She visited me three times, maybe more, that soft ghost who smelled like violet, violet and fabric softener perfuming age-perfected jeans. She only came in when nobody else was there, seemingly always as my consciousness ebbed. She didn’t say anything at first, mostly, or if she did I didn’t hear it. I didn’t need to. Those times, in the quiet, in that kind of muted blue-but-never-quite-dark that hospital rooms get, some light always leaking in somewhere, when someone sat next to me and took my hand, I knew it was her by the touch and the smell, and she didn’t have to say anything.
What few words I remember her speaking I never saw her speak, I just remember the dark voice close, almost like telepathy, or an angel’s murmur, but I could feel the warm breath on my cheek and neck.
“Does it hurt?” she said.
The first time I couldn’t answer. Or I just didn’t.
He visited after hours, maybe the last guy I expected to. He lived half-way across the country, at least last I heard — or, I should say, was there last I heard. A couple years after he’d mustered out, he sent a post-card from somewhere Redwood trees grew. He wrote in big letters, not bothering to be prosaic, and only a few words, how’s it going, do I ever see her, and, I remember verbatim, “Still can’t sleep.” When he’d come home, he hadn’t stayed long. He’d wound up months in the V.A., entered a study, then left when they told him that the thing wrong with him didn’t exist and he should sign a paper waiving liability on the part of the government. He signed nothing. He figured out that if climbed into the car and rode out, even for just a couple days, it made things better. The movement, the lack of hereness, somehow valved the well of stress, or agita, over what to do here, how to vest anything in here, and his symptoms eased. So he figured here didn’t help much, and he loaded up and beat it. He didn’t make a whole thing out of it, just wasn’t there one day.
Now and then he sent me dog-eared paperbacks, no return address. The books never said anything about coming back.
But here he was, or his words anyway, drifting up from my left, and back, somewhere near the window. His voice rustled with too many cigarettes — strange, though, I couldn’t smell them — an old man’s voice, even though he wasn’t, even though we both were, maybe more than we could ever have imagined.
The first couple nights I only become aware of his presence when he started talking, and then only barely, the fucking ninja. I got the feeling he wanted not to tell me the stories so much as to insinuate them in my subconscious. He would love like hell to boast such a skill.
Odin came to the brook, and in his coming to the brook, everything changed, even though everything remained as it would always be.
I know, we don’t think of gods aging, or gods evolving, but these were the stupid anthropomorphic gods of stupid people not yet arrogant enough to shove their stupid gods down our throats. While anymore we get myth shoved down our throats as “science,” the old shit, we only get pieces of the narrative because Christians tended to spread their conspicuous interpretation of enlightenment by burning libraries. But this is the Odin you don’t know, when he was still a rambling, shambling bad motherfucker. Still thought war (war being his thing) was this glorious undertaking, scent of blood, noble berserker boo-yahs, like Klingons, like we teach our young men and women, pound it up their asses along with trifolded flags. That was pre-enlightenment Odin, the John Wayne of a simpler time, except not a posturing, draft-dodging tool of state propaganda.
So anyway, Odin wants the skinny on his glorious battles to come. So he goes to Mimir, the spring of poetry and wisdom, which lies at the foot of the World Tree, there to wet his whistle with a draft of enlightenment. But enlightenment ain’t cheap, Spanky. The guardian of the well tells him he can drink if — always the big ‘if’ — if he first casts something vital of himself into the water. So Odin, mighty fucking warrior, snorts and spits and tears out his fucking eye and tosses it into the brook. And he takes his drink. And in a flash, he sees Ragnarok.