We poured out of The Roundup last Christmas Eve eve. I had dropped in to hug a friend, and used my wiles to get him out of the bar when he got belligerent with the bouncer and his fellow swimmers. I suspect you would be mostly horrified how I cajoled him out of the bar, but I also suspect you might have been a little bit proud that your charm abides.
Two hundred of my dearest old acquaintances and I spilled into the crisp night, and the tides has suddenly turned. I was sober; most of them were not. I wore a shift and pumps, and might have stuck out like a sore thumb if I had arrived when the bar was less packed, or its patrons less intoxicated; Citizens, and, to a lesser extent, Sevens, were de rigeur.
Most striking was realizing that, barring sudden derailment, I had suddenly shot from my place as the poorest member of our community to quite possibly the highest earner, in a lifetime, and in a heartbeat. I had spent my life ashamed of my mother’s house, and now — well, almost now —
“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love cuts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”
I have only seen one corpse to which I can lay any sort of claim. It is fucking odd to hold a hand gingerly, as to not bruise her paper-thin skin, as you watch her eyes hold on and then let go. She is gone, and you still are so gentle with her hand, because you’re worried you’ll hurt her.
I have been denied my funerals. As a living person — and, therefore, the only kind who can vote on the matter — I say funerals are more for us than for you. So, it’s not so great, when you’re a child, and you’re told oh yeah? that woman who died with you? you can’t watch, because you were born in the wrong year. So instead, her ashes are in a locker in a monastery; his body is in a tomb embedded in a hillside; your parents are mislabeled, among thousands of others whose lives the mines rendered stooped; and yours? Well, I’ll never know, because those fuckheads at UCSF never called me back.
It seems reasonable to think that all of us construct our lives around our parents’, in many ways. Maybe my love for you fueled me to view my path as point and counterpoint. Striving to watch, and learn, and rely upon others to make my mistakes, so I would never step a toe out of line and watch everything I wanted go up in smoke. This is what my life has been.
They say you screamed as you died. Your fear of punishment hoarded your boldness. You had not loved as you were supposed to; or, at least, you had figured it out too late.
To be fair, I think you loved as you could, with the tools you were given. And I, who have been given much, have attempted to give much in return.
I did not cry once between the ages of ten and sixteen. The first bookend got you to stop fighting; the second was a howling despair of six years spent cold.
But I have now spent the last twenty years trying to be less cold, even if it sometimes results in my throat dropping into my stomach. This is counterpoint: to not go screaming into the night.
You have been dead for twenty percent of my life; I had accepted this inevitability since the age of three, at the latest. Knowing that I can think about you all the time, and carry on your work, without being sad about it very often, is one of the most reassuring sensations in this world. But it’s still a bit of a shock to say, today, I am almost a fancypants lawyer; and you — you have been dead for one-fifth of my life.