And except on a certain kind of winter evening—six-thirty in the Seventies, say, already dark and bitter with a wind off the river, when I would be walking very fast toward a bus and would look in the bright windows of brownstones and see cooks working in clean kitchens and and imagine women lighting candles on the floor above and beautiful children being bathed on the floor above that—except on nights like those, I never felt poor; I had the feeling that if I needed money I could always get it.
I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be…
My father was dead, my mother was dead, I would need for a while to watch for mines, but I would still get up in the morning and send out the laundry. I would still plan a menu for Easter lunch. I would still remember to renew my passport. Grief is different. Grief has no distance. Grief comes in waves, paroxysms, sudden apprehensions that weaken the knees and blind the eyes and obliterate the dailiness of life.
He ran his fingers over the moist ends of her hair and across her face. Her eyes were wet. Jesus Christ. How many nights had he heard Lily crying. As some parents sleep through fire, thunderstorms, and voices at the back door only to wake at a child’s whisper, so Everett heard Lily crying at night. Her muffled sobs seemed to have broken his dreams for years. He had heard her even at Fort Lewis, even in Georgia, finally at Bliss. That was Lily crying in the wings whenever the priest came to tear up his mother’s grave. Lily cried in the twilight field where he picked wild poppies with Martha; Lily’s was the cry he heard those nights the kiln burned, the levee broke, the ranch went to nothing.
The impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself. I suppose that it begins or does not begin in the cradle.
As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs...The way I write is who I am, or have become...
...nor can we know ahead of the fact the unending absence that follows, the void, the very opposite of meaning, the relentless succession of moments during which we will confront the experience of meaningless itself.
I put the word "diagnosis" in quotes because I have not yet seen that case in which a "diagnosis" led to a "cure," or in fact to any outcome other than a confirmed, and therefore an enforced, debility.