What Joan Didion has described as a vortex always feels like a mugging to me. Personal and assaultive and sudden, though you can’t say you didn’t see it coming somehow. It’s in the location. It’s in the light. And the mugger will come on the tails of a memory. Memory and grief are a killer couple.
Yesterday they mugged me on the C train.
Ten years ago, during the cold April of 2004, my mother rode that train every day from Jay Street to Fulton.
I was in a delivery room at New York Downtown hospital then, holding on to being home to my first son for as long as possible. The membrane around him had sprung a leak at 32 weeks but I didn’t go into labor. Instead I kept leaking and waiting and refilling, refilling and waiting and leaking for another 4 weeks.
In that time Mama helped Artie move into our (then new, now old) apartment and prepare it for three.
She came to visit me every day with books, flowers and tasty foods.
She went to Century 21 to buy the baby clothing for Lysle (unexpectedly tiny preemie things) that I’d been cheated out of buying by this leak I’d sprung.
She plied the nurses with goodies.
She reported the newest arrivals in the NICU.
She took care of all that needed taking care of and more.
She mothered and made me wonder if I would be able to mother with equal devotion.
All that, one big-boned busty Bonnie of memory, came at me on the C train yesterday. And then – whap – her sleek dark companion Clyde-the-grief got me good. I stood there – in the wildly shaking train going high-speed under the river – holding on for dear life – glassy-eyed to make them back off.
A mugging is defined as an assault upon a person with the intent to rob. There may be no intent, but valuables are taken, nonetheless: equanimity, equilibrium, peace of mind.
All these echoes of the initial blow, the loss of your very first home, the one of flesh, blood and bone.