With Skyward Arms

You have to stand very still.

Try it.

Be still, where you are. Don’t move. Don’t think about moving. Don’t think about your hands, because those always want to move. Have you ever held hands with a girl in a movie on a first date, and you’re trying very hard to never move your hand because you don’t want that moment to end?

It’s uncomfortable. But you do it anyway. You have your hand in hers and you are willing it not to sweat. My advice is to never see a movie that you really want to see with a girl that you haven’t held hands with yet, because you won’t be thinking about the movie, you’ll be thinking about your hand in hers and trying to make it never move.

So, it’s like that, but it’s your whole body. Hold your hands above your head, like you are about to make an amazing dive, and then hold your arms there and then never move them.

If you hold one position long enough, all of your body will start to feel like it is bubbling and roiling. It feels like there is molten lava replacing your blood, and the pins and needles turn to agony, like the pins and needles are actually being pressed into you, very slowly.

And then, if you can, cast yourself in bronze.

It won’t be so hard after you have cast yourself in bronze.

When the bronze cools and you are stuck in that position for the rest of time, it starts to feel exactly right. That’s how you were always most comfortable, you’ll think, with arms held aloft like that.

I’m a statue in a memorial. Many, many people have seen me 95 percent nude. I love clothes, though. Sometimes, people come up and press my feet, like a kind of benediction, and the wool of their suit will touch my bronze form and I’ll think, “I need a suit, I need a suit like that.”

I never get cold. Can you imagine?

This is your other surprise: this is what will really shock you.

I get up, and I move around sometimes. Not often. Not once a week, or a month, or a year. I don’t really know how often I get up and move around, because I don’t think about it much. If I did, I’d have to move around all the time. Not thinking, that’s the key. Monks get it. A monk sat next to me once, he was a veteran from a world war, and he sat next to me and whispered his life as he sat very still. Then he thanked me.

He’s the one who told me about seeing movies with girls, which is something I never got to do.

Instead, there is one thing that I do. It’s only on rainy days, when I can feel that no one is going to come to the garden, no one is going to look at my naked body, and feel sad. No one is going to take my picture.

When I am sure, I get down. I walk down towards the reflecting pool and past the grass and try to be very nonchalant, even though I am roughly nine feet tall and made of bronze and, for all intents and purposes, a statue.

I walk across the grass there, which no one ever walks on, even though I’m pretty sure it’s allowed. I walk over to the grave stones.

And before you judge me, you need to know – anything that won’t decompose on the grave, a maintenance worker picks it up and throws it away. People leave lots of things. Ribbons and letters and favorite candy bars… I think you can tell where this is going.

At one grave, it never fails, there is a full, unopened glass bottle of Coca-Cola. I go to it and open it with the little bit of webbing between my thumb and forefinger, and then I drink it.

I try to savor it, but I never can. It’s so sweet, and so full. It burns the back of my throat and it tastes like drinking sugar, and life. It’s molten, but not hot, and it fizzes. Sometimes I spit the first sip back out, it’s so intense. It’s like drinking a little bit of myself – that copper and bronze and life-force taste of something that was absolutely meant to be here. The world came forth and created something that is supposed to last for all of eternity. Like me. Like Coca-Cola.

And then, I set the empty bottle back on the grave and walk back. I take my time. I feel the grass between my toes, I dip my hand in the water. I look around, nervous because I would never want to be seen away from my perch. People come to this graveyard and see and feel all of these ghosts, I don’t need to be a living reminder of that. I am not a spook.

Those first moments back on the perch, before I hold my arms aloft, that’s always the hardest. I wonder what the world is like outside of the snapshot of sadness and longing and melancholy I see every day. There is this great big beautiful world full of people, the people that drink Coca-Cola and eat candy bars and live and then die and mourn the loss of those that die.

I don’t envy them, not really, because they are hustling and bustling and they are looking for some place out there in the darkness. They are the maintenance workers picking up ephemera left behind to feed a memory, or they are the well-dressed, camera-wielding public who take pictures and look at a view and walk away.

Because, honestly, I have all of them beat. I have won. I don’t have anything to worry about, because I have my place in this large unyielding universe, and it’s up here, on this perch, with my arms held aloft.

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