Sunday, September 21, 2008

He Was a Friend of Mine

After Watching the Very Recently Late David Foster Wallace Give a Reading on Youtube

“There’s an extended halt to the action during which I decamp.” Words written by David Foster Wallace. Sadly prophetic. Some Harpers piece on baton twirlers. He made others laugh.

Suddenly I want to ask, why didn’t you just use the name "Dave?” Or even Davy, or the e.e.-cummings-lowercase-thing dave, or after a six-pack-and-a-half, Dave-the-Rave Foster Wallace? No judgment here, bro. Just a thought is all. Your choice, David Foster Wallace, seems so formally elongated, almost academic. Wouldn’t more casual have been easier for you? Less pressure, less invasive public expectation, therefore less evasion on your part; less adjudication by a world impossible not to disappoint and by which we are mostly disappointed.

Saliva issues. Drenched bandanas. Hugs. Too few hugs.

Too few hugs.

I think of your wife, DFW. I could have taken that call. It's what I do. “911. What’s your emergency?” I go through the 911 script. The millionth time. Straight forward. No big words.

“My husband hung himself.” I check my hearing for the stratitude of her claim. I review not only her words, but the way they are served. And suddenly I see her. Oh, I don’t see her, not right then and there, but I see her. She is severed from her last breath by, what for most of us, will remain unspeakable. She’s seen it. She’s been hit.

“Okay,” I say, because I think "okay" is a comforting word. My sense of things tells me that it has the same effect as reading the words “Dutch Noodles” on a menu in a roadside Pennsylvania family restaurant. I repeat it, deeply, sonorously, “Okay.” I am conscious of the effect my voice transfers to hearers. Its monotone is cool and easy. Its timbre (unnoticeable is the trick) lends a body to the voice. “I am here,” it says—like music, all by itself. Suddenly, I am the Adagio, that part that lingers long after Barber has decided to be done, once and for all, with some fixed sense of “what should be.” Of some final thing, a finished project.

“The saddest piece of music ever written.” That’s what some scholars claim for Barber’s Adagio. I make it a point to tell that to my composition classes, true or not true. (In addition to working for 911, I also teach.) “The violins” I say, “draw you out from inside.” I motion with my hand. “They can kill you.”

She, the wife, will need time to heal. For him, the husband, the deadline is passed.

Lay your hands on me, please. Touch. Touch and go. A curious phrase. A furious craze.

I watch DFW on Youtube, “Thanks a lot,” says David, dave, Davy, as he steps, unassumingly, away from the podium.

Prayers, family. Writing, and prayers. Violins. Laughter. "What's left of before."

None of it "okay."

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