I am hosting the dVerse Poets Pub for Haibun Monday. My prompt was inspired by the new “Call a Swede” in honor of the 250th anniversary ban on censorship in Sweden. You call a number and a randomized Swede will answer and talk to you about whatever you wish. I did it and had a great time. I then was reminded how easily we often seem to talk to strangers rather than those closest to us. So the haibun prompt is “communication” – to write a haibun about a conversation, email, phone call that changed you somehow, to write about someone you haven’t but need to speak with, uncomfortable silences, happy reconnections. I imagine there will be some interesting takes on this prompt. It is an unusual subject for a haibun but I tell you all truly, it was one that weighed upon me. I lost three dear friends in 2015: suicide, COPD, drunk driver. I wish I could call them and say hello. I thank you all for your support of my blog and work through the years. You are all dear to me.
“Couched in our indifference like waves upon the shore, you can hear the ocean roar…” Dangling Conversation, Paul Simon
I recognized the number in my Caller ID – it was the government agency for whom I had worked a decade earlier. I had kept up with several of my co-workers there through the years and knew their numbers both at the agency and their homes. When I answered, there was silence and then the attempt to speak and finally the words, “It’s bad. Karl is dead. He committed suicide and his brother found him yesterday. Plans are…”. I mumbled a few words and thanked Sarah for calling me. I had tried calling Karl several times the past couple of weeks and left messages on his voice mail which were not returned. I had decided I was going by over the coming weekend. Karl was notorious for going into hiding and only going to work and not speaking to anyone unless he was confronted at home. I actually was not surprised at the news. Grieved, saddened, shaken – but I had been expecting this since I first met him thirty years earlier. The love of his life had died of AIDS and Karl had never fully recovered.
An hour later, I knew there was a call I had to make. I had not spoken to this man since he had boarded a plan and returned to his home in Japan. In that odd manner of life, Karl had first been my friend and then the two of them met through me and became fast immediate friends. Opposites but brothers of the soul. One a disciplined passionate Japanese man who played the piano as if his soul was on fire and gregarious. The other a sensitive, wounded gay man who harbored deep silences and only let a precious few into his life. The two remained friends visiting each other yearly after the Japanese man had returned to his country. Karl kept the two of us apprised of each other – nope, still not married, she is beginning to date, he dates sometimes, calling us both idiots and loving us both until finally Karl gave the news, she is married to a great guy, a good man.
And now, I had to make that call. He knew it was me when he saw the number in his Caller ID for the first words out of his mouth were “What is wrong?” And then I told him Karl was dead. Silence across thousands of miles. And finally on his end, “Does his brother still live at the same address? What are the plans? I will try to come.” Awkwardly I said I was sorry to call with such news. With his usual to the point, words slicing like his deftly wielded katana, “Oddyseus’ wife waited.” I pulled my own sword and said, “And she was his wife and he always meant to return.” The silence on the other end let me know I had drawn blood with that last stroke. I disconnected the phone. Later my husband broke my silence as I worked at sharpening and honing my kitchen blades. All he said was, “I love you.” And it was everything I needed to hear.
silence in the spring –
cherry blossoms are gone – birds
sleep among the branches