After nine months you expect a birth. And if there is no birth, you induce labor. That’s what I’ve been told they do these days. 2 April was nine months passing since my father’s death and the week of the full moon. Father’s “passing.” Instead of a birth I had a nervous breakdown, as though I was looking around wondering, where is the baby already, where is the birth? Where’s the body, the baby, the body? Looking for evidence of something grown and in its visible absence a sense of enlarged emptiness, resting inside me more empty than it had been the day before, and the day before that.
Already gone. Those nine months already gone. It took those same nine months to finish my journal, almost nine months to the day, from when I began it on a plane flying home to Virginia the day after my father’s death. And when I closed its thick green leather binding on 2 April I knew I would no longer see my father’s face each day (staring up at me from the Tastee 29 Diner) on the funeral program I had pasted inside it. I knew it was the end of a chapter. And I had to ask myself, what had I done in all those nine months, recorded here on those pages?
Where was the birth? Isn’t that a biblical story? Shrouded in mystery, I do not understand why he got so sick and why it happened like it did. I’m not even sure exactly what the fuck happened at all. You expect a birth and when there no birth, man, you induce the labor, don’t you. Where’s the baby? Where’s the baby? I ask hysterically. Nine months went shooting by me like ways we don’t understand. I can’t even remember what happened, just that the day after the funeral I was hiding my head from two loud fat Austrian men trying to sleep on train from Vienna to Milan and then sprinting faster than I’d ever had to from one train to another in Venice and suddenly onstage by a lake with a top hat on and singing, “don’t look back, don’t look back.”
Nine months shooting past me like a high speed train; the projects, the performances, the backstages. I have taken so many trips, physical trips and yet my taste buds are dulled, at times I cannot see the brightness of it. What have learned, what risks have I taken, what’s worth mentioning? So much, a flood of excitement, of artists around us with strong desires and stronger ideas, but where do I put all this? Why do I not feel it the way that I want to? Is it just a list to be made, another Facebook update? The emotions feel immature and backward, ungrateful, retrograde. As though now I experience again the pain that I experienced in his sickness, which was more intense that the day that he died. That was somehow a lifting, somehow it was a breath.
These days, I cannot fill my lungs.
Juan always says, it’s mathematical, you should understand it, with your mathematical mind. And I always resist him saying, that’s not mathematics at all. Mathematics is the sine wave that I used to describe the first time I fell in love. It is the never arriving asymptote of a “truth.” Numbers and rationality, that is not mathematics at all. But somehow he has me right; I am constantly attempting to number it, to order it all, down to a set of numbers; the number of coffee cups, the number of times you said a certain thing. One could number everything in one’s life, to understand it. To create a story out of numbers. And every time the story would be different, depending on what you are counting. Number the scars on my body; this one, that one; number the mornings waking up, throwing open the window and laughing at a grimace: “set your spirit free!”—I shout like the little girl that I am. Number the crocuses; is it spring yet?
And then of course it was the obsession with the number of days since he’d died. The further away, an increased sense of shock and of trying not to let it go, not to let time pass. On the day that I found out about Tomek’s death it was like a ton of bricks on everything else; I was cold with paralysis. Overcooked. Add it to the list of things. It will be mentioned, at some point, will be processed. Take a number and drive the car. And that’s what I did, I drove straight to Switzerland in our tour bus and when we reached Basel (and this is how strange life is at the moment, and by the moment I mean, for the past several years, these strange things) I found, there, in the backstage, I found a poster of the Kamikaze Queens playing live at Sudhaus with a band called Denner Clan on the 8th of July, 2009. That was the exact day of my father’s funeral in Fairfax, Virginia, and indeed, I was absent from the concert in Basel, Switzerland. I was in fact, in Northern Virginia, perhaps in church at the very moment that my band was onstage without me in Basel. But there I was in the poster, there I was with a knife in hand, marking me somehow into history as being in two places at one time. But only I knew that. Or cared. And to make it more surreal, some clever vandal had given me a lovely large beard—a bearded lady in the circus.
Well I have been meaning to write you this letter for nine months. Every thought of mine is a letter, it’s always an attempt at relating, a bit of words that never make it to the page. I meant to write to you all about all the shows, and about Tomek, about what he means to me, how devastated I am to miss him. I meant to write it all out to you, to relate it to you. I thought this letter to you for nine months. And then suddenly they were just passed and where was the birth?
For ten years my father was working on proving the Alon Saks Seymour conjecture, which he told me, shortly before he died, he had begun to doubt could never be proved. And that even Alon Saks Seymour himself had begun to doubt its validity. My father’s notes on this were what my mother and I called his “x and o” papers. It was a system he’d developed for himself to figure out the conjecture and they lay scattered over his entire house. When I found them, I didn’t want to move them, no matter what the location, no matter how many.
“Dear Eva,” writes my father’s colleague, Walter, on 8 April 2010, nine months to the day after my father’s funeral, “Professor Benny Sudakov of UCLA and his student Hao Huang have disproved the Alon Saks Seymour conjecture! … Here is a link to their paper: http://www.math.ucla.edu/~bsudakov/ass-conjecture.pdf … I would like to have discussed this with Klaus.”
Maybe this is the birth.