Friday, February 5, 2010

4: Sodium Pentothal

This story is the 4th part of the Griffin filmmaker series, with the first 3 stories being The Thirst, Raging Life, and Negative.  For now, the order is restored.

Seventy nine days before Griffin’s fourth film, Sodium Pentothal, was released, the director’s son Richard was born. In a brief written statement, Griffin described the birth as exhilarating, a true miracle beyond description, as if there were the arc of a permanent, perfect rainbow standing in my vision. My beautiful wife Helena, an angel if there ever was one, is understandably exhausted but fine and recovering well from the procedure.

This statement was issued as a press release and distributed to the relevant media outlets; it was retracted and re-released to correct two misspelled words and the date of Richard’s birth.

***

In a private journal not made public until eleven years after his death, Griffin wrote about his son’s birth. He described himself in those weeks that followed as tired with his sense of time and place being altered from the new baby, lack of sleep, and caring for his wife. I wake up in the middle of the night, he wrote, baby crying for a feeding, and in that initial moment, can’t be sure if I’m in my apartment, the hospital, or some unfamiliar location.

The film I’m working on, he continued, is about the truth, pursuing it by force in contemporary society and how we twist ourselves to conform what we see as truth, ultimately leading to its perversion. But in moments with my child, my family, there is truth, pure and unforced. A profound delirium, this is, this new life, this miniature person. Easily, he wrote, I could float away and disappear.

In the initial release of Griffin’s journals, there were several mistakes. Sodium Pentothal was initially listed as his fifth film. In alternating places, the year in the birth entries was off by one year. The word “Pentothal” was misspelled as “Pentathal” in five instances. In later pressings, these mistakes were rectified. In the original journals, Griffin made various spelling and grammatical errors, as he wrote by hand and did not edit his entries. Before initial publication, the journal entries were edited, cleaning up such errors.

***

In moments not written about, Griffin would be holding his infant son as they rocked in a chair, their forms illuminated by the faint red glow of a caterpillar nightlight. Helena would wake and stand outside her son’s room and watch father clutching son in a still rocker. Her abdomen itching, her Caesarean scar pink and raised, the topography of motherhood.

The scene she witnessed was a replay of hazy moments from the hospital, the baby a symptom of physics, appearing in different arms every time she woke. She watched this scene, smiling as tired eyes weighed down, and felt a brief rush, thought that maybe she could do it all again.

In later years, Helena would revise her memory. She’d remember the red light as being brighter, illuminating the room more, and the caterpillar being more realistic than cartoonish. The child would be smaller, resting higher up on his father’s chest. Though she loved her son, she’d have no recollection of wanting to birth another but instead would wonder how she made it through with Richard, how she smiled when her brain and muscles were fatigued, how she said she felt happy when she wanted to run away, disappear.

16 comments:

  1. I'm especially drawn to Helena's revised memories. Which is true? Perhaps both, human nature being so dualistic. You have me thinking, which might not be a good thing. ;)

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  2. "the topography of motherhood" was such an original phrase.

    I like the gentle way your words hit a reader.

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  3. I like the way you talk through your stories. Fantastic.

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  4. A topography of fatherhood and motherhood, complete with untrustworthy memories.

    Now this is clever: Truth serum, but what truth? The facts are slippery. Things fade, or where the focus is sharper it is false. Expressed feelings are the opposite of those felt. Work is pursued by force while parenthood, specifically fatherhood, is pure and unforced. I remember this 'profound delerium'. I remember feeling I could and would disappear. This is brave, honest and so subtle. Wonderful.
    ~Simon.

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  5. Well expressed, the overwhelming feeling of new parenthood. I couldn't remember how I felt if I tried, except for exhausted and just trying to make through moment by moment. There is never just one version of the truth, anyway, it is fluid. Nicely done.

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  6. Yes, a great piece - giving birth as many differnt feelings attached - you have some of those well

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  7. Good thing for journals, wonder how many things we've rewritten in our own lives. Beautiful writing.

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  8. Memories are like stories, remade in each revision. Your last stanza (if I may call it that, for it is more a stanza than paragraph) made me ache for its honesty. You got the mothering thing down. Pat.

    Beautiful. Peace, Linda

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  9. Thanks, everyone, for reading and commenting!

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  10. Beautifully written... I especially liked how he woke up in the middle of the night and didn't know where he was.. that's exactly how I felt in the weeks after my first child's birth. It was like the whole world shifted on it axis and things that seemed the same were never the same again.
    Nice work.

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  11. I love the contradictions of being human that you elucidate throughout this piece.

    I feel like elucidate should be made into an adjective to describe your writing.

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  12. Great flow as usual.

    I hvae never been a mother, but I suspect I would understand Helena's later memories completely. That touched a chord, that did.

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  13. Torture with a use of many chemicals produced here at New York by the mad man ,maniac ,pervert and paranoic General Vasil Sporinov from Interpol were and continue to be used on me ,my wife and teen boy by the pigs. Also produced and experimented on many other ,people and groups ,to scare us ,to punish us ,to manipulate us ,to control us , to create a clean planet for them by cleaning us who made shits on.This is our future ,is a dark future for many who will dissapear over a few years.What do You thing, VasilFasista@Aol.com

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