David Meyer can hear the murmur of his injured heart when he goes running. It takes him a couple of days to realise that his ears are ringing. Yes, he does have a heart condition, but not one that is so severe that its voices jump out of his chest and make themselves comfortable in the spaces of his ear; on the fringes of his physical body. David Meyer is an able-bodied man who dies one afternoon because the murmur of his heart grows louder and louder when he is running, and then, all the sounds are sucked out. It’s all quiet. It’s all over. It has all passed from one realm to another.
No one knows what will happen to David Meyer after his death. Everyone has their ideas, of course. According to his daughter, he will remain a ghost lodged firmly inside her heart. According to his son and the yeshiva classes he attends, David Meyer will resurrect wearing the clothes he died in – jogging clothes. But I honestly, don’t think about David Meyer all that much. His daughter, maybe a little, but the man himself was quite unremarkable to me. I worry about his daughter as I read about her, but that’s pretty much about it. Samara is unremarkable, too. Her brother not so much, and it is her brother that I would probably want to hang out with, except that he won’t hang out with me. He’s an orthodox Jew, you see, and he does not interact with women he is not related to.
So let’s go back to David Meyer and make him something he isn’t. For who knows what kind of a man he was except for the outlining details that we use for people when describing them? He was an erudite professor of an unnamed subject at a Canadian university. He had affairs with his students. He was a non-believing Jew. He was a man suspended in grief over his believing wife’s death. The last row they had was over his shaven beard and it caused a huge rift between the two. David Meyer’s wife was run over by a car on a languid afternoon and there wasn’t a thing he could have done about it. He was a curious man, Judaism made little sense to him. He could not have stopped being a skeptic. His wife couldn’t stop being who she was. After all, they had met in religion school and wasn’t their deep abiding faith and alignment with Judaism the reason they were married? Their shared interests? Their shared life? Did he become someone else? Did she ‘not-become’ someone else? Could she have avoided her death had she evolved or devolved into another person? Would she stop being dead? If she did, would David Meyer not fight with his wife, not shave his beard, and stay at home that afternoon? His wife would have lounged on the chair and he would have baked banana bread for her. How she loved banana bread! What if he added walnuts to it and made some coffee to go with it? Taken a mug, added coffee powder and just a little bit of sugar; whisked both with such ferocity that he knew it would make her get up from her chair, but she wouldn’t. She knew he was doing it to attract her attention. Even after all these years, he wanted her attention. Oh, what joy, what wonder – this life and the people we share it with. That’s why – what will happen to David Meyer after this death? What happened to Miriam – his wife – after hers?
None of this stuff about the banana bread and coffee is in the book. The mention of his wife is also scarce, just her name, her memory on Samara’s bat mitzvah, and the act of shaving her head. Miriam shaved her head after David shaved his beard. Who’s to say they were unlike each other? Who’s to say that they had grown apart? What if their faith had driven them apart to the two opposite ends of the L-spectrum? You know the L-spectrum? The space between all that you never thought would have happened and the things that you knew would come to pass. That space in the middle which is filled with the murk of life’s contents with discontent hiding and wriggling in and out like earthworms turning over soil making space to breathe. Maybe they became two different versions of the shared person they were? Maybe, just maybe, they became the ends of the L-spectrum itself and their life filled in the middle. Now, in death, they were two poles on either end and they held up a clothesline that hung between them. This clothesline would hold the clothes in which they died. They would resurrect in a time that was different from the one in which they lived. Their ‘assumed skin’ would be the same, but death was going to change them. They would be transformed by the earthworms in the soil that went through their rotting bodies. They would be cleansed of the earth’s chatter, scars, customs, regularities, and oddities. They would become airy and full of small holes. They would have more to say to each other over bread sprinkled with raisins. Or maybe, they wouldn’t utter a word. Nothing about the blue sky or the wanting of becoming or sex or time or beards and hair on heads.
David and Miriam would come back wearing the clothes in which they died, walk down their neighbourhood of Hasidic Jews, go home and have no need to say anything to each other anymore. And then, all the sounds will be sucked out. It will all be quiet. It will all be over. It will have all passed from one realm to another.
Of course, nothing of this sort has happened.