Alternate Ending to My Book


We sleep to time's hurdy-gurdy; we wake, if we ever wake, to the silence of God.
In the half death of my deepest slumber I woke up to a hospital bed and my parents and sisters and Will Holmes and Ben Duran. Ben and Corrine were sharing the Pioneer Press. Emma was arguing with Will over a crossword. Dad is refereeing. Mom is reading Annie Dillard and her own palms. Do you know why you're here, the doctor asked.
And I said something like, I am human.
And then when we wake to the deep shores of light uncreated, then when the dazzling dark breaks over the far slopes of time, then it's time to toss things, like our reason, and our will; then it's time to break our necks for home.

When I woke up again my parents were gone. "Breakfast," Emma said, moving her cell phone under her chin. Corrine dropped a pile of gossip magazines at my feet. "Here, you love this shit."
Then they left to join them in the cafeteria. Will was standing by the widow.
"What are you doing here?" I said, my voice hoarse like only yesterday.
"You don't remember?" he said. "No. Yes. Of course not."
I blinked.
"You called me."
"Jane," he said, walking towards the bed. "We'll get through this."
There was a noise and I turned towards the door. "What?"
Ben was standing in the frame. "We all will."
I looked at them.
"Jane," Ben continued, "I totally understand what you're going through."
I raised my eyebrows.
"I do."
I took a breath. "I'm not ready, really, interested in talking about--"
"Obviously not," Will said approaching, grasping the metal bed rails. He looked at Ben with complete disdain. Ben was digging in his coat pocket.
"Jane, I'm going to grab a smoke," Ben blew me a kiss and motioned for Will. "Come on man. Come join me." Then he winked and turned down the hall.
Will scoffed. "I don't know what in the fuck you were doing there."
"He's not as bad as that."
"Oh yeah? While you were sleeping, he was basically hitting on your sisters."
"No," I said. "He wasn't. It's just the way he talks to people."
"Well that's a pretty great personality trait."
"You should go smoke with him"
Will stood by the bed for a minute, then took his coat and went to leave.
I turned to face him. He was so tall; it always shocked me. He still looked so young.
We stared. Then I reached out and we took each other's hands.
I used to like to do things like look at the alumni pages of my alma maters and drive myself insane with jealousy and contempt. I would go nearly mad reading the self-aggrandizing statements of my fellow poets and writers. We will conquer the world of poetry! they would write. We will be brave enough to write a poem about a bird! I would draft comments regarding the medieval obsession with birds, of Francesco of Assisi and the system of feudalism naturally privileging the artist and the bird. I would draft my own personal blurb, playfully rewording the titles of their credentials to be my own. I would spin in my chair and imagine what I would do if the office building caught on fire. My plan was to tie the electrical cords together and then to something solid and heavy, then repel down the side of Folwell Hall and onto the sidewalk.
My therapist says this daydream proves I really want to live.
I don't know…I just want to sleep peacefully at night. I just want to live without feeling. Except for the people I love the most.
When we left the hospital my parents took me with them to Cozumel for their anniversary trip. Thirty-five years. How the fuck do people do it.
I sat by the pool with Emma, watching the hotel guests throw beanbags through boards with punched out holes. A woman with a third degree sunburn won a free margarita. "My residents play that game, too," she said "but we call it Pocket-Toss." Corrine walked up behind us and sat down.
"I need a job."
I looked at her, tan from Africa and lye burns on her hands.
"I'm not sure about the supposed gift of my aid at this point," she said. She sifted sand between her fingers and looked out towards the water. "I'm not quitting. There are other ways..."

The activities leader ran down the patio and out to the beach. The crowd followed him, all the way into the ocean. "Yeah," I said. "I guess I need to figure out what I'm going to do."
He was showing them how to body surf, how to push off and catch the wave, how to paddle and breathe. He showed them how, when a wave was rolling in, you could dive into it. How if you released your tension, your desire to control the wave, if let the water spin you and spin you, in a minute--if you were lucky--it would spit you back out.

There are no events but thoughts and the heart's hard turning, the heart's slow learning where to love and whom.
Paradox is an aspect of truth.
And the truth is I never woke up in a hospital. Ben did phone, once, a month after leaving me and the apartment. He came over and into my arms and cried and pled for our reconciliation and I said: I'm sorry. I can't. I'm sorry. And Will and I shared emails the entire time, nearly every month, and when we were in the same city we went to dinner here and there, parties and things and now, when I say to him: life is cruel and mysterious. He says: are you fucking kidding me? Life isn't mysterious. I wish it was mysterious. Life is a fucking Stephen King novel written in really large type. And Jim. James. Charlie. My dear. My monster. Well…he disappeared in the middle of winter. The lakes were frozen. The airports almost deserted.
I did not wake up in the hospital. I wrote this just to see what it might have been like.
The day I drove back to Eugene's--what was it Corey told me about Jim? You must have been pretty upset to hear the news.
He lit another cigarette and took a long drink of his beer.
What news?
He pointed to Molly. She was retying her head scarf, fixing her lipstick in the mirror behind the clear and dark bottles. She couldn't have been a day over twenty-one. Her? He nodded.
I smiled at him. That doesn't bother me at all.
When I left Eugene's I didn't get fucked up and drive to my old apartment and listen to sad songs. I drove to a motel on the border of the United States and Canada. I bought a typewriter from a consignment shop, gallons of water and paper from a gas station, and a wool sweater from a surplus store. I typed my resume and mailed it to several schools. I wrote a letter to my family thanking them for putting up with me. I looked out the windows and wrote some words about the March snow and poplar branches. Then I took out my book and rewrote it, from beginning to end.

The first version ended: a puddle in a landscape, a cloud over Nebraska, a whisper in the noise. Dear Reader, I am trying to bury this for you. To kill off every moment, so we can have some peace, and sleep.

Sometimes, when I have trouble sleeping I picture the times of my life and the men I loved. I think of them as real and present. I unfold a day or phone call, a car ride through the Badlands or a winter night, running home. I feel the print of their hands at the bottom of my back and the smell of their skin in the earliest part of the morning. I picture the way they used to look at me when they were happy with me. And unhappy. And then I fold them up and put them away.
The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times.
Abbi Dion

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