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Driving My Daughter and Wife, With Child, To the Airport
By John Jeffrey
Of the drive, I remember
only the relentless futility
of the wipers.
The rain, too,
I remember the rain,
blinding flood-falls of rain.
And I remember the darkness,
darkness such that I could not see
the way, not the highway lines,
not the turns lying ahead of me.
What I don't remember is my wife,
crumpled and small, child-small,
smaller than I ever knew her, weeping
the entire trip from Bethel to JFK.
And I don't remember the sound
of that whispered-weeping,
or how I wanted to say something,
anything that might comfort her,
might quiet her,
Nor do I remember, after an hour
of tears, wanting to ask her
to stop, to tell her to stop,
Will you please just stop?
I wasn't angry--
I was afraid,
afraid that her crying
would catch like a yawn
or a plague.
I don't remember any of that.
I do remember the wipers,
flopping back and forth, useless.
But I don't remember Jessie,
a month passed her first birthday,
("You are a terrible father. Heartless,"
my mother told me that happy day.)
Jessie in the back seat, babbling away,
singing, swinging, never once falling
And I've forgotten how she wide-eyed
wondered at each passing streetlight,
how she pointed out the moon,
marveling anew each time she spotted it,
holding the vowels in astonished glee,
(It appeared and disappeared
behind trees and distant dull mountains
as I snaked down the highway)
"Yes, yes," Lisa or I would say
without looking. "That's the moon."
And Jessie would again cry,
A trip of wonders,
a journey of light.
I don't remember it.
I do remember the rain, though,
colorless, endless rain.
I don't remember seeing,
wandering the wet, dark
grass of the median strip, deer,
three of them, a mother
and two young, I supposed--
an analogy lost on me then.
Nor do I remember wondering
if I would find them blasted
into pieces across the Interstate
when I returned alone
home. All that is lost.
As is worrying what Lisa's weeping
would do to the unborn one inside,
if crying would become the music
of the child's life, if tears
would be her language--
My god, a son.
What have I done?
But I don't remember that.
To have memories is to be haunted.
I don't believe in ghosts.
Too, I don't remember
the small, dim, windowless room
in the terminal where we waited
for the plane, now delayed by this rain;
where Jessie, still awake, tottered
around, smiling at strangers,
bringing light and laughter
to a broken midnight.
"She's lovely," a woman said.
"Thank you." Lisa smiled,
not crying now, bowing
to the obligation of propriety
in public. "Yes, she is."
The weight of my own obligations--
to get to work the next day--
as delayed hour moved to delayed hour
and today moved to tomorrow,
and how Lisa and I discussed
when it would be best for me to go
get some sleep: Can't lose
the job, we concluded.
And of course I can't remember
leaving the two--the three--
of them in that gloomy room.
(Jessie's distracted kiss and wave.
"Bye, bye, Daddy. Bye, bye.")
Leaving them not knowing
if the plane would even arrive,
leaving them with strangers,
I remember the darkness,
the not being able to see.
But I don't remember driving back,
screaming and violent, beating
the seat, the dash, the steering wheel,
until something broke--
I've forgotten what--
angry at nothing,
afraid of everything,
of the blinding lights behind me,
of the unseen turns before,
of not being able to sleep
until I shut the door
to Jessie's room--
Once upon a time--
and, even then, still
not being able to sleep;
or of finding on the highway
a deer, turned inside out,
its heart exposed, lying
beside it like a loose black stone;
of thinking, perhaps, if I stopped
to look closely that maybe
there was still some chance
I don't remember that.
Or when the crying came,
but it did, and that was the end of it,
the end of not crying.
It came even as I tried
to stop it, again and again,
to brush away tears
that blurred my vision
and made me close my eyes
too often and too long
for safe driving.
It's all forgotten,
I only remember
and the rain,
and the blind,
© Copyright 2004, John Jeffrey, All Rights Reserved
© Copyright 1997, 2020, The Fairfield Review Inc., All Rights Reserved.
Document last modified on: 03/06/2005