Photograph by Gene Ark


by Eve Toliman

“Nothing gets easier with the passage of time, not even the passing of time.”  Joyce Carol Oates

The scent of orange blossoms, the long autumn shadows across the floor, the cracked plaster, my Tante Dora, always kind, always strong, snoring lightly on the couch — and that ache, that tough sinew through time slicing my heart with as much determination and vitality now as on that day almost forty years ago.

There was nothing significant about that day; there is nothing significant about this one.  These moments are vivid and acute because life wills it for reasons I will never grasp.  These are the times life grabs my face between her paws and frightens me alive.

We speak about being present as if it is a good and lovely way to be; it is not.  To be present means to fall into the black hole singularity where time loops around itself and everything and nothing collapse into each other.  It is not lovely to see what-is and what-is-not superimpose over the people we love.  It is not good to see the past and future eclipsed by this moment, to watch the penumbra of hope fade as the dark now becomes all there is.  We exist forever.  We don’t exist at all.  The truth lies here, in the horrible marriage of these impossibilities.

My love spans time and being.  I know because I love the dead and I feel their love for me.  I feel their love pulsing through me, undeterred by time, unaffected by my experiences.  How strange.  There is no door to close.  Once love has touched us, we are caught in each other’s hearts – hearts that survive even death.  I want to warn my children, “Be careful who you love; they never leave,” but I know they won’t understand – and even if they do, their stout, brave youth will deny it, as it must in order to carry on.

Of course the devil runs the show down here.  We inhabit a world built on lies, fueled by our insistent subterfuge.  We made him king of our pretense.  We have to lie to ourselves, over and over, in some fashion or another, in order to live the lives we do.  What if we surrendered to the annihilating reality that who we think we are is actually impossible?  What if we allowed ourselves to be flayed by truth?  Gasping in the air of another reality, a fleeting bliss before the gills we formed to extract sustenance from a sea of untruth, flap, useless, one last time and fail.  No more happy darting, no more fearful dashing, just this stillness.  What would we be after that?

We would be free.

–Eve Toliman

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