December 29, 2001

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the school of the dead

Cixous writes: "The dead man's death gives us the essential primitive experience, access to the other world, which is not without warning or noise but which is without the loss of our birthplace. So it gives us everything, it gives us the end of the world; to be human we need to experience the end of the world. We need to lose the world, to lose a world, and to discover that there is more than one world, and that the world isn't what we think it is. Without that, we know nothing about the mortality and immortality we carry. We don't know we're alive as long as we haven't encountered death. These are banalities that have been erased. And it is an act of grace."

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A bad gallbladder. The doctors tell my mother, my mother tells the three of us. I'm five now. Not knowing what part of the body hides the gallblader, I know it must be somewhere in the middle--because I see him doubled over from the spasms, I watch from behind the couch as he climbs the stairs after dinner to lie perfectly still, bearing the rhythm of pain. No one seems worried. I take my cue from them. The doctors are ready to take this gallbladder out, and my father will be able to eat sauce on his pasta again, not butter. He'll be able to sit through dinner. He'll feel like playing his bass again. The dark circles, the sullen look, the whites of his eyes growing bigger, his stare more distant--these are things doctors can fix with gallbladders, I believe. But I don't forget the red brick building.



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