A Quarterly Journal of Contemporary English Language Haibun
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June 2006, vol 2 no 2

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David Gershator

Caribbean Blues

At death's door
the buzzer's
not working

The last time we saw each other, she told me I seemed sad. Well, maybe there's a reason. Aren't there enough reasons for sadness?

She's the cliche psychologist: perceptive and insightful about the lives of others but now with her life at stake, she denies she's in denial, refuses the normal protocols. Once a dark beauty, she's getting thinner and weaker by the day—gaunt and frail and too weak to keep up with the needs of her tropical house.

at death's door
the door needs
a paint job

She complains about real estate people sniffing around, knocking at her door, bothering her. Maybe if the house was in better shape and the front door was freshly painted they'd leave her alone. Should I volunteer for the job? Me and my bad back?

Maybe I seemed sad because she made me sad knowing that she won't be around much longer, though she doesn't acknowledge what's happening. It's maddening but we don't discusss it any more. She flies back and forth to the mainland and then dismisses the most expensive advice. According to her, the doctors are incompetent, out of touch, too Western, or the personal chemistry isn't there. What she needs is a wonder-working doctor to produce a tailor-made miracle for her. Painless, potent and without side effects.

Does she have a year or two left? What are the odds. When the odds were better than sixty/forty, she refused chemotherapy. Why? Why did she refuse a good gamble? Threat of baldness, nausea? The unsure victory at too great a price? But what's the alternative? There's something too complex for words going on here.

at death's door
over the threshold

Her friends talked their heads off to her. One by one they gave up. That was some time ago and now it's too late. She plays around with different diets, with supplements, with herbs, what she calls a holistic approach. She talks about long range plans to remodel the house and plant bougainvillea and oleander, maybe even cultivate orchids beneath a trellis covered with passion fruit. She talks as if she wants to take advantage of the unusual amounts of rain we've been having and I agree it's a good thing to get things into the ground before the next rainy season.

at death's door
the weeds taking over
the flower boxes

I am becoming one sad disabled enabler, playing along, though inside I feel a squelched primal scream in the face of her irrational resolve. One doctor tells me that talking truth to her is like talking to a cloud. I find now that I am inevitably humoring her. The next time I visit I'll bring her a vanda orchid. It should do well.

Passing by to drop off some groceries and the Sunday N.Y. Times, an island luxury, I look at her blue front door, the blue color fading and flaking. I should go buy a bucket of paint and do the job once and for all—bring it back to life. I'll just tell her the block association of local iguanas has voted me their representative to paint her door in one of two colors, cobalt blue or ultramarine: your choice.

at death's door
she opens it
and smiles

Every time I pass her door it gives me the flashback blues, and the blues don't fade.