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Papa

Dreamed 1996/5/15 by Hélène Cixous

I was in a corner of the big waiting room. Back there, invisible papa was seeing patients, he took x-ray after x-ray. I was working in my corner, without moving, so as not to disturb the past. That's why I asked the helper if he would mind fetching me some letterhead from my study which is the room on the left over there.

Men were coming out. I saw someone I recognised slightly, who was coming out looking half relieved half cast down. I gave him a friendly tap on the shoulder. How are things? He made a face. He told me things weren't so great. I told him we too had had a coloscopy, because when my father'd had his cancer, he'd wanted to protect my brother and me. We started talking about childhood.

My father worked and worked. Right up to the moment he finally emerged from his examining room on the right at the back, in a lab coat. I called him, I spoke to him quietly but firmly. Can't you stop for a while? At least over lunch. No, no, he couldn't, so much remained to be done, I spoke to him nicely, these things had been done so long ago can't you I say stop for an hour? You have to live a little. I insisted.

I told him: it's that I've come too late, and I haven't been able to teach you how to stop for a while. Had I known you earlier (I thought of my mother but) I say like a lover full of self-confidence, I would surely have persuaded you to listen to me. He was listening to me and smiling. A gentle, kind, serious smile.

Stop this once I say. Come, let's go for a walk together, take me with you the way you did once remember, when I was little, you took me along to, it was the one and only walk on which I had been alone with him, I saw it over there in the distance, in the mist, like a story, like a myth, you took me along to, I wanted to say the name but the name was gone, standing in front of my white-coated father I sought it with all my strength, way off in the depths of the past in the damp sea mist I was with him, for once we were alone together, I couldn't find it I tried and tried, this name this name, it's the key, I must say it to catch the tiny speck of time robed up over there in a precious shred of mist, for if I can't name it I will be unable to prove that we did it once and could do it again.

My revenant father waited in a gleam of docility. Like when we went to--suddenly the name came back to me like a knife tearing through the mist, brutal, real, true, having occurred. I shouted: to Cap Falcon. I had it!! I have it.

In a stroke the two scenes joined--the one of old when I was so small and which had only happened once, and this one. To Cap Falcon! And I burst into tears, I wept for everything I wept for the life which had gone unlived, and my father who couldn't stop for lunch. Now, will you come? Now that you are dead, are you going to go on doing x-rays all day long, as if you were afraid to die and leave the task undone?

Source: Dream I Tell You by Helene Cixous, 2006, translated by Beverly Bie Brahic; a collection of 50 raw dream narratives. Paragraph breaks are mine; the original is one long breathless passage, readable on the page but hard to follow on screen. My apologies to purists. --C.W.


LISTS AND LINKS: revenants (visits from the dead) - fathers - work and workaholics - memory - the power of names - grief and tears - more Helene Cixous - France

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