"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Friday, February 10, 2006
Dust and Dreams
gone Function: adjective Etymology: from past participle of go 1 a : DEAD b : LOST, RUINED 2 : PAST 3 : The stuff in that trunk over there
I'm crying so hard inside right now. I don't know why I torture myself like this. But some things, well, you just have to cry. You just have to.
My aunt Leela killed herself last night.
Her husband died last week from diabetes. It had been nibbling him to death for years. Diabetes does that. Heart attacks are lightning bolts, diabetes takes you one careful small piece at a time until you are gone.
Every one remarked how well Leela was handling herself at the funeral. Well, of course she did. Leela was one of those people who are always perfect. Perfect hair, perfect figure, perfect clothes, perfect makeup. But I'm learning now that those are not things to envy, they are things to pity. She lived her entire life from one end to the other playing a role that never was her.
Yesterday evening, she took a bath, styled her hair, put on a nice outfit, did her makeup just right. This was her swansong and it wouldn't do to be messy about this. She gently lay on her bed, tied a plastic bag around her neck, and went about the business of dying.
And that's how they found her the next day.
The news stunned me, especially since I can so readily identify with her and what she felt. I've been in that dark room and faced the monsters. I've heard the hopelessness and felt the cold fear, tinged with the vacuous pain. I know, Leela. I know what you felt, and I am so, so sorry.
Leela and her husband were both such wonderful people. They have left, both of them, a better world than they one they came to. I hope that Leela is remembered for this, and not for those last tragic moments, all alone. I'll remember her for the light she lived every day, that's what I'll remember.
There's a trunk that has been sitting at the foot of my stairs for several weeks. It's been waiting on me to open it. It usually lives in the attic, but since we moved I wanted to go through it. It holds all my memories for the first 20 years of my life, so in that trunk is treasure.
And pain. There's pain there too. And I knew that, but tonight I opened it anyway.
In the trunk, packed tightly among all the other special things, was a small stationary box. If I have anything in my life that is indeed sacred to me, it would be that box. In that box lies my once and always broken heart. The sorcery of a wound that never healed. The beauty that nothing else has never really ever measured up to.
I open the box. There is a small plastic bag inside. In the bag I find letters, pictures, a lock of hair. A piece of her. Knowing better, yet helpless to do otherwise, I open a letter and read. The letter is in her handwriting, and I can't believe I'm really holding it. I read what she wrote, 29 years ago:
You know, I've really changed since meeting you. Since I've been home I could care less if I go out or not. That's unusual for me. All I ever think about is you...
...Oh, I love you so much. I can hardly wait for the day when we no longer have to be separated or have to wait for a holiday or vacation to be together. If we can hold on these next few years we're going to be two of the happiest people in the world.
All my love, forever, Patty
There's pictures. I look at them, and bleed. Less than two months after that letter, she lost her grip, and couldn't hold on. We never had the chance to be those two happy people. That wound never healed, and still hasn't.
Dust and memories. Blood and tears. When it comes down to it, those are the only things we leave behind.
I find a black folio and open it up. Oh my goodness, it's filled with the songs I wrote when I was an entertainer. They are written on formal music paper, notebook paper, the back of hotel stationary, scrawled on the back of restaurant menus and laundry slips, whatever was near. I pick one up that is written on the back of a laundry slip from the Presidential Gardens Hotel in DC. I can't remember the tune at all, but the words are still clear:
Why must I say goodbye to you One more song and then I'm through As I vanish into the dark A lonely knife is in my heart
Please wave goodbye to me And pretend that you don't see Tears rolling from my eyes As we say our last goodbyes
Someone tell me how to leave I can hardly move my feet As I go As I look back one more time As I look into your eyes This face is what I'll see Every night In every Dream
I only played this song one time for anyone. I played it once for my best friend in college, and he told me it was absolutely the best thing I'd ever written. So, here it is now, twenty five years later, and to me it still holds the same pathos it did when I first penned it, sitting on a washing machine in a hotel basement waiting on my clothes to dry.
And I know that it may not seem that Leela's tragedy and my own heartbreak have anything to do with each other. But they do. They feel the same to me. There is the same sense of loss, the same sense that something divinely beautiful has passed from the world forever.
And it has.
Leela, I am so sorry. I am so sorry you came to that black room, that place that is more frightening than any other. Now you are at peace, you and your husband, my uncle, both are.
Me, I got a ways to go yet.
I am going to concentrate on what's important in life. I'm going to strive everyday to be a kind and generous and loving person. I'm going to keep death right here, so that anytime I even think about getting angry at you or anybody else, I'll see death and I'll remember. --Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, Northern Exposure, Do The Right Thing, 1992