Please chalk up the despair of the last dispatch to the routine misery of morning. I had spent much of the night sleeping upright in my fine big leather easy chair, which has been beautifully distressed by the cat, and was reasonably comfortable too, between my bony-ass pad, my self-inflating lumbar support, my neck roll, and extra pillows under my left and my right arms. Still, came day, and I arose, but my spirits did not.
Which is why I thought I had better have a change of venue. Yes, you’re right. There is no actual change of venue in Cancerland, which abductees cannot leave. But one learns tricks.
There is not far from my digs a Cancerland frontier with the Old World, long enough for a good walk. Best of all, the barrier between the two lands is some cunning kind of berm, all but invisible, of the kind one finds at the best zoos, where visitors can feel for all the world that they are actually walking with the lions. Why, nothing at all separates me, the visitor is conned into thinking, from those great wild snarling beasts only a few yards away. Something does separate them, of course. But fine engineering and a willing suspension of disbelief do the trick.
The frontier I walked was of that kind, letting me feel for all the world that I myself was actually in the park I was really just strolling beside, was myself just another man taking the air, along with all the very many others doing the same.
Anyway, I walked along the berm, and thought at first that it was some kind of holiday I had forgotten about, or perhaps a newly instituted one, the Feast of the Fit, or some such thing, along the lines of Italian-American or Puerto Rican Day. But then the truth came to me: It was just another nice Sunday. Barely a year since my abduction, and I had put the sights and sounds out of my mind already, joggers, bikers, strollers, rollerbladers, disc- and ball-throwers, parents and children cavorting on the grass, dogs being walked, carried, groomed. It was — I recalled with a terrible sad shock — ordinary, a day of leisure like any other, unremarkable once, much less treasured.
Heard the things people were saying. A man’s voice (I couldn’t yet see who he was talking to) saying, I’m sick and tired of having every single one of my decisions questioned. This sounded like a pretty serious husband-wife spat, but it turned out the man was addressing a boy (his son, I hope) of about eight or nine. Good Lord, what a weight of understanding the father was imposing on a little kid. What the devil had the boy said? Why do we have to go to the park? And this became questioning the father’s decisions. Yike.
Saw folks snoozing on benches, sometimes a woman’s head in a man’s lap, sometimes the other way round. There were noses in newspapers, in magazines, in books. There were earbud-wearers bobbing their heads, there were gaggles of girls in soccer gear, goofy boys in enormous baseball caps, old folk pivoting arm-in-arm down the promenade, laughing people taking pictures of one another with their cellphones. There were solitary cross-legged figures on the grass, and groups with picnic coolers. It was, as I say, just plain US of Healthy A ordinary, the kind of day about which, when asked what they had done on Sunday, people would say, Nothing much. That is what it was, Nothing Much, and piercingly beautiful therefore.
I took away as conclusion from this stroll very nearly back in the Old World something I find I haven’t mentioned at all, namely: Sunlight is a blessing. I accept, but don’t really understand, that so many of our brilliant ancestors chose to worship statues of giant men and women they deemed gods. I don’t really know what to say about that, except to guess that there was probably as much lip-service then as there is now.
My point for the moment, however, is that there were some who chose to worship the sun. That, it seems to me, was not at all unwise…and not only because it was the best choice at the time.
So, though I meant every word of the last grim dispatch, I mean every word of this one too. It isn’t that I contradict myself, as Whitman proudly said he did. It is that life contradicts me, showing itself terrible and wonderful all at once.