The Beach, The Water: The Eyes of Francisco Goldman

Self is totally absorbed in Francisco Goldman’s piece in The New Yorker, about his wife, Aura.

It’s the single most moving piece she’s read in a long time (Well, maybe Antonio Muñoz Molina’s Sepharad could give it a run for its money).

His descriptions of the physical landscape are more than just descriptions of a place:  they are so charged.  Here are a few:

  • Between the swells were many smaller waves, little splashing bursts, as if stones were being dropped from the sky all around us.
  • We went to bed early that night, climbing up onto a sleeping platform on the roof, where the breeze off the ocean made the leaves in the trees all around us rustle like a restless sea.
  • That evening, we had dinner on the beach.  It was a wonderful night:  the deep-blue phosphorescent evening, the brightly glimmering strings of lights around the outdoor restaurants, the butane torches flaring an incandescent orange.  The night darkened to purple and finally hid the ocean . . .  We felt as if we possessed a kind of wealth, a small fortune in saved-up nights on the beach like this one.

Aura was working on a story.  She came close to finishing it during that trip.  Goldman writes:

She’d been working so hard all year; why shouldn’t it have happened right then, that “click” when suddenly you feel as if a previously locked door had opened, and words and sentences seem to exist in a new dimension?

He watches from the beach as his wife walks toward the surf:

This is the moment that decided everything:  if I am the wave, this is when I begin to crest, with an aching surge of love inside my chest.

He decides “Who gives a fuck?  My God …  ” and gets up to follow his wife into the sea.  But first he must secure their things against potential thievery:  the wallet, his sandals, his book (“which I would never again open”).

He sees his wife launch into a wave to try body-surfing to the beach, and Goldman thinks that this particular wave, the one his wife was about to get, was “bigger, heavier, somehow more sluggish than the others . . . ”  The wave takes his wife, engulfs her, and when she is next revealed, she is floating face down:  “The withdrawing foam uncovered her like a white blanket . . . ”

Self is speechless.  She is thinking, of course, of Ying.

Only this week, several of her Dear Departed Sister’s former classmates found her on Facebook.  They began to overwhelm self with memories of her sister.  Strange, but self’s reaction was not gratitude but impatience.  It’s true, her sister was a generous person, the smartest person in her high school, who helped untold numbers of classmates with their math and physics assignments.  We hardly spoke to each other at home.

When self reads stories of bereavement, the memories that always come first are these:  Ying, Tel Aviv, self’s last call to her, only a few hours before she passed away:  Ying was already so full of morphine, she was singing.  Self told Dearest Mum to put the receiver as close to Ying as possible, so self could hear her voice, one last time.  And Dearest Mum did.

This was in September, 2008.

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