Last week, I read Waking by Matthew Sanford. It's intense, and beautiful. Intense not just because it is full of pain and death and loss, but because his injuries borrow from our life. Almost exactly eighteen years before the day of his death, Matt broke his neck in a diving accident.The fracture fell in such a way that he was not paralyzed. As he told me, the young man in the hospital bed next to his was not so lucky: same vertebrae, same fracture, broken in the opposite direction, made him parapeligic. Matt got bone grafts and surgeries instead of wheelchairs.
Reading this book, I jump from one Matthew to another. Intricate descriptions: the metal screws in his head, the steel halo. The bones cut and pasted in place. It calls his body back to me, his scars and his laugh, the ways he moved; the ways I learned how he could move and how he could not. So many tiny details of our life came from those wounds, so much of our life around those scars and the vertebrae fused. From one Matthew to another, he is called back in visceral detail, and I cannot ask what it was like, if my matthew felt these things, can't hear how these things compare. I can't pass the book along to him; I can't see his face as he goes back to that time in his mind. The mechanical details, I have. The questions raised for me in this book, I cannot have answered. It brought back his body, brought back his form, and there is nowhere to go with that but in, to name what is missing - the ability to talk and learn, to talk about what we learn.
I see men every once in awhile, see them as in notice them, the male form, the broad back, the strong hands, and I miss you. Your power and form, your laugh. I see the scar down your neck, the shadow at your throat, the slope from your pecs to your hip, the hollow of bone missing there. Your visceral, particular absence, for moments or days, no longer abstract. Brutal and beautiful both.