This insomniac is scanning the early morning papers. It’s becoming a 3 a.m. ritual.
My right index finger swipes through the Photos of the Day. Another ritual.
I freeze here. Right here on the dairy farmer from Budapest.
And like Marilynne Robinson in Housekeeping, where every memory is turned over and over again, and eventually becomes flesh. Or Jim Harrison in Golden Window where memory is more vivid than life. Memories begin to roll backwards.
The dairy cows laying under shade trees in pastures lining I-77 S.
The docile cows chewing their cud on the side streets in New Delhi.
The black dairy cows on the towering mountain hillsides in Geneva.
The dairy cows (“Maggie & Betsy”) on our hobby farm growing up, waiting for their 5 a.m. milking.
But no, it wasn’t these memories that seared the flesh.
It was this one.
It was Friday night. I sat in a large ballroom among a group of 300. Hulking security detail lurked around, one wearing a heavy black kevlar vest, eyes darting. The room buzzed with small talk at the tables, all anticipating the distinguished speaker.
“Are you finished with your plate Sir?”
“Yes, thank you. You can please take it away.”
She stares at the Filet Mignon sitting in the center of my plate, alone, all the vegetable sides have disappeared, dried blood stains the ivory colored plate.
“Was it not cooked to your liking, Sir?
“No, it was fine.”
I placed the steak knife, with its wooden handle and its serrated edges, gently on the plate.
The same serrated sawtoothed steel edges that would not, no matter how much effort, would not cut through the gristle in the meat.
The dinner plates were cleared.
The servers rushed out small chocolates on long, thin, white plates.
The overhead vents opened, the air chilled the room. The ladies reached for their sweaters and the lights were dimmed. The speaker walked up to the podium, to a standing ovation.
I reached for a thin piece of milk chocolate, and let it melt on my tongue and down my throat.
There was no cleansing this palette, and the blood on the tongue.
- The simplest truth about man is that he is a very strange being; almost in the sense of being a stranger on the earth. In all sobriety, he has much more of the external appearance of one bringing alien habits from another land than of a mere growth of this one. He cannot sleep in his own skin; he cannot trust his own instincts. He is at once a creator moving miraculous hands and fingers and a kind of cripple. He is wrapped in artificial bandages called clothes; he is propped on artificial crutches called furniture. His mind has the same doubtful liberties and the same wild limitations. Alone among the animals, he is shaken with the beautiful madness called laughter; as if he had caught sight of some secret in the very shape of the universe hidden from the universe itself. Alone among the animals he feels the need of averting his thought from the root realities of his own bodily being; of hiding them as in the presence of some higher possibility which creates the mystery of shame.“
- Thank you Beth for the Chesterton and Robinson quotes and Rob at The Hammock Papers for the Jim Harrison quote.
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