is a pond. No more gray stubbled carpet over concrete but a round pool,
small but deep, the brown mud at the edges disappearing into black. A
few strands of silted pondweed rise up from the depths. The water is
circulating gently, like it’s being fed by an underground spring. I squat
down and touch the water. I stand back and stare. I take a penny from
my pocket and toss it in. It sinks and is lost.
Something else rises up in its place. A fish, a single orange-and-black
goldfish, with bulbous eyes and flamboyant trailing fins. He rises and
kisses the surface of the water. The black spot on his back is shaped like
a tiny handprint. I turn and walk back to my desk as fast as I can.
When the doctor told us my wife’s diagnosis, I was immediately of
two minds. One mind, the adult mind, accepted the diagnosis as true
and inevitable. Of course, I thought; of course the worst thing happens.
I’ve been afraid of losing her since I first began to love her. But the other
mind, the child’s mind, rejected the diagnosis as impossible and fantastic. I did not want it, had not willed it, and therefore it could not be real.
The child’s mind still believed in a world made by superstitious incantation and imagination and the pure power of naming. This mud
is cake. The action figure is an emperor. The floor is lava. My wife is
not sick. The adult’s mind had learned that things will be done to you,
whether you like it or not. It had long ago bowed to the dictates of Things
as They Are.
I had always thought of the process of growing up as a metamorphosis, one mind slowly shaping itself into the next. But in that long awful
moment of the doctor’s silence, I knew that this was false. The adult
mind had simply sprouted and grown up next to the child’s, the two always competing for light and water, forever unreconciled. The diagnosis
didn’t make the rupture—it revealed a split that had been there all along.
For several days, the war between the two sides left me paralyzed, until
finally the adult mind gained an edge, being after all the more disciplined of the two. I accepted the diagnosis. I did what needed to be done.
So now, having seen the pond and scurried back to my desk, I try to
sit and read my e-mail as I would any other day. I make no progress. Of
course, the child mind says, there’s a pond in a cubicle inhabited by a reincarnation of your dead fish. How obvious. How wonderful. Of course,
the adult mind says, that’s impossible. You’re hallucinating or dreaming
or going mad. You need to go to the doctor. You need to call someone
to come here and go look at that cubicle with you to verify that you’re
insane, that it’s not really there. No, the child mind says, how silly. You