Where We Are Now
Daniel Berrigan tells a story about a conqueror who comes into our city. He is a huge, superhuman figure, and is preceded by rumors of invincibility. He has conquered everywhere and our city is next. We are afraid and there is nothing to be done except make peace with him; he is all prevailing. He comes closer and closer, and we begin to notice that he has no army; he is all alone. Yet we know that his army must be nearby because, after all, he has conquered everywhere. Even if he comes alone, the army will follow. So we surrender the city, give him the keys, bow before him. And he stands there, and we wait and wait until, slowly, the conqueror raises his hand, lifts the visor of his helmet as though he is going to speak. And then we see that there is no head in the helmet, nothing behind the visor, there is nothing there. Absolutely nothing. The conqueror is a huge vacuum. Outside our fear he does not exist. And yet we have given up our city. We are paralyzed and cannot move, cannot unite, cannot be truthful, cannot command ourselves and our community. We have given in to fear. We have learned the way of power politics. And whatever this lawless corrupt white nationalist creature does to us now is much less than what we have already done to ourselves.
Resea tells me about the doctor she works with at Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center. Wednesday is the day Dr. Francis removes the eyes of babies, Resea says. I’m not sure I heard that right. We’re stopped at a traffic light close to the White Plains train station. Baby eyes? From cancer, yes. How do the parents know, I ask? Resea says what usually happens is the parents take their baby for their first picture portrait, and the photographer notices a milky film behind the pupil; when light hits the eye, it looks white or black instead of red. They take the baby to an eye doctor, where they get the news. Then, it’s MSK. The eye is removed. If it’s both eyes they remove the worst one, then do radiation on the second. We are at the station. She leans over to kiss me and is out the door, wearing the animal print leggings I got her in Paris, and a cutaway black coat that I love. Her hair is longer now; the purple ends rest lightly on the black coat as she walks quickly to meet her train to Manhattan. For three years she has been cancer-free. It is the day that the president will be impeached by congress. We had an ice storm two days ago, and the trees are painted silver and black. In our back yard, the branches of the cherry tree hang almost to the ground. I look for the red cardinal who is a regular, nod when I see him, and try to think about dinner. I decide I will make pasta, which means Balducci’s in Scarsdale to get what I need, with some white birch for the fireplace. We will stay in tonight. I will grab a bottle of champagne from the wine store across from Balducci’s. Maybe Resea can just take the train from Grand Central to the Scarsdale station? I can pick her up there. The babies, I think. I’m looking up at the sky as I drive up my street, lined with fairy tale Tudors, copper guttering glinting through the sun. Your baby’s eye is going to be removed, today. I think of the parents. In the room, waiting. The president will be impeached. We will drink our champagne by the fire. Whatever happens today, we are here.