Episode 6 - A Voice in the Dark
Episode 6 - A Voice in the Dark
Episode 6 - A Voice in the Dark
After speaking to his sister Annika and visiting Coarline's grave alone, Julian finds an essay from a woman who lost her husband overseas. In her essay she notes the small rituals we do to attempt to reach those we've lost, be it her daughter's tapping on her bedroom door or her widowed father's conversations with his long-dead wife.
When we whisper into the dark, do you think anyone hears us?
Today's music was "Home" by Reeder licensed under Creative Commons 3.0 Share-alike License. Today's featured song is from their album "It is the Nature of Dreams to End". Find Reeder on Twitter. Find this song and all their albums on their Bandcamp here.
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Transcription Episode 6 - A Voice in the Dark
Works of Love is a RoseCraft Production.
Julian: This is "Works of Love: The Podcast" I'm Julian Silver. "Works of Love" is a meditation on a theme through listener submitted personal essays, that theme? Love, the possession of and loss of it. Today's essay is from Roshini Ghosh from Los Angeles, CA. Her essay is entitled, “A Voice in the Dark”.
Around 2 a.m. I had just finished my presentation for some potential new clients. As I went up the stairs, careful to avoid the groaning step my husband didn’t get to repair before his deployment, I heard a tapping coming from my daughter’s room.
Julian (Narration): School starts at eight but I wake her at six-thirty, and my day begins an hour before that. But a curious tapping was coming from my daughter’s door. When I opened the door, my daughter was seated pretzel-style on the other side. Her eyes went nearly as wide as the Curious George stuffed animal we’d gotten when my husband was still alive and we visited his family in Vermont. When I asked her what she was doing she mumbled that she liked the cool floor during the nearly summer night.
I tucked her back in, sure to leave the comforter off, and went to bed to try and maximize the amount of sleep I could get before I had to wake up. In truth, I like being busy. I like not sleeping. It’s in my dreams that my husband appears and waking up without him is too much.
Even now I don’t lay on his side of the bed in the hopes of giving his ghost a proper place to linger.
On the drive to school I asked my daughter why she tapped on the door. Apparently a schoolmate’s grandmother’s house was haunted and when he tapped against the door, it tapped back. I asked her who she hoped would answer.
A quick aside. I too lost a parent at an early age. I never wished to have this in common with my daughter but I do. My mother died when I was in my last year at primary school. Nevertheless, every night when I’d pass by my father’s bedroom I would hear whispers. Not the whispers of a television turned low, though he did have a set in his room. These were the kind of whispers one appeals to God with. The sounds of someone with a defenseless sincerity. The kind of tone you keep secret from other people.
Every night those whispers. Even when I came to visit from university. Even after moving to America or the first time I took my husband home to meet my family. Each time I was home, unable to sleep, I’d walk the house at night, and there would be that whisper from the other side of father’s door.
It wasn’t a prayer. My father was never particularly religious. Neither was my mother, even when she was facing the end. So, eventually I worked up the nerve to ask him about it. It shouldn’t have been so awkward but, knowing something so private about my father felt like an intrusion into the depths of him.
My husband died, or, is presumed dead. Overseas. A firefight while deployed. Unrecovered. I try not to think about it. Or, I try to think that perhaps he lost his memory and is living a new life, one full of kindness and joy. One where he is beyond trouble’s reach.
Of course it’s a fantasy. Of course that isn’t how it is. But his end never came with the declaration of a casket. Instead, this unknowing is an ellipsis, and you’ll humor me in my thinking . . . at least I hope you will.
For the first six months after the news, my daughter still held out hope that one day her father would come back to her. Springing to life when she saw a strange car in the driveway or the back of a soldier roughly my husband’s height with his same hair color.
I felt the same hopes she did but I was better at shielding them. Making them undetectable to anyone but myself. I suspect a part of being an adult is tempering hope.
Another late night, another night of tapping from my daughter’s room. When I went to wake her up the next morning she was asleep, her arm extending towards the door. Curious George her wide-eyed guardian.
In the early morning my husband was still asleep in my sister’s bedroom (my father insisted we did not share a room until we were married). I found my father in the kitchen nibbling on sattu paratha and drinking chai, as he had every morning of my childhood.
After fifteen years I finally worked the courage to ask him about the nighttime whispers.
After taking a long sip of his tea he wiped his mouth and said, “I’m trying to continue my practice of loving your mother.”
In essence, his was idea was this: the reason why couples divorce, why lovers part, is we get so mad at each other that we stop saying “I love you.” And if we stop saying it we stop feeling it. That spark, that part of us that is connected to another soul begins to dim. And once that connection goes dark it’s near impossible to reignite it. However, if lit, love is so enduring it traverses death itself.
To overcome death he continued the routines they’d built over two decades together. Every night telling her about his day, his victories and fears, ask if she thought he was raising me right. He confided in me that if he felt a warm breeze he took it as her approval. A cold nighttime wind was her thinking he could do better. But central to this ritual was whispering into the darkness a shared memory and concluding with, “I love you.”
He forced himself to say it even though he was still mad at her. Mad that she hadn’t stopped smoking after so many promises. That she hadn’t gone to the doctor after being winded after climbing the stairs. Her refusal to immediately seek care when she spotted blood in her urine. He was mad at her for not taking care of herself because it meant we had so much less time with her.
In truth I’m also mad at her but I haven’t forgiven her yet. I only tell her I love her on Mother’s Day. I am bitter that I can only say these things into the dark and hope it carries to her, wherever she is.
My daughter continued tapping on her bedroom door and I’d smile tightly at the sound as I avoided the creaky step. Every night I still slept on my side of the bed, but allowed my hand to drift to his side.
The night before writing this essay, my daughter tapped at her door and after waiting a moment, I tapped back. When I woke her to get ready for school, the next day, she was in her bed for the first time in nearly a month.
Children deserve to have their hope rewarded.
As for me, I’m not exactly certain why I’ve written this. I want to talk to my husband, but a part of me worries that if he truly is alive and he is happy that these words will be a cold wind from a life he no longer remembers or wants.
Perhaps this essay is my attempt at naked hope.
I want to whisper into the darkness and hear it whisper back.
I want it to say, “I love you too.”
Julian: And that was, “A Voice in the Dark” by Roshini Ghosh from Los Angeles,
California. Hmm, this one called to me. If you heard last week’s episode you know my sister Annika came by for a visit and a chat. But something she said at the end has stuck with me, she didn’t need to go visit Coraline because she could feel her.
So, I went alone. While there a fairly young woman I’d seen many times before was beside the grave which is only a few feet away from Coraline’s. I say “fairly young”, but she’s in her mid-to-late fifties. Now that I’m almost forty my concept of youth keeps getting extended by decades at a time. But I saw her there and struck up a conversation.
It was her ritual to visit her husband after her weekly hair appointment. When I asked her if she’d ever gone to visit him without getting her hair done first she looked at me as if it was the strangest question she’d ever heard, she said, “But I do it for him.”
Hmm, I understand that, this show is nothing more than my ritual to Coraline. My demonstration to her that she is loved and missed. I promise next week I’ll have a less melancholic essay. But listeners, whoever your sincerest words are whispered to, I hope they hear you.
This is “Works of Love” my name is Julian Silver. Thank you for listening.