I was never a huge fan of Halloween (besides the obvious excuse to stuff my face with fun-sized Kit Kat and Crunch bars. Which I can't do anyways because I just got a root canal today. If I ever needed to use a hashtag, #Thisismylife.) because it never seemed worth all that effort just to make myself look like a ho. It's not really my aesthetic -- I think I missed that trend.
But I was wrong:
I saw this today while I was coming down the escalators in Water Tower. I literally had to stop in front of it and process the magnitude of this sign, which proved to be a bad idea since it was situated right in front of the escalators. But reason left the building five minutes ago. This is big. Bendel big.
Context: A reader's comment on an op-ed about a lesbian couple in San Francisco allowing their boy to begin the process of a gender switch. If you want to read the whole thing, it's here and it's short.
"I guess it's no coincidence that all these lost souls are gathering on top of a major fault line." Really?
Well, then I guess Alabama will be flooding over soon to make a mini Gulf of the United States because everyone living there is obviously an ignorant bigot.
I know he isn't trying to make it personal (really, how can I not take it that way -- that's a real concern for people living there), but sometimes, I can't understand people that won't understand.
Don't talk to me of love. I've had an earful And I get tearful when I've downed a drink or two. I'm one of your talking wounded. I'm a hostage. I'm maroonded. But I'm in Paris with you. Yes I'm angry at the way I've been bamboozled And resentful at the mess I've been through. I admit I'm on the rebound And I don't care where are we bound. I'm in Paris with you. Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame, If we skip the Champs Elysées And remain here in this sleazy Old hotel room Doing this and that To what and whom Learning who you are, Learning what I am. Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris, The little bit of Paris in our view. There's that crack across the ceiling And the hotel walls are peeling And I'm in Paris with you. Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris. I'm in Paris with the slightest thing you do. I'm in Paris with your eyes, your mouth, I'm in Paris with... all points south. Am I embarrassing you? I'm in Paris with you. -James Fenton (1993)
No fluff, no sentimentality. And still, in love with love. Everywhere is Paris with you.
People often ask if you feel older on birthdays, and as those years add up and friends get married, we rhetorically ask each other, "Don't you feel old?" And to those I answer no and no. Sure, the numbers always look higher each time, but it never fits right (am I the only one that feels like my brain is four years behind, older and none the wiser?); and all weddings seem to do is emphasize how not old I am. In all sobriety and no means of morbidity, nothing makes me feel older than funerals.
For those of you who are confused, I went home (San Francisco) last week. And trust me, I'm just as confused as you are, which is probably why I told barely anyone where I went and why. (Frankly, most people probably didn't know I was gone. Welcome to the self-absorption of working life.) What can be said in thoughtless conversations with interval friends?
"Hi, how have you been?"
"Oh, actually my aunt died yesterday from something that had to do with a stroke and the leukemia she found out about two weeks ago and I found out two days ago. I'm going to California tomorrow to attend her funeral."
I don't mean to be cavalier about it, but I don't think (don't think) I realized I was talking about a dead body. And not a dead body, a dead person. And not a dead person, a dead aunt. A dead sister, mother, grandmother. My aunt. Dead.
It wasn't until the wake that it sunk (maybe that's why they call it that -- a wake): she's not going to be there anymore.
"Were you close to her?" is the inevitable question. Does it matter? She was there for as long as I existed, but she wasn't a part of my day-to-day life.
And now, she isn't. Won't be. Now, her powdered remains lie there in the open casket with glued lips. All I think is, open caskets are stupid. (I know what they symbolize, but symbolism isn't immediate in the minds of those in bereavement.) My grandpa and my dad's sister also had open caskets. The made-up cadavers look strange and foreign, a mockery of our loved ones, a sad imitation of the living, the real person. Like a sick joke. Like they're simply hiding in the closed part of the casket, waiting to spring out at you, laughing. Surprise! It's the laughs you miss the most and remember the longest. So laugh a lot.
When we arrived at the burial site, my family noticed she was being buried right next to my grandfather. We took time to say a prayer after the service, me, my brother, my parents, the pastor; and afterward, I stayed behind with my dad for a minute.
"Dad, I miss Grandpa." And I did. I think it was the first time since his passing that I really felt that ache: the I-haven't-seen-him-in-a-year-now kind of missing, and slowly, the I'm-not-going-to-see-him-here-again kind of missing. Does that make me inhuman? Or more so? I cried at my aunt's funeral in surprise, for my mom and her sisters, for my cousin and uncle. I love her and my family will never be what it was without her, but certain kinds of mourning turns out to take its bitter time.
I've never felt older because death has never felt closer, or more visible. Twenty-two is not old by any measurement of life or death, but I no longer have delusions of this body's immortality. I know it is inevitable, unpredictable, and its clammy claws take with no consideration of our plans. I see it and it exists.
When we passed by my grandfather's stone, my parents and their close friends stood around me and pointed to their plots down the row: "Look, this is where I'm going to be buried!" Yes, in exclamation. I can't say I've accepted it to that extent, but my recognition of the Styx is the marker: I'm not a little girl anymore. Twenty-two is not eternal. Twenty-two is twenty-two.
Everything feels a little more trivial and bigger at the same time -- the paradox of growing up.
They all said it was a beautiful funeral and that they'd never seen so many attendees before. Maybe they were being appropriate, but there were nearly as many people standing, spilling outside of the chapel doors as there were sitting in the pews, a total of 300-something people. To have loved that much is all I could pray to do until I'm called Home.
"We tell ourselves stories in order to live... We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience."
(dearestherhan at gmail dot com)