Monday, December 13, 2010

The Morning Reading: "memory pools"

In the December 13 issue of The New Yorker, Joyce Carol Oates presents "A Widow's Story: The last week of a long marriage."

The essay opens like a classic Oates' story and then in the middle, there is this passage:

Forever after, you will recognize those places - previously invisible, indiscernible - where memory pools accumulate. All the waiting areas of hospitals, hospital rooms, and, in particular, those regions of the hospital reserved for the terminally ill: Telemetry, Intensive Care. You will not wish to return to those places, where memory pools lie underfoot, as treacherous as acid. The stairwells, the elevators, the corridors, and the restrooms you have memorized without knowing it. The hospital gift shop, the newsstand, where you linger, staring at headlines already passing into oblivion, while upstairs, in your husband's room, an attendant is changing bedclothes or sponge-bathing the patient behind a gauze screen, unless he had been taken to Radiology for further X-rays, awaiting his turn in another corridor, on another floor. Memory pools accumulate beneath chairs in the waiting areas adjacent to Telemetry. It may be that actual tears have stained the tile or soaked into the carpets of such places. Everywhere, the odor of melancholy that is the very center of memory.

Nowhere in the hospital can you walk without wandering into the memory pool of strangers - their dread of what was imminent in their lives, the wild elation of their hopes, their sudden terrible and irrefutable knowledge. You do not wish to hear the echoes of their whispered exchanges: But he was looking so well yesterday! What has happened to him overnight? You do not wish to blunder into another's sorrow. You will have all you can do to resist your own.

No full piece to jump to - to read the rest you have to buy the magazine or track it down at the library or borrow mine.



Dawn said...

She takes my breath away.

Robbi said...

I know whereof she speaks about these places.

Lou said...

Fame doesn't save a person from the story of American grief. Love the photo of the two of them in the NYer.

lauriew said...

The reality of the grim reaper awaits us all. How we prepare has nothing to do with how we actually deal with such a situation. I believe I know where I'm going after I die, but while I'm here, I can only hope and pray that I will be strong enough to handle everything that comes my way.

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