Death and
The Sailor

Part III

    Saturday night is the loneliest night in the week
    'Cause that's when my baby and I used to dance cheek-to-cheek.

I don't do too much in the sleep department nowadays. It may have to do with the sheer volume of thoughts percolating about in my brain. One of the privileges of age is that we have our heads so crammed with memories that they cause one to keep churning them around through the whole dark night until it is time to rise and, reluctantly, get back to what's left of the world.

As I have told you, at these times I catch myself thinking about death, mouthing the word "death" as if it were something solid, something that, after all --- and after all this time --- can have a measure of bittersweet pleasure. The word becomes for me ... how should I say it? ... more like a comforting recurring mantra to (rather than a curse on) what's left of my days.

My good friend Doctor Droll assures me that I am not dying. I am guessing that he means that in the relative --- rather than the general --- sense. He's advised me to prolong my days here by giving up on the wine and coņac and the artichokes and butter that I favor --- but liver and my kidneys and gall-bladder and all the ancillary parts, he assures me, are chugging along in apple-pie order. Sometimes my heart will sputter, like those times when one shuts off the car and the motor keeps on turning over chug-chug-chug-pop. But then it --- my heart --- calms down and resumes doing what it has been doing uncomplainingly since the late summer of 1933 when I squirmed (complainingly) from the chute of life, opened my mouth, and got it into gear.

So my deathly thoughts don't come about because I am on the edge. Rather, as best I can figure, this mouthing of the D-Word is an earnest effort on my psyche's part to keep us both from being out of sorts when he or she or it finally shows up at the back door, or from under the bed, or out of the closet --- wherever he or she or it chooses to enter. When it happens, I don't want to be, as my mother would call it, "completely undone" (or, as my peers would say, "totally freaked out.")

And at rare times, between 3 am and 4 am, I find myself thinking on that young and very optimistic sailor. I wonder about whatever it was that got him to defy all good sense. Was he so eager to be a teacher of the more fractious aspects of life that he was willing to risk mayhem or imprisonment? Should we look on him as a prophet, one who would sacrifice everything in order to bring the truth to those like me who though youth or innocence had not yet gotten it? Could he be compared to those masters out of the east who reluctantly agree to return to earth for yet another awful life as long as there are those here who have not yet seen the quaint mystery that you and I call life?

The lesson he was to teach me was indeed earth-shaking: no less earth-shaking in its own way than the one I am moving towards at this very moment as I lie here alone and sad in the darkness, awaiting what one writer called "the final main." (Soon these will be gone --- legs; soon these will be gone --- arms; soon these will be gone --- eyes; soon this will be gone --- mouth). Our sailor had a message, no matter how badly delivered; it was one that I was to discover on my own; the same can be said of that dark links that I are encircling me as we speak. Furthermore, I suspect that it cannot be all that different from the one that is drawing me back into the coil from which we all escaped so long ago. Perhaps for the same reasons, he and it will be forever etched on my soul, in my heart, where they both offer me with the inexorable grief that you and I --- indeed nothing in the world --- can ever dissolve.

--- Carlos Amantea
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