where the writers are
Laughing Like a Monkey

          In his office, I told the doctor I had been laughing like a monkey. I demonstrated how I laughed, even when I listened to my friend who was suffering with leukemia. My doctor, interrupted abruptly, "Now you have something to share with your friend." I laughed completely through my doctor's statement. But I had heard it.

          "All, right," I said, "Now tell me. What's my news?" He said simply, "You have leukemia."

           I felt like a rock had been shoved inside my throat and dropped into my stomach. A sour rock. My eyes fixed on the wallpaper before me, the pattern shredding itself, momentarily disappearing into what wallpaper essentially is...pulp. A laugh erupted. How funny to view pulp as wall decoration. Another laugh erupted. How funny we cover the wall with threads and shreds of pulp. And yet, another laugh. We find pulp attractive, because it composes a pleasurable covering. And just then, I could not laugh.

           I found my way back to my hotel. I was grateful for my large dark glasses. They were very fashionable. More fashionable than most you would see on the street. My large dark glasses attracted other eyes. But those eyes had no idea I already was going blind. Dark glasses helped me to see well. Especially to see those details that helped me find my way.

           On the second story of my hotel a large lobby had been cleared of all its furniture and carpet. A gleaming warm wood floor invited me. It seemed the grain in the wood recognized what only I knew I could do. Its sharpness and shine welcomed and urged me. As a bellman walked briskly past and greeted me, I greeted him in return. When he disappeared, I began to dance.

           Throughout my life, in my dreams, I had taught myself to dance. In my dreams, I could dance as I never could dance when awake. I always was conscious of trying to dance in my dreams. And each time in my dreams when I wanted to dance, I always tried to make my dancing better than it had been before. I had become so good at it.

           I could glide across the floor, low, slow, and horizontal. I could swoop quickly erect. And when I wanted, I could leap at least a story and a half high, and lower myself gently unto the floor, to move off again. Each time I leapt high, I always tried to hold the moment at the top. Longer and longer each time, until I alone could determine how long I wanted to stay. My technique took years of perfecting, years of dreaming, and years of consciousness. On earth I could do what most people only could dream about doing in heaven. The sublimity of such moments carried me all my life.

           I danced in the hotel, like I danced in my dreams. Starting with small, confined, personal gestures and movements, I moved across the floor. Twisting, twirling, gliding and sliding, gradually picking up my speed. As I became more expressive, my speed accelerated. It was time to break consciousness and take flight in the grace of movement alone. A dip and a swoop, and a breeze was in my hair. I was suspended by air.

           And sublime it was. I might not have the chance again among the living. This was heaven enough for me. I was laughing like a monkey.

 

Tuesday's Child, 1982, Michael Parkes