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A Hollow Joke

Just yesterday a three-year accumulation of dust and other debris under the bed and behind the wardrobe and the couch set me sneezing in an allergic fit and, look! Today the tile floor and its four corners are shining clean.

I didn’t stop in the bedroom. I went to the kitchen, moved the refrigerator and mopped up the dark wet gritty scum that had covered the floor and wall. And then I scoured the table so that its surface now is virginal-bone-white, pure, and pleasing. Then I came in here and untangled all the computer wires, and arranged all my books on the shelves so they are lined up like a platoon ready for Saturday morning inspection, and even cleaned the glass on the framed pictures that hang on the wall.

Then I looked through the photos on my desk and decided to trim and paste one of Vittoria onto the cover of a new notebook. I scribble daily, which means I’ll see her image every time I reach for that book. Like my intense flurry of housecleaning, this project didn’t take too long and I was pleased with what I was able to do. See?

At least one small area of life is under my control. Everything else lumbers along inexorably, and I think of that Arab aphorism..."Dogs bark, but the caravan moves on."

I’ve always worked so hard to express my feelings, as if doing so is a positive thing. But now, in the middle of this leaden crisis, what I happen to feel is laughably unimportant. And whether or not I find language to convey it is utterly insignificant. I don’t give a damn what I feel anymore. I’m fully accustomed to pain. After so many years I’m now used to it.

But I sure as hell am not used to seeing the existential dread that has suddenly overtaken Vittoria. It's on and between her lines. She’s terrified. She said yesterday she overheard her adoptive father say that he had a dream last night, that he was eating grapes. A southern Italian omen that something really bad is about to happen. I told her it could be a good sign, because the grape harvest was bountiful last month. But I just made that up. I don't know a damned thing about the harvest.

Nothing can be said or done to change anything. Language—eloquent or otherwise—is a waste of time. A hollow joke. So I’ve stopped talking now.

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In the picture, she looks like a movie star... glasses pulled down on her nose, her hair down and flowing, and her chin proudly held high. You've painted her to be a fighter, a little brightly burning star that does not give up easily. This is the picture of her that you've painted for us with your words, not just what I see in the photo. But that chin looks very stubborn. ;)

You might find some comfort in the poetry of Max Ehrmann. I have a book of his poetry here, and typed a lot of it online. If you'd like the URL, let me know. Otherwise, Desiderata is the best poem by him to search for, also one of the only ones you'll find.

Yes, thanks, getting the Ehrmann poetry would be nice. And yes, she's stubborn although she prefers to be seen as strong willed. A tough cookie!

existential dread is no fun. i don't say that glibly, the whole thing is a paradox i don't tend to appreciate. all there is between now and then is what tenderness there is in it.

Doyestoevski said that in the middle of his faux execution set up by the Czar to teach him a lesson, his mind became wonderfully focused. At times like these, things suddenly are brightly colored and have vivid, sharp edges.

james clavell might have borrowed this for a scene in _shogun_ :)

oh wow, i never noticed before the similarity between czar and cesar :)

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