I am thinking about that young French soldier, on Napoleon’s doomed march, with his chapped skin and shaking fingers. How, when going to do up his coat one morning, he found nothing there. How he would pull, and grasp, and nearly tear the fabric into a frenzied shred with his panic. How something he had never known was now known, now unknowable. How all that was standing between him and a frozen death were tiny circles of hammered metal. "Maybe God has singled me out," he thinks with his dread and resolve. But then another man rises, and another, and not a button to be found among them. And that young French soldier realizing that they are all going to die in this white terror of a country. He had a moment to be alone with his death before it came for him, and none of these other men had such a luxury and a torture. Did it make him better, later? Being alone when the universe had a hole blown through it? Or was he haunted by the waiting, waiting, waiting for another voice. “Where are they? Where have they gone? How could they possibly be gone?”
I'm thinking about this, standing alone outside a hospice in January. It's snowing very softly. My mother is dead. I'm waiting for my father to come outside.