Writing & Saying Goodbye

Writing this a bit late because the last week in Paris was of the whirlwind variety and I have not recovered until now. (Also a winning combination of jet-lag and my cat have been waking me up at 5 am every morning. What did I do to deserve this?)

IMG_1903View from the top of the Notre Dame.

It’s never easy to leave Paris. The day before a flight out of Charles de Gaulle usually contains a little moping and a lot of pastry consumption. But it was especially hard to leave the Writers in Paris lifestyle. How often does one get to sit at cafes and write all day, every day? We can’t always afford to be Hemingway.

IMG_1983On the Bastille Day Boat Cruise. Left to right: Ellen, Aarthi, Sirkka, Rachna, Julian, Josh, Porter, and Grace (Sam is missing from this photo, but he was also in the Paris squad.)

IMG_1939Touching Point Zero so that we will come back to Paris someday.

IMG_2013Bastille Day Fireworks show—probably the best I’ve ever seen.

In my last blog post I said that I might post some of my writing from my month in the program. The piece I wrote for my workshop class is still under construction, but I have gathered the courage to post a two-page character study that we had to write for Zadie Smith’s class after reading James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. It is loosely based off of my sister.


Rose Laclaire died last week, but as I’m sitting here at her funeral I know that she is not really dead. No, I do not mean that she is “still here in spirit.” I mean that she is literally sitting next to me in the form of her granddaughter Rose.

Rose is inhabited by the recently deceased Rose Laclaire and her other grandmother, Rose Sidwell, who died a year ago. Naming her after her grandmothers was an obvious choice for Rose’s parents, but they did not understand that by doing so they were creating a three-pronged human. She is Rose and Rose morphed together but with her very own Rose placed on top—as if for a fun art project someone took two old photos of the Roses from their younger days and layered them on top of each other to create a new woman, took scissors to her hair and doodled tattoos all over her arms.

Grandma Laclaire loved bird watching; Rose likes to wear dresses with birds on them. Grandma Sidwell created her own recipes; Rose adjusts them to be vegan.

Everything Rose feels, she feels times three. The intensity of her excitement can be seen in her eyes when they are shining and darting from place to place. The intensity of her anxiety can be seen in the way she grabs an ice cube from the freezer to hold onto sometimes—a trick given to her by a therapist years ago to bring her back from the cruel world she has created in her mind where no one loves her. Her sadness is sometimes so powerful that she cannot leave her bed. Her love is infallible because she has the love that both of her grandmothers cultivated over the years of their lives.

The fat tears that spill from my Rose’s cheeks are the same ones that her Grandma Laclaire would cry every time we were about to leave after a Sunday visit. Each one rolls down her cheek languidly, dropping off of her chin to land with a plop on her chest. Her chin quivers; it is the same as Grandma Sidwell’s chin—stubborn, not allowing her silent crying to turn into sobs. I want to stand up in the middle of this funeral and tell everyone not to mourn the death of Rose because she is alive and sitting next to me.

Is it possible for one person to also contain two others? It seems like she is bursting at the seams of her skin and that someday the ghosts of the grandmothers will come pouring out of her eyes and mouth.

I want to doubt it. To stop believing in this weird type of reincarnation the same way I stopped believing in heaven and hell. Yet there is no possible way that Rose is only a single person. I look into her eyes and see depth—two more pairs of eyes staring back at me. When she speaks, it is with centuries worth of knowledge that could only be achieved from having two other brains to pull information from.

I turned toward her blotchy, crying face and whispered, “What does it feel like to attend your own funeral?”

She laughed wetly and said, “It’s weird.”


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