing to me. I can go anywhere. I cannot move.
“It is good, the emotion. It is good that you are here. It is good that I am here. It is good that we are together.” I feel. All I do today is feel. All I did yesterday is think. All I did the day before is exist. I don’t sit in the sun by choice, it hurts my eyes. This is where he put me. I am powerless before him. As I am to an ant, so is he to me. Benevolent tyrant and merciless saint. He gives me the outside and takes away my dignity. What little I have left. What little I know of dignity! But, the breeze is nice. I plead with myself in the dark, to ensure that I wake. I have to remind myself to breathe these days, these nights in a stagnant body, a static state. It grows harder.
The priest said to me, ‘turn your back on the darkness’. This is not so easy if one cannot turn. The priest said to me, ‘do not sin against your neighbor, or children, but treat others as you would be treated by them’. I do not want to be left silent, but I cannot talk anymore. I do not want to be left alone, but I cannot be with others. The priest exhausts me and I close my eyes. I do not sleep. The priest whispers to me, ‘sleep now, for the Lord watches over you and will guide you to your slumber’. Why am I still awake? This is not senility, this is dementia. This is not insomnia, this is insanity. My mind is going, though, I did not know it until it was gone, is gone. I have a space within me filled with air, nothing else. I want to fill this space but my mind is gone. The priest says to fill the space with God. I do not know if God will fit, the space is within me and I have never seen God to know his size.
Perhaps God is too big for me, and if I take him in, how he would split me open like a water-ripe melon having an argument with the ground. I don’t know. I have never known God. Perhaps I will know him when the lights dim in my head for the last time. Perhaps not. Better men than me have gone before. Better men than me will go after. Perhaps God is too small for me, and would rattle around in the space I left within myself when I went away. How funny that would be. Every bump in the carpet I would rattle, to the confusion of the others with me. I don’t know, I have never measured God and I cannot ask anyone. I think no one visits this place since I went away.
It is so easy to feel guilty. In this place I have gone, I can see it all. My falling downs my getting ups, everything. It’s rather pitiful to have one’s life before one’s eyes all the time and never know it until it’s too late to do something about it. I’m not part of that life anymore, anyway. It’s rather surreal. I don’t remember any of the stuff, but it must be mine. I wouldn’t remember someone else’s life, now would I? How silly that would be, with men sharing lives. They’re too similar anyway, hard enough to keep them apart. The priest tells me I am unique. He looks just like the last priest. Acts like him too. He is not unique. I am not unique.
We are manikins, cast from three molds. Maybe two. Man and woman. That would be simple enough. And God. That’s three. But it complicates things. Man is accustomed to what he needs, and needs what he is accustomed to. It the man has never had it, he does not need it. I have never had God. I need something I do not have, have never had. I need something to believe in. I want to speak again. I want to feel again. I am numb with the agony of myself. I am in agony with my numbness. I no longer make sense to those around me. My thoughts do not leave my lips, but the animal sounds, the feeling of chaos which pervades my mind, speaks itself through me in a succession of vowels. I make noises I have never heard while awake. I am not awake now. The priest says God is with me. I would say that I am alone, but I cannot speak to him. The doctor says that it is a miracle that I have survived this long in my state. He whispers it to the nurse. He thinks I do not hear, do not understand. He is dangerously close to correct. It is not a miracle. There is nothing of God in this. I do not know God, but I know this. This is my punishment. When I was young there was more time. More time. Time.
Oh, there He is. The priest is praying, the doctor tending to the fainting nurse.
I speak for the first time in my life.
“It is good, the end.”

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.

MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!