A Memoir by Dorri Ramati
Lately, I’ve been worried about dying. Not the ten-year-old child worry about pain, and the unusual ways to die. No. My worry is the fifty-year-old woman worry–of time, and regret, and permanence and loss.
There was a short period in my life when I didn’t worry about anything. Not about dying, or about a career; not about money, or time running out. I just was.
And no one tells you that you should STOP during that time and TAKE IT IN. That this moment in time, when your parents are still young and healthy enough, before you have children and worry about their well-being, before time takes its toll on your body and your relationships.
This time. So brief.
And me—so unknowing in my luckiness. My life, with its choices were spread out in front of me. My past, still close enough that I could look back and see where I had come from. So close that I could still see myself reflected in the rear-view mirror.
This time, and its choices, took me to Tokyo; and to Nathalie.
Nathalie was from France. Short dark hair, closely cropped, and bold, Nathalie was chic. Worldly, merely by being from Europe. She introduced me to Hotel Costes and sophisticated meals that weren’t stuffy and formal, but were delicious and casual, and layered. Her friendly smile had a way of making everyone around her, especially this friend, feel comfortable.
And then one night, Nathalie died. In her sleep. At 30.
I imagine Vitale, her husband, waking up next to her. Her petite body heavy despite its emptiness. Cold and unmoving. So opposite of her spirit. Nathalie gone. Were her ears already closed, deaf to her children calling out to her. Crying for her. Was the image of her children running in to wake her absorbed rather than reflected. Did the sadness and tragedy of the night penetrate her skin before she left. And could her body, stiff and inflexible, take the shock of it all?
I imagine her going to bed. Unaware. Did she dream. Did she and Vitale fight before going to bed. Was she too exhausted from having two young children to think about anything but sleep and the release it gave. Was she thinking of her regrets and all the things she didn’t do?
I imagine her heart, prematurely tired, and wanting to rest. Was it so full that it became too heavy. Did it grow weary from living an entire life in so little time. Her heart willing to relinquish its role as sole provider. Its rhythm changing and slowing. Shutting down and withdrawing. Like a workman flipping the switch before leaving for the evening, the noisy system of wishes and whirls descending into a sluggish and steady quiet. Then nothing.
I think about Nathalie often these days. Before I go to sleep, after I’ve kissed my husband good-night; or after I’ve told my children that I’m too tired to tuck them in. After I’ve shouted too much, understood too little, thinking of nothing and everything all at once. Numb. I lie in bed and think of Nathalie. And if that could be me. And when that would be me.
Motionless, I’m filled with regret and panic and love and hate all at once. And the thought of resting and not running everywhere and to everyone all at that very moment is so hard to fathom. And with my heart rushing, panicking, I wonder how many beats are left in it for me.
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Dorri Ramati is a writer, educator, observer and traveler who currently lives in New Jersey. She holds a B.A. in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University, and an M.A. in Education from Hunter College. In 2001, she began a 13 year journey of living overseas and traveling. It was during that time that she started her family while also finding her inspiration to pick up her pen. Dorri is currently working on multiple writing projects, including a book of essays about her experiences living overseas.