Death, the greatest democracy of them all. The world’s oldest complaint. Happens to us all. Rich and poor. Fat and thin. Fathers and daughters. Mothers and sons. She feels a pang, a return. Dear mother, this is just to say that I have arrived safely, the first began. And ten at the end he was writing. Mama, this place is a nothing place, take all the places and give me nothing instead. Oh. Oh. Read all the letters of the world, love letters or hate letters or joy letters, and stack them up against the single one hundred and thirty seven that my son wrote to me, place them end to end. Whitman and Wilde and Wittgenstein and whoever else, it doesn’t matter – there’s no comparison. All the things he used to say! All the things he could remember! All that he put his finger upon!
That’s what sons do: write to their mothers about recall, tell themselves about the past until they come to realize that they are the past.
But no, not past, not him, not ever.
Forget the letters. Let our machines fight. You hear me? Let them go at it. Let them go at it. Let them stare each other down the wires.
Leave the boys at home.
Leave my boy at home. Gloria’s too. And Marcia’s. Let him walk a tightrope if he wants. Let him become an angel. And Jacqueline’s. And Wilma’s Not Wilma, no. There was never a Wilma. Janet. Probably a Wilma too. Maybe a thousand Wilmas all over the country.
Just give my boy back to me. That’s all I want. Give him back. Hand him over. Right now. Let him open the door and run past the mezuzah and let him clang down here at the piano. Repair all the pretty faces of the young. No cries, no shrieks, no bleats. Bring them back here now. Why shouldn’t all our sons be in the room all at once? Collapse all the boundaries. Why shouldn’t they sit together? Berets on their knees. Their slight embarrassment. Their creased uniforms. You fought for our country. Why not celebrate on Park Avenue? Coffee or tea, boys? A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.
All this talk of freedom. Nonsense, really. freedom can’t be given, it must be received.
I will not take this jar of ashes.
– From Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann