Tuesday, December 9, 2014


It was a long trip.

“There’s a thing,” he said suddenly, “that I’ve never been able to express - mostly for fear of making it true. I’ve always felt, since even before his birth, that he was too good for this world. I can see, when I look at the rest  of my children, their futures spreading out: the paths they might take, and whatever lies at the end of them. I can see nothing ahead of him. Every day he gets closer to the nothing or unwittingly avoids some unseen peril, but eventually that last step is unavoidable.

“The details of his birth only confirmed this nagging feeling in my mind. The sudden complication, his attempt to get into the world backwards, his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, like a noose…”

He trailed off, so I interrupted his thoughts with mine, “an omphalic suicide.”

“A what?”

"Omphalic. It's a Greek word. 'Omphalus' the navel, the source of life, the rock of Delphi, the center of the world.”

“Oh. Yes. Huh. Omphalic suicide. An ironic death, maybe.

“I don’t know. I could be… I hope I’m wrong. He will probably live a complete life. Go to school for dentistry, marry a girl named Barbara, have three children and a black lab, become devoted to the art of Chinese calligraphy, and retire to a life filled with brushes, ink pots, and grandchildren. It’s just - it’s a secret fear. He’s too perfect to survive.”

And that’s all he said, because he had to tell someone, and so he told me. We rode the rest of his journey together in silence. He tipped me a few dollars, gathered his umbrella and briefcase, and left his secret behind when he closed the door.

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