Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Gift by Raymond Carver

Snow began falling late last night. Wet flakes
dropping past windows, snow covering
the skylights. We watched for a time, surprised
and happy. glad to be here, and nowhere else.
I loaded up the wood stove. Adjusted the flue.
We went to bed, where I closed my eyes at once.
But for some reason, before falling asleep,
I recalled the scene at the airport
in Buenos Aires the evening we left.
How still and deserted the place seemed!
Dead quiet except the sound of our engines
as we backed away from the gate and
taxied slowly down the runway in a light snow.
The windows in the terminal building dark.
No one in evidence, not even a ground crew. “It’s as if
the whole place is mourning,” you said.
I opened my eyes. Your breathing said
you were fast asleep. I covered you with an arm
and went on from Argentina to recall a place
I lives in once in Palo Alto. No snow in Palo Alto.
But I had a room and two windows looking onto the Bayshore Freeway.
They refrigerator stood next to the bed.
When I became dehydrated in the middle of the night,
all I had to do to slake that thirst was reach out
and open the door. The light inside showed the way
to a bottle of cold water. A hot plate
sat in the bathroom close to the sink.
When I shaved, the pan of water bubbled
on the coil next to the jar of coffee granules.
I sat on the bed one morning, dressed, clean-shaven,
drinking coffee, putting off what I’d decided to do. Finally
dialed Jim Houston’s number in Santa Cruz.
And asked for 75 dollars. He said he didn’t have it.
His wife had gone to Mexico for a week.
He simply didn’t have it. He was coming up short
this month. “It’s okay,” I said, “I understand.”
And I did. We talked a little
more, then hung up. He didn’t hate it.
I finished the coffee, more or less, just as the plane
lifted off the runway into the sunset.
I turned in the seat for one last look
at the lights of Buenos Aires. Then closed my eyes
for the long trip back.
This morning there’s snow everywhere. We remark on it.
You tell me you didn’t sleep well. I say
I didn’t either. You had a terrible night. “Me too.”
We’re extraordinarily calm and tender with each other
as if sensing the other’s rickety state of mind.
As if we knew what the other was feeling. We don’t,
of course. We never do. No matter.
It’s the tenderness I care about. That’s the gift
this morning that moves and holds me.
Same as every morning.


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