This time around

God always offers us a second chance in life. – Paulo Cuelho

Stain for L’Architecte III (St. Rose of Lima Church parking lot, Jay, ME. Photo courtesy of Corrine Hutchinson)

Your father’s death in 2007 is the real deal, with a casket and flowers and everything. There is a wake and a mass, there is a burial. People come from all over to pay their last respects, to say goodbye. For all of it, you wear black. For all of it, you go through the motions. Except that you don’t cry.

“I still haven’t,” you tell your shaman twelve years later. “Why not? It’s not right; it haunts my sleep.”

In one version of the dream, he appears in the doorway, walks into the room, passes through it, exits through the door on the other side. All in silence. In another version, he doesn’t exit the room but stops to sit in a high-backed chair against the far wall. From these dreams, you wake feeling empty. Empty, and lost. Confused, too. Your father is there, in the room, and yet he is not there at all. Why won’t he talk to you? Why won’t he look at you?

“And what about me?” You ask, “Why don’t I go to him? Why don’t I call out to him?”

What color does Antoine want his clothes to be this time?

“Noir,” he says.

Of course. It’s practically all he ever wears, this beautiful architect of yours. His voice is a series of bass notes, deep and low. The words are French, they speak to a place in your heart you’d thought was dead. The smell of tobacco in his beard, the sound his hands make picking the guitar, the way he stands over you to watch as you draw and paint: these things, too, speak to that place in your heart. He is gentle, he is kind; he is attentive and affectionate. His generosity is so big; he gives everything, asks for nothing in return. You love him so much; he makes you so happy.

L’Architecte III, 1 (7 November 2022)

Ask a question out loud, and it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the universe. To God. And God knows everything. Listen. He will show you the answer.

“Come with me into this cute little ephemera shop,” God says to you several weeks after your session with the shaman. “I have something to show you on the bookcase in the back corner near the cash register. You’ll know it when you see it.”

You do know it: a wooden bowl full of animal figurines. Gorillas, monkeys, turtles, tigers, zebras. Into it you plunge your hand.

It’s your sisters who come to mind first. You all collected these as kids. They came in the boxes of Lipton Tea your mother used to buy. For a few dollars, one of the zebras is yours.

L’Architecte III, 2 (7 November 2022)

It’s not until you’ve returned to your apartment on Adelphi Street, the zebra in my pocket, that it comes back to you: the aroma of Lipton Tea. With milk. And a ton of sugar. He would sneak you sips. It tasted so good.

And suddenly, a word like a jolt through your heart. The word: a name. The name: Vlegie. A childhood deformation of the word vieilli. The old one. Your old one, your beloved Vlegie. You were his Toothpick.

More than that, you were he. In your tiny body, the child he was once. The runt. The little boy who needed love and attention, comfort, and protection.

Vlegie read to you, drew with you, listened to your stories. Played with you, too. Rough, sometimes. Like the time that ended with a kick so hard between the legs he saw stars. His wife yelled, “Ça bon!” but it was his father or his mother or his siblings he heard, like a smack across the back of the head: “You stupid useless runt! Look what you get for fooling around like a child when you have work to do! Ça bon! Serves you right, now take your medicine!”

He takes the medicine. He retreats. And then it’s like in the dreams. Vlegie is there, but not there. Gone, but not gone. Toothpick doesn’t understand. Why isn’t he Vlegie anymore, and why can’t she be Toothpick?

Finally, the tears. Toothpick’s for Vlegie. Vlegie’s for Toothpick. Yours for both. Yours, also, for your father

L’Architecte III, 3 (7 November 2022)

You’re not hiding it: Antoine makes you think of your father, by whom you mean Vlegie, and by which you mean a man who is not afraid to be fully present in both body and spirit, adoring and protective of you, attentive to your needs and desires, affectionate, expressive, and playful.

“Tu es mon cadeau du ciel,” Antoine tells you, but really he is yours. It is not without a certain amount of awe that you look upon this gift that is Antoine. The magnitude of it does not leave you indifferent; the preciosity of it breaks your heart a little. You know what you stand to lose; Pray God this time around he lets you keep it.

L’Architecte III, 4 (7 November 2022)

4 thoughts on “This time around”

  1. This is one of my favorite sequences – what is told through the series of movement changes across the 4 pieces. Much is said in the simple almost innocuous looking scene of the architect at work .

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