In the corner of the living room, a Christmas tree rots. It is not dried, crisp, brown, wizened, naked from shedding rains of sharp delicate needles, as would be expected. It is more akin to rotting flesh, a trophy carcass mounted, natural, leaving the innards as is, allowed to decompose and perfume the air. The glass ornament bulbs shine, glare, bouncing bands of light back and forth between them amidst the sea of dead branches. Underneath a scattering of wrapped presents, metallic bows and sheen paper glistening, pristine and ghastly against the backdrop of the rotting tree.
It is April, we tell our father, and he seems confused by this, or maybe, more accurately, unconcerned. We have come to help clean, to expunge years of clutter and memories, and we have found the tree, unmoved since the death of our mother. She must have died, in this world, sometime around Christmas, or perhaps even before, the tree displayed as ritual routine, but the final step of discard too final, too difficult. Three adult children, musing on our mother, in this world, a victim who has succumbed to some unknown and looming cancer, that omnipotent sense of unstoppable dread and death. Maligned growth, badness propagated, until the good, the healthy, is just engulfed and pushed out. A sort of suffocation.
Someone tries to explain to our father the importance of moving forward. She is gone to us all. We receive no response, he sits silent in a chair, watching as we dismantle the tree-meat into pieces, to toss. Glass globes shatter, the shards piercing every corner of the room, pricking the tips of our fingers as we attempt to clean, coaxing blood and more to come to the surface.
I woke, disoriented, sweating, more tired, with the cheerful morning light cascading into my bedroom, than I had been last night, in the dark night. It takes a moment or two or more to distinguish in my mind the areas of separation and the areas of verisimilitude between that world and this one. Work drags. That evening, I call her, wanting to, irrationally, confirm she is still alive.
We talk about visiting friends; they arrived on a Wednesday, left on a Tuesday morning, flew into and out of this airport. Gate number, terminal. At the end of month, I will travel to Texas, visit my brother in his new city. We discuss dates, time of flights. I forget my words as I speak them.
I want to share with her my dream, my fears. I keep my mouth shut.
(image taken from Bert Stern)