What I Wouldn’t Do
For a Month of Beckett’s Time

Leli_FT2_insetBeckett always held that he was born on April 13, 1906. A light. Sunny morning. Lilting wind. Faint murmurs of rustling new leaves. But. Really. What does Beckett know? He was barely there. And he’s dead now. Past tense. Done and done and done. His family chirped it restlessly from the wings though. We know. We know. Ask us. Ask us. April 13. 1906. April 13. 1906. Good Friday. Good Friday. It wasn’t good for Jesus. But maybe that goes without saying. Cliché. Cliché. Cliché. On and on and on.

The trick here: Beckett’s birth certificate. That professional. Legal. Binding document. Inked with a little black foot and a scrawling doctor’s signature. Says: May 13. 1906. May 13. 1906. So there went a month. Up in smoke. Under the rug. Out the window. Down the gullet. And on. And now it’s at Christie’s. On the block. Under the description: Writer’s life for thirty or so days. Nobel Prize and endless smokes included. Let the bidding begin.

God what I wouldn’t do for a month of Beckett’s time.

First: I’d paint a picture of a big purple monster. It’d have one eye and two meanings. A giant steel helmet wrapped in a slithery turban. Its body would be thick and rippled. Muscles. Veins. Peachy skin looking half in. Half out of life. Tanned and yet sunless. People would look at it: Exclaim: Beckett. My god. Beckett painted that. Unbelievable. And they wouldn’t even see. The way it was blasphemous and sick and slimy. Until they looked more. Closely. Then they’d see. Because it’s Beckett. So to see. You have to look. At least. Twice. At least.

Next: I’d stand in front of the mirror and pull tight all the skin on my face. Back and back and back and back. Like straightening the wrinkles on an elephant’s leg. I’d pull until it all came together. All went backwards. Back. By those iconic stick-out ears and the tang of steel-rimmed glasses. Because then it would be clear. How Beckett would look. Smooth. Like a summer peach rubbed fuzz-less. My. How handsome.

Then: I’d simply. Eat a banana. That’s it. Eat a banana. A semi-ripe one because that’s what I’d like and I assume an astute man like Beckett. A tortured soul like his. A sharp brain like the one in his head. That’s what he must have liked. Those bananas slipped past green light go into the light pastel yellow yield but well before the freckled brown spots attack taste and texture and deliciousness. So. I’d eat a banana. Because I’ve always wanted to see a picture of Beckett. Eating a banana.

Later: I’d do the most wonderful task. The most excruciating task. The most. Audacious task. I’d sit. A small table. A demitasse of black coffee. A blessed pen that gently rolls ink with flawless ragged being. And I’d write. Or rather. I’d be Beckett. Writing. Thinking. Pausing. Thinking. Writing. Though I’d make sure that he used his French. Not English. No. Not that. Because I wouldn’t want to know what he was writing. I wouldn’t want to read it. I’d want to feel it. Like that hot coffee working its way through the cracks and crevices of my human body.

Lastly: I’d drop into the grocery store. Roam the greeting card aisle. And wait to see what kind of card Beckett would get me for my birthday. He’d stop. Think. Pick up one with Ziggy on it. Ziggy and a monkey. He’d read it. Carefully. Thoughtfully. Then shake his head. Return it to the rack. And when I found the one he liked. A little card. Blank on the inside. Outside covered with a black and white photo of a spinning top befuddled and quiet on a marbled surface. I’d have myself write myself a Beckett birthday greeting on the inside using the pen chained to the checkout clerk’s check writing station. I’d address it and stamp it too. And I’d show all my wrinkles in fury as the attendant would require me to purchase a whole book of stamps instead of allowing me to buy just one of the sticky things. But I’d shake it off. And drop the envelope. In the bin outside. And later. When I wasn’t Beckett anymore. I’d find that card in my mailbox. Trembling as I tore the envelope. I’d read what he wrote. And wonder why. Beckett would put quotation marks around the phrase Happy Birthday.

The problem has since been resolved. Since. So says many books. Biographies. Unauthorized mementos. The hospital folks were wrong. Wrote May instead of April. Easy as that. Human error. Not divine providence. The proof is in a newspaper announcement. Irish. Under births. April 13. 1906. The proof is in that sentence. The same one that accidentally. Left out the period. At the end of the sentence. Again. Human error. And below Beckett. Whose name? Macnamara. Rudd. Simpson. But would I want a month of Macnamara? Rudd? Simpson? Probably not. But god what I wouldn’t do for a month of Beckett’s time.

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