Your father says Hello I’m sure and tonight we will sit inside out of the snow watching yet another high school basketball game I can tell you now I will not miss these when Gabe leaves. Though of course I will.
Love always and forever,
P.S. When you come home you will have so much pie you will burst.
Lynn finished typing and sent the letter to her son. She was uncomfortably warm and realized that she had not yet removed her coat or even her shoes from her morning walk. Perhaps the park made me think of R- because there might not be parks in Egypt, she thought. Or maybe there are parks in Egypt and he is at one now.
She put her shoes away and hung her coat, still flecked with spots of melted snow. Tall and tan and young and lovely the girl from Ipanema – was Gabe awake yet? She walked to the kitchen to pour another cup of coffee – Lynn envied her son’s traveller spirit and would read his emails as if it were she sitting in the bright orange everything of a distant country and sometimes she thought she could feel dust in her lungs as she read, could feel the hot air of cigarette smoke and car exhaust – out of creamer, stir the sugar in alone – tall and tan and young and – Lynn followed the swirl of the coffee, twisting ahead of the spoon as if predicting its pressure like a dandelion seed in the air that moves just as you think of blowing at it.
She cautioned a sip as she turned towards the stairs and the portraits of R-, Gabe, Gabe and R- together, and then a picture of a horse Gabe had taped to the wall next to R-. It was a joke, but to Lynn it made sense, seeing this long animal in mid-gallop, unbridled and unsaddled – R- too had a kind of freedom about him one simply felt, even if he did not. Around him Lynn felt like the sky, where around Gabe she felt like the sea: wide, yes, and stretching across the horizon but deep and eventually dark and if you did not hold your breath you would die or be crushed by the pressure – she had the night before watched a television program on the trials the body goes through as it drowns. It was on and she did not turn it off, though she knew it was not particularly what she desired to watch. There were even differentiations within drowning, like passive drowning when the person simply sinks, or distressed drowning when they are able to move and thrash. And then active drowning, a term that chilled her when she heard it. Active drowning, occurring from exhaustion, a kind of consciousness that slips into unconsciousness, the last moment a realization of it being last.
And, when she passes – if Gabe wasn’t awake, he should be, what a fantastically white morning to miss and isn’t he too old to keep missing mornings? She would say this to him and the following conversation would take the shape of the million that came before it, all rotated around Gabe’s sleeping habits and it would frustrate him and confuse her. The morning would be another weekend morning, everyone in their roles, a supercilious membrane of dissatisfaction wrapping it all.
He was more like his father, Lynn thought, swings so cool and sways so gentle – no, not gentle, that was R-. Gabe was more like his father, ungentle, hard and forceful, passionately intelligent to the point where their passion was oftentimes confused with intelligence. She remembered the night before with a slight drop in her stomach. The bathroom door was shut in the master bedroom, the light on, and when she had padded into the room she could hear… what? She hadn’t been able to decipher words, though she thought she heard words, low sounds punctuated by – was it crying? She quickly whisked the thought away. Michael had come out of the bathroom and, climbing into the bed, said he felt nauseous and sick. By the time Lynn had woken in the morning – early, before the sun – Michael was dressed and out the door.
The girl from Ipanema goes walking – one of the segments in the program was on signs to look for in a drowning person, that the signs that are fussed about and made public are often not really the ones that point out someone actually drowning and in fact a drowning person may appear completely fine. The instincts that take over when a person has lost consciousness create an involuntary action that resembles swimming in place, body vertical, legs unmoving, head tilted back, arms pushing down in the last gasps of a life perpetuating itself outside of choice – the program had demonstrated with an actor and suddenly the frame was frozen, lifted from the context of the pool and placed in a black background to better detail the features of the body but all Lynn saw was the body and the blackness, the body removed from the world and floating in space, helpless with no surface to raise the head above, no shorelines, no odd buoys to cling to, just the blackness.
She placed her hand against Gabe’s bedroom door, took a breath, and smiled. Gabe would laugh at her after hearing about the program and the fear it had created in her. Lynn was the punchline of many of the family’s jokes, and before R- had left the country, her sons would routinely forward her attempts at the new genre of text messaging to each other, their favorite a request of hers to pick up groceries while R- was out but forgetting to send anything but the list so the text simply read cheese, lettuce, laundry detergent – when she walks she’s like a samba – she tapped the door lightly and opened it, knowing there would be no response. In the middle of the room was the twin bed, piles of clothes and books heaped around the middle heap of a person like a construction site for a great monument reminding her of those old photos of the Sphinx being restored and excavated in the early 1900’s – remember to ask R- for a postcard with a new picture on it, no construction materials around it.
Lynn walked quietly towards the mass and held her breath. Even for an unconscious person drowning, the larynx will constrict to avoid allowing water into the lungs. Instead, the water will fill the stomach first. One can still die of cardiac arrest with no water in the lungs – dry drowning – but for a majority, the larynx eventually relaxes and a flood of water enters the lungs. For a conscious victim, of course, holding one’s breath occurs first until the breath-hold break is reached at which point, wet or dry, it doesn’t seem to matter.
To wake R-, Gabe would often pull all the covers from the bed, making it impossible for R- to do anything other than wake fully and warm himself by dressing as quickly as possible. It was effective, but Lynn preferred to gently wake her sons. She placed her hand on Gabe’s shoulder and began to lightly shake him – each day when she walks to the sea – Lynn wondered if she could convince Gabe to see a movie with her before his basketball game – she looks straight ahead not at me – “Gabe,” she said, “wake up Gabe” – when she walks to the sea –
At once, Gabe spasmed violently, turned, and look up at Lynn. His eyes were wide and clear, both angry and afraid as he shouted, “No!”
Lynn startled backwards. She watched Gabe rubs his eyes confusedly, exhale, and sit up.
“Sorry,” he murmured, “Bad dream.”
Lynn recovered, glad to see she had not spilled her coffee, “Ok, breakfast soon, little Gabe. Don’t go back to sleep.” She walked out of his room, humming and thinking of a coastline somewhere in South America.