Typically I don’t explicitly explain myself, but this post requires more context. It’s about a boy named Pax. He was in a car accident— hit by an oncoming semi-truck that snapped his neck and shoved the steering wheel through his chest. It was a quick death, thankfully, and relatively painless.
All this to say: I love him so much that I watched him die in a dream two days before it actually happened. That’s the only thing I have to say for myself. I love him.
I take baths every time I feel like there’s nothing else I can do, which is quite often, these days.
It’s fine. Really. You know I’m normally a quite orderly person, certainly in thought if not in practice. It’s well known that my room is a biohazard at this point, so I won’t try to kid you about that. It just feels like something has gone through my filing system and put things in places they shouldn’t be, everything going cotton-soft and fuzzy, shaken like a snowglobe. I haven’t been sleeping all too much, maybe that’s the shaker. To sleep, perchance to dream— ay, there’s the rub, that’s what got me into this situation in the first place. Crash, bang, smoke, etcetera. I think something’s stuck in my piston. I think my gudgeon pin is missing. If I truly believe that I’m an engine, does that make me fixable?
Mind over matter— I can do mind over matter. I don’t get bug bites because when I was thirteen, I decided I was tired of them itching. I can do engines, too, I’m great with engines. So is my father, but that’s not a surprise. I got my mind from him, my thought patterns, my vernacular. These dizzying and vague neural pathways are hereditary. It fascinates me. I’ve only met one other person that thinks the same way I do, but my father is the only one whose voice I can hear.
I suppose that’s where my father and I differ, though— my crazy stays in my head, molded into a person whose hand I can hold to calm them, and his goes everywhere.
He’s a syrup person. Oh, the syrup people— it’s tangible, that despair, bubbling out of their pores like a syrup, honey-sticky and deadly as a fly trap. I’m not a syrup person because I don’t want to be one, because I can choose not to be one. I’m lucky as a fucking rabbit foot for it, and I choose no. No, no, no, no, no. It’s one of my favorite words in the whole wide world. How can an arbitrary signifier envelop something so big so succinctly?
Well, the same way the word dead does it, I reckon. Very similar words, those two. For “no”, there’s always the question of motive and context, and for “dead”, there’s always the question of what happens next, but they still mean something hard and fast and unchangeable. If it’s a no, it’s a no, and if they’re dead, they’re dead. No necromancy. Just an ending. So long, and goodnight.
To be or not to be has a “no” and a “dead” in it, but the dead isn’t explicit, I suppose. It just haunts it.
I’ve been thinking about tragedies quite a lot lately, as I’m sure you can tell. That file has been at the forefront of my mind lately, along with all the other little inconsequential acknowledgements that pop up in day to day life— if you make a typo while spelling “been” you get “bene” which means good and potentially says something about nostalgia, opals are supposedly bad luck but I still wear that ring on my left hand, etcetera. Bits of thinking to keep the magic alive, pieces of magical thinking to keep it alive. I’ve been thinking about October and Las Vegas and rotting and mold. About Judas. Lo and behold, there lieth the cycle— the first ever tragedy. We wouldn’t have had Hamlet without Judas and I wouldn’t have had Judas without Hamlet, and late October was a rotting fucking tragedy, and it all goes round and round on the merry go ‘round.
(October— I think this whole scene is beginning to get tragic. You and I were just the tip of the iceberg.)
It’s hard to feel stable and sane when I feel everything all of the time. God’s got his fingers in every pie and so do you— I can feel you both. Everything just goes back to my original sin, doesn’t it? Ashes to ashes and dust to dust, but I was born in a bathtub so when I go I’ll turn into bubbles, and I don’t know where you were born, but I know that you’re ashes by now.
Nothing I can do for you now, so I sit in the bath and wish I had a cigarette. I am sitting in a room and it just amplifies the feeling. Helpless. The window is open and the water is so hot that the parts of my body touching it have turned red. I drag a hand through it and watch how it eddies around my fingers. There are sirens in the distance, in the black and wet night, but that’s nothing new. There have always been sirens, there are always sirens, there will always be sirens. I want to invent a new verb tense that tells it like it is, a tense that knows that if something is going to happen, it’s already over. A verb tense without a verb because time is irrelevant. There always sirens. Everything connected. Judas dead. I think I’m going to call it the Laura Palmer tense.
It all comes back to me, faintly, faintly. A scene from a Lena Headey movie flashes before my eyes— her in the bath on some sort of drug, lifting her hand and watching the water droplets shining off of her skin in slow motion, sparkling like diamonds. I’m not Lena Headey and I don’t have drugs or diamond water, but I got a ring on my left hand and that’s good enough. The single bare lightbulb above the sink turns everything grainy yellow. I make believe that I’m in a Batman movie and let the city break my heart, over and over. How many people are waiting for a call back? How many people have found voicemails full of empty platitudes? The hope, the love, the drive home you never made. We’re all dying.
I can smell the rain. It’s unendurable.
I start a new mental file on adjectives, a way to fit our oceans into a teacup. Abominable, narrow, illegible, unquenchable, strange, lush, desperate, monarchic, rounded, wild, sad, imperious, virginal, inspired, depressed, cold, weary, bewildering, difficult, frightening. Oh, whatever— it doesn’t matter, I already drank the whole cup. Down the hatch to wash the pills down, one two three four five six seven eight nine ten eleven of them, swallowed in a single mouthful. I’m good at swallowing things down.
There was a brief time in my medical history where my mouth wouldn’t stop bleeding. For hours every day, my teeth would be orange with blood. At first I tried to spit it out, into sinks and toilets and potted plants and tissues, but the blood just kept coming, relentless. There wasn’t always something to spit it into, so I swallowed it. I got good at swallowing it, so good that I wasn’t the least bit sticky. No syrup, no blood. And now I’m sitting in the bath, face empty of everything.
You kissed me when it was happening. I told you I was sorry when my blood was in your mouth, but you smiled and kissed me again. I don’t think there’s ever going to be anyone like you again.
I don’t mind it, I don’t mind it, I really don’t— I keep myself empty so I can receive, so I can make space for something outside of me. A sign I’m not alone, a guest room, the same reason people plant Bonsai off center. I’m just setting a place for God at the dinner table, and I’m sure that God understands the importance of leaving space. There’s an old Jewish story that God was part of everything, and to create, he had to breathe in to make space for it. I’m breathing in, now, and letting something grow in the space. I am a witness to it.
I’m done with asking questions. How many times have I said that? I’m done with it! Things happen for reasons that don’t concern me and it isn’t my job to find a motive, because a hole is a hole and it doesn’t matter if the hole exists as an absence of something or just as a concavity. People die even when they’ve made promises, and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day. The sun continues to rise and I continue to survive— I choose to survive. Every day, I choose to survive. I love and I love and I love and I really want to live, you know? So I push away the darkness, the darkness that sits apart from the shimmering night. It sits like a tiger in a cage, visible to all and impossible to touch. I see it. I see you.
When the tiger calms down, when it finally lies down, it will turn into a little girl that looks a whole lot like me. I’ll hold her hand and wash the dirt from behind her ears and feed her orange juice and cookies, and she’ll become another one of my psyches. I was a mother even as a child, I know, and it breaks my heart. The parents would leave and I would be the one to brush tangles from the hair of half-wild children, to bathe them. It didn’t matter that I was only a year or two older than them. My sibling is three years older than me, and I was still the big sister. If I can be a mother to all those people, I can be a mother to myself. Control what I can, let go of what I can’t. Forgive it all.
I take comfort in a universe that God may or may not control. Science and religion are two separate files in the same drawer, right next to each other. I take comfort in the theory that the universe will keep expanding until matter decays and everything ultimately turns to light. We’ll all become light, even if we’re dead, and all of our atoms will find the atoms we can’t talk to anymore— our loved ones, our dead, the friends we no longer talk to— and the atoms will be together, even if we can’t. We never made it to Vegas, I know, but we’ll go there when the world ends.
It doesn’t really matter. The winter touches me too deeply— you must disregard what I’m saying. I don’t believe in myths anymore, certainly not ones that don’t end in slaughter. Head against the wall, I watch the steam furl out of the open window in curling tendrils, feel the wind and the water. If I close my eyes I can make myself believe I’m in the ocean again, back in Mexico where we out on Hamlet for the younger kids, reading from the script because we hadn’t quite memorized all my lines. I was Ophelia and you were Hamlet, and we both died in the end. It’s all okay. I forgive it. I am sitting in a room and it all echoes around me.
It’s not your fault. The car crash wasn’t your fault. I just need you to know that if you had made it to a hospital bed, I would’ve come to hold your hand. You drank my blood and we still couldn’t have stayed together, so I made my heart inhale and I put you in the open space. I forgive it and I watch my grief turn into light. It’s okay. You’ve gone through the frightening door without me and I’ll do anything you tell me, anything you tell me. Whatever leads to joy. I’ll follow you.
You were my Velveteen Rabbit, I hope you know that. Everyone else thought you were stuffed, but I could feel your heartbeat. I still can. Through it all— the depressing art films, the wine-drunk days, the drugs, the sporadic postcards, the meaningless sex with other people, the lies— I felt your heartbeat.
And oh, isn’t it lovely? Despite the mist in the room and my half-open eyes, I see your shadow on the wall through the mirror. This is the last dream I ever want to have, do you understand? If I have to wake up, I’m glad the last thing I saw was you.
I think you’re crazy, I really do. I’ll see you when we turn into light.
Gosh Holly your writing is always so beautiful like I’ll actually cry about it