I sit down to write and my son says,“If only you lived in the US, then Walmart would take care of you.“

In French there is a sign by the railroad tracks that I have always loved.  Un train peut en cacher un autre. I found a 23 page article analyzing the grammar of this iconic sentence but after four pages I gave up.

It‘s the ‚en‘ that intrigues me, that little tiny barely phoneme means so many things in France.  It‘s like a less literal, less physical ‚in‘. In English we say the cat is in the box like, he is in a coma or, she is in mourning or, Venice is in Italy.  But some of those would be ‚en‘ in French and some would be ‚dans.‘ Because there are so many different ways to be in something. If only being in mourning were like being in a box.  You could jump out, run around, go knock over a flowerpot and then get on with your cat life. But no. En is harder to escape, en grows into you, becomes part of you, explains a circumstance that is a whole story.  We are ‚en France‘. This means so many things right now. We are in a solid apartment on the third floor. I am in my stripy pants and orange sweater. En deuil, en anticipation, en attente, en vie.

The train that is unseen, roaring along behind the train you know, is the dangerous one.  You look both ways, the train is gone and whomp, you are flattened by the second train. One catastrophe can hide another.  

The wind against your nose when you half step into a moving train or bus but your primal brain slows you down, that little whoosh is the breath of another chance.

We are all grieving.  I read it on the internet so it must be true.  Like my nephew who proclaimed at age 7 that Jesus was real.  And then he told us it was true because he saw it on the internet.  We are all grieving. It was the Harvard Business Review, I choose to believe them.  

I lost my capoeira classes, singing and touching hands, and my favorite lunch spot, beautiful soup and delightful cookies, and I lost oh so many notions I had about the future.  

A tiny chair on an empty street.

The tricky thing about grief, cat dominoes and George Washington‘s ugly wooden dentures, is that one little knocked over, knocked out, piece can cascade us into the other, the other, the other.  An echo chamber of loss. I am so sad and missing what I do not have. But which of those losses is really chewing on my tender heart? A lost love, career, parent, child, geography.

So the Smithsonian says they weren‘t really wood but grief about this American mouth.

I look into George Washington‘s dead mouth, a rabbit hole of grief that at first just looked like a little black space.  Grief can hit you behind the knees with a baseball bat. That big bite mark he took out of you like you were a delicious cherry pie, at a certain angle, that huge gnawed off dent is still there.  

These are tender times.  An echo of old pain can easily sneak up on you and there‘s a sob in the shower, a hand that shakes too much, or a part of your body that says ow ow ow I don‘t want this.  

A dear student (I miss her!) told me that the only way she could finally live life with her terrible anxiety was to invite it in to sit down for tea.  And it worked. She smiled and laughed again and courageously graduated and was happy.

So, welcome grief, you old bastard.  I thought I was done with you but you can sit in the bathroom and talk to me and I‘ll even let you sigh and stink in here for a while.  

Here is Bukowski inexplicably and without saying anything just standing up and leaving the set of a French tv show, Apostrophes.

To me grief looks a cross between a dementor and a drunken Charles Bukowski, quite smelly and terrible company, but I‘ll make him a cup of ginger tea tonight.

1 thought on “En”

  1. Wow. Amazing how you could weave that train sign and it’s use of “en” to relate to our collective quarantine. Let’s talk today, I just woke up




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