Email from Athens by Jackie Davis Martin

You open your emails, excited that there is one from Ellen who is in Greece visiting a daughter in her forties, like yours was before she died, and you brace yourself for what you know already, which is that Ellen and her husband Robert will be traveling to Hydra or Mykonos or some Aegean island to play with their adult daughter and son-in-law on their bi-annual double-date, expecting that Ellen will mention the sun- drenched Plaka and reedy flutes of the streets or Souvlaki as holiday dinner, and so in this mood of braced anticipation you begin to read, even though you know already—how could you not know?—that words hit like bullets even the first lines where you  tense up reading that she has been sensitive to what you are going through and so hasn’t mentioned  her daughter much; and you think okay, but what’s coming now, and what comes is a goddam hymn of praise, a paean to her daughter, of her beauty and brilliance and you think why are you telling me this, tell me of the Parthenon, and yet go on reading that Ellen and Robert were understanding of the daughter’s decision not to have children and so it has been—Ellen says from  Athens—a great sense of delight for them to discover that the daughter is now pregnant and she and Robert will be grandparents after all, and Lady Macbeth’s letter runs through your head—that you may not be ignorant of the dues of rejoicing—as she, Ellen, thinks you’d want to know, but at that point you scream, you howl, and Tom your husband comes running into the room, what’s wrong?  What’s wrong? And you tell him, she’s betrayed me! and he says she’s your friend and again you cry, she’s betrayed me! knowing of course that what she has done is nothing like betrayal and that you have betrayed yourself by equating a parallel life, that of old people alone with one child at a distance, and now she has removed herself from that parallel, and announced that she is among the special, the privileged, who have a living daughter who is producing offspring amid blue skies and green seas and you cry and can’t stop crying, its being Christmas Eve and no gift, no child, but Ellen has both, and Tom is alarmed once again that he can’t assuage your grief and when you say I can’t answer the email, I know it is petty, he agrees it is petty, but you insist, I can’t , it will stab at me all day, the jealousy is so tremendous I can’t say anything—I can’t write—and he says, they are our friends, and you cry into another Kleenex and say I know that but I can’t do it, and you don’t,  and you realize you cannot ever know what to expect there are so many sides to grief.


Comments · 12

  1. Very moving, and how wonderful the last line is: “there are so many sides to grief.”

  2. Such a bursting forth of pain and honesty. I can’t imagine how you express such energy with mere words. Congratulations!

  3. This story has amazing urgency as it moves towards the final words, and yet it doesn’t end–this being blind-sided by grief. Superb.

  4. What heart-stopping writing! So much intensity and imagery – it rips down the freeway at 90 mph and then stops on a dime.

Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.