After a day of adventure, I sit on the balcony reading, while listening to the excited voices of children in the pool. They speak a language I do not know, say words I cannot comprehend. It is so windy by the sea. The pages of the book are hard to control, flitting this way and that way. Obstructing the words; obstructing the ending.
For hours yesterday, the rest of the group snorkeling in hopes of spotting a turtle, I take up residence on a beach chair. I read a fluff book picked off the community bookshelf in the condo and tan my body. Later on we walk to town for dinner and on the way back we take the back way across a rocky beach. Daniel, my best friend’s six-year old son by my side, holds my hand and assures me, “Don’t worry. I got you.”
Today we travel to Muyil to float in a river and explore the jungle. Birds, bees, butterflies.
To read the obstructed ending. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr has been embedded in me since I first read it five years ago. On a rainy day in Costa Rica, after too many rum shots, I read the words of Marie-Laure about her father, “…but he is distracted; he smokes so much it is as if he is turning himself into ash.” Two weeks prior my own father told me he had a tumor in his lungs. When I read these words of Marie-Laure, I can only think of him. While Marie-Laure had her father for a few more years, I had mine for only ten more months.
I realized, upon the second reading five years later, I picture her father as my father.
I am moved to tears on nearly every page. I am a skimmer, often making my way quickly to dialogue. This book does not allow for that. Each word, every sentence so well-written.
It is curious to me how much smoking and cigarettes are referenced. It’s almost as if the cigarettes are an additional character.
Page 27: “Her only sanctuary is in bed, the hem of her quilt at her chin, while her father smokes another cigarette in the chair beside her, whittling away at one of his tiny models, his hammer going tap, tap, tap, his little square of sandpaper making a rhythmic, soothing rasp.”
Page 30: “Then he lights a cigarette and goes to work on his miniatures at a workbench in the corner of the kitchen.”
Page 45: “He glows sapphire when he sits over his workbench in the evening, humming almost inaudibly as he works, the tip of his cigarette gleaming a prismatic blue.”
Page 52: “Her father lights a cigarette.”
Page 77: “Coffee. Cigarettes. Bread?”
Page 78: “She hears the sparking of his lighter, the suck and flare of tobacco as his cigarettes ignites.”
Page 89: “He lights another cigarette. Six to go.” and then…”When his cigarette is gone, he eases Marie-Laure’s feet to the ground and covers her with his coat and opens the rucksack.:
Page 107: “He lights a cigarette; three left.”
Page 109: “Coffee and cigarettes.”
Page 110: “Two cigarettes left. Inhale, exhale.”
Page 119: “Her father takes his final cigarette from his shirt pocket and lights it.”
Page 121 &122: “Probably Marie-Laure should be more curious…she’s six or seven years old, newly blind and her father is sitting in the chair beside her bed, whittling away at some tiny piece of wood, smoking a cigarette…”
Page 129: “Soon enough there is the familiar smell of his cigarettes: Gauloises bleues.”
Page 144: “Every time she comes within earshot, Marie-Laure hears the fsst of her father lighting another match.”
Page 150: “but he is distracted; he smokes so much it is as if he is turning himself into ash.”
Page 196: “He yearns for cigarettes.”
Yesterday would have been my dad’s 68th birthday. Hard to imagine. When I think of him smoking, I picture him sidled up to the Jenn-Air, on a stool, blowing smoke into the vent. I can clearly hear the vent.
Next month marks four years without him.