I asked her on the way to the funeral, “How many uncles do we have left?”
“Two,” she said with a second of silence seeming to be eternity, “Uncle Tony and Uncle Coota [Jeff]”
No Uncle John Henry or Frank or Robert or James or Jack. Only two left.
It scares me that we are losing the men in our family. It hurts my soul. It makes me curl up in a ball and yell silent screams that only heaven can hear.
As life would have it, I was in Jackson Heights, Queens, New York eating Mango and Thai food at Rice Avenue with Lydia and Hannah. And Auntie calls tells me Uncle Jack had a heart attack. The moment was reminiscent of my mother’s call to tell me Uncle Robert had a heart attack.
Both times I was eating. Today, I don’t want to eat. I want to say fuck restaurants and people who answer their cell phones in restaurants. And fuck cute city goers who wear high boots who eat their Thai and talk men with the girls and answer their cell phones only to find out Uncle Jack had a heart attack.
And there is always that MOMENT.
That moment when on one end of the telephone your life has changed. Something has broken. Something shifted and there is no going back. And then on the other end, life, time…nothing stopped at all. One second passed after another. And the three women to the right of me were still eating their Pad Thai because my phone call did nothing to change their world and yet on the other end of it my aunt was on her way to Grannie to hold her as she began to break down.
How does that happen? How does everything break and shift and get mangled into balls of pain while still…nothing happens at all.
It was the same moment in Bon Appetite. Mom tells me Uncle Robert has a heart attack. My world crashes and right in front of me someone is singing Happy Birthday and my waffle looks good.
I once told Hannah I would not have a breakdown in a Vietnamese restaurant. As tears approached my eyes, I remember saying to myself, “You will not have a breakdown in a Thai restaurant. You will not cry right now. You will eat your mango and enjoy your single city life and when you go home to your bed to the comfort of your books and journals and blogs…you will break down then. You will keep your composure now and you will break down then.”
He asked, ‘Why not cry in a Thai restaurant.” He is all about the moment. In this moment what is your mind, heart, and body telling you to do. I should have joined you as the water came down. I should have said the moment I saw you, “I want to spend every moment with you.”
I am so concerned with appropriate behavior that I realize I’m not the spontaneous spicy girl I thought. I censor a lot. I am not open. I give you the illusion of open by saying something most people wouldn’t and yet really I haven’t revealed my soul. My soul is fucked. My soul thinks that it can not cry in a thai restaurant.
I went to work. I went to the funeral. And then Mo Rocca kissed me on the cheek.
That’s how my life works.
I train for four hours about corporate policies and procedures. I choke back tears as I see the lifeless body of a man whose love was very quiet and then I hop around with my every maturing sister on a cold city night because Mo Rocca kissed my cheek and Carl Kasell calls me a friend and because Lola shook hands with Michael Moore.
I cannot handle another death.