Friday, September 30

elegy, n.

"Your grandfather dies a few months after we move in together. There is no question that I will go with you, but there are plenty of questions when we get to the funeral. I know you haven't slept. I know you've spent the night on the computer, trying to pin down what you feel. I know why you didn't accept my offer to help, just as you know why I felt I had to offer it anyway. On the car ride down, you practice what you're going to say. You use the word confliction when you really should just say conflict, and you use the word remarkability, which I'm not sure is even a word. But I don't say a thing - I just listen to you say them over and over again, because they are what you need to say.

Then we get there, and the first words out of your mother's mouth are "Nobody's speaking at the service." That, more than anything else, throws you off, makes it seem like you've been bequeathed a bad patch of gravity. I'm bombarded from all sides - most people don't know my name, and nobody knows what to call me in relation to you. Something more than a boyfriend, something less than a spouse. I met your grandfather once, and he was nice to me. That's what I can contribute - that I met your grandfather once, and that he was nice to me.

Something happens to us that day. It's there during the service, when you don't let go of my hand. It's there back at your mother's house, where we retreat to your childhood bedroom and go through your old chest of drawers, where we find stale jellybeans and notes from high school you hadn't wanted your mother to unearth. It's there when your mother bursts into tears after most of the guests have gone, and I don't need you to say a word to know I am not to leave the room until you're leaving it with me. We have fallen through the surface of want and are deep in the trenches of need.

That night, driving home, I ask you to tell me stories about your grandfather, and as we travel farther and farther from your mother's house and closer and closer to our own apartment, you unspool the memories and turn them into words.  From behind the wheel, I learn the difference between a eulogy and an elegy, and discover which is more vital, in life and in death."
 - David Levithan
The Lover's Dictionary

  • ". . . as I have said often enough, I write for myself in multiplicate,
    a not unfamiliar phenomenon on the horizon of shimmering deserts."
    - Vladimir Nabokov