What is tragedy? Corine sat in the third row and turned her head to Hero who was two seats down. There was an ocean between them. Hero’s eyes burned as grief crawled up her neck in red splotches that itched like a wool turtleneck and slid down her spine like sweat in august, settling finally in her gut, sick with rage. Yet she didn’t produce a tear. Hero’s eyes met Corine’s and offered a stale smile of comfort returned by rolling tears down Corine’s already raw red face. Hero returned her focus to the front with a deep breath and a light clearing of her throat. It had to be open casket. Janice finished singing and sat down…It was now time, they were told, to say their goodbyes. Chase, who was on Hero’s left stood up first and plain faced offered his hand and helped her. Hand in hand they walked up to the front of the room to say good bye. Hero hadn’t seen him yet and when her face met that of her dead friend she first furrowed her eyebrows and then buried her eyes in Chase, whose squeezed her arm tightly. Eventually she turned back her softened face, her breathing audible as broken exhales. She reached down and stroked his cold forehead as others gathered around the casket. Corine hesitated at the edge of the room, filled with something, she couldn’t be sure, but she thought it must be fear. “Fear of what?” Taylor asked “it’s not the dead ones you have to look out for it’s the ‘live ones.” She looked up at him with open mouthed horror, “he’s dead Cora” He grabbed her with his whole body and held her tight as she sobbed “He was a good kid, he was a good kid” was all she could say with her mouth full of the shoulder of his shirt. “Yeah, he was a good kid” he reassured, the embrace now broken he looked her in the eyes “do you want to go see him?” “no.” She said…”Yes” she corrected, Taylor nodded and lead her over. Corine slowed her breathing and prepared herself for the coming moments. Ever muscle taut as they approached the light pine wood casket. She looked in, starting her eyes at his feet, he was wearing the grey suit, the one her wore to prom just the year before. As her eyes moved up his body to his hands she squeezed Taylor’s grasp…His hands…those hands…Jordan’s hands…they still looked like his, like Jordan may have left for good leaving only himself in his knuckles. They were stiff with rigor mortise and unnaturally folded together but they still looked like Jordan. Here on his hands she stopped her moving eyes and stayed, she took a deep breath, it was definitely fear that was stopping her from moving her eyes. Then she did, she had to. She took a breath and layed her eyes on Jordan’s face: Grayish green. Lips ripped and coated over with dried blood, sunken eyes that had been forced closed now relaxed slightly open, a slit of white showing between each lid. This was reality, this was death with no sugar coating, no smoothing over, nothing gentle, no easing into it; the true rude unromantic reality of death. He was dead and a part of everyone in the room was too. Corine had seen death before but not like this. She had seen easy death, expected death, death that was a breath of relief to the old and boney who met death with open arms, crawled into bed with it and gracefully sank into a deep slumber arm in arm with the reaper. This death was uncouth, dirty; it snuck up on you and smacked you in the face without telling you why, this was a demise of impact that shook the earth, ripped up the front lawn grass, death that ripped life away with a jerk, like tarring a thread from a tapestry. That crude unfeeling despair that is only understood as a tragedy.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
I knew I was at an American terminal the moment I reached it. I knew this not only by the understated wall-sized eagle majestically painted flying past a background of American monuments, and the preamble of the constitution fluttering softly in calligraphy down the opposing wall. No, all of these things were forgivable, expected even, what struck me were the people. On the floor in front of me were two women who were ‘full-figured’. I sat there sobbing eating my bag of chips and my heart broking a little more with the crunch of each flake. A rugged man, whose skin seemed to be graying with his hair came over to one of the large woman sprawled on the terminal floor “Ya’ll have your passports?” he said scratching his army tattoos as he reached down and pluck one of the woman’s passports. “NA-OH!” She exclaimed “it’s a terrible picture of me!” My eyes slide over her in my displeasure, Americans are far too loud, it was something I had forgotten. While feeling upset, relishing this annoyance I wondered how much the people in the terminal managed to look less like humans and more like a ball of play dough that had been violently flung at the floor. My sadness had so quickly jerked to anger. “Com’on” the tattooed man said “its smokin’…wish you could see your bellybutton ring, though.” As my pride cringed with the seething urge to interject my heartless, if not overdramatic opinion; I contemplated how fitting that this place was called a ‘terminal’.
I was in for the long haul: the 17 hour flight to California. On my 12 hour flight to Chicago I squeezed my way past a friendly haggard man, wearing round glasses and a button down T-shirt, on his legs were kyakies. As is unavoidable on these trips he began a conversation with me. I can’t remember what he began with but I do remember that I interrupted him in a conversation ending roar of sorrow, most of which came cascading through my nasal cavities. The man offered some sort of confused reassurance to me calling on both the powers of metaphor and Kleanex both of which I refused. The man, only slightly half heartened by my denial of his invitation to listen to him brag about his holiday turn his gaze to his knees and back around to the man who had sat down while I was sobbing. I saw the middle man’s hopefully eyes slashed with sadness as the man in the aisle seat began to laugh unnecessarily loud at the in flight NBC sitcom on the headrest sized television in front of him. ‘This poor middleman’ I thought to myself, strapped in between comedy and tragedy for the next bumpy 12 hour flight.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
::this is an abridged portion of the introductory chapter to one of the books I have been working on called 'Nudie Pictures'. The book deals with being in between independent and completely under someone else's will. Specifically this biographical work focuses on my time travelling, learning how to trust myself and other people. It is written in chapters that stand alone as short stories but intertwine to create a cohesive plot::
When I was a sophomore in high school our class took a trip to a ropes course. A ropes course, to me, is sort of a junior’s version of S and M. A place involving straps and ropes and accessories that rubs in all the wrong ways but when at just the angle, hurt so good. After much shifting and tightening and squeezing into harnesses we were taught that this was not a place of bondage but rather a place of bonding. This experience was to bring us closer to our peers, our teachers and most importantly our selves. The course itself was an orchestration of trees and rope ladders strung together with pipelines and cables, all designed to challenge you mentally and physically. Most symbolic of these activities was the quite literally and not at all subtly named “Leap of Faith”. Although in theory I like the idea of being physically brilliant and I am sure that there is some potential value and practical application to walking on a two inch plank of wood 60 feet in the air, I tried my best to hang back. I watched my friends do the Leap of Faith. The Leap of Faith, while the most symbolic was also the most simplistic; a 100 foot pole stuck into the ground which you climb and jump off of in order to grab a trapeze or plummet in an uncontrolled free-fall towards the earth. Certain people dominated the feeling, even fell on purpose. One of my friends asked the man managing his harness to let him fall nearly to the ground before catching him. I watched my friend, rocket towards the ground, falling steadily, fearlessly, hurtling towards the ground, and I wondered, how does he do that? The residing and inarguable answer was ‘faith’. He had faith in the harness, he had faith in the stranger who was taking care of his life, he had faith in the ropes, he had the confidence in his life that the feeling was something worth the risk; he knew well enough that the backup system was sufficient to take care of him. ‘what a difference’ I thought as I scaled the glorified telephone pole, a difference between my friends’ fearless drop to safety and my anxiety filled climb to further discomfort. I felt my exposed thigh being rubbed raw by the harness as I touched the top of the log. “ok!” I yelled down “ok what?” the manager yelled back to me. “Ok, I’m ready to come down now” He laughed, I wasn’t kidding “now, read what the top of the log says and stand up on top of it.” I looked at the top of the pole; ‘trust thy self, every heart vibrates to that iron string- Emerson’ 'iron string?' I thought, though trying to quantify philosophy is the last thing I wished to be doing while dangling from a rope, had it said ‘trust thy strange man holding on to your rope, he will not drop you to your death’, I may have felt a stronger sense of ease. “uhhh” I said “I think I want to come down now” I stood up, perched on a 6 inch wide stump and felt the entire 100 feet of wood beneath me tremble under my unbalanced stance. “Too late now, girly!” he yelled up to me ‘why am I ‘miss’ on the ground but suddenly when I’m swinging 100 feet in the air standing on a log I become ‘girly’, how has height advanced familiarity’ I thought to myself “I’m not going to drop you!” he continued “Ok…” the log shook again as I shifted my weight “ok” I continued “but what if…what if the rope breaks?” “These ropes can hold up to 5 tons, you think you weight more than that?” I scoured my memory, and in my panic it was entirely possible that I could have somehow, some way gained 5,000 pounds in the last 20 minutes. “Just jump!” he called to me. For a moment I stared down at him and his surroundings of soft cushioning wood chips. I was going to die, I had never been surer of anything in my life. I looked at the trapeze and without a breath, I leapt.