a dead man’s day

As many of us know by now, our relationships don’t end when one party dies. I’m not even sure it ends when both parties die, because the lessons we’ve learned, the common language we cultivate, the individual culture we’ve fostered with them spreads out, permeating our extended community in ways that cannot be measured.

My father and I loved going to the theatre together, and I remember one year, when I was maybe nine, we were off to some fancy show in downtown San Diego. We took a cab from some place, possibly the train station (this detail now lost to the natural fuzziness of memory that inevitably develops with time) to the theatre, and the driver, a staunchly blue collar type, was asking us where we were headed. They chatted, and the man went on about how he loved the language of Shakespeare, even though it was hard for him to understand. Not a stranger to early pretension, I remember being skeptical of his interest and judging him for it. “What a stupid reason to love Shakespeare,” I thought.

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KEEPSAKES

The saltwater stung my lips as I sped down the highway, edgy from the bitter gas station coffee I’d pounded throughout the ride, rushing to meet the body of a man who was already dead. My mother beat me to the coroner’s office.

“You don’t want to see that,” she told me. “His body looked so small. It didn’t even look like him,” she said.

His apartment was littered with sentimentalities: a box of old photos scattered across the dining table; a hideous porcelain lamp with a base shaped like a bowl of fruit that had once graced the apartment he shared with my mother; the dishes from my parents’ marriage, an institution that had been abandoned fifteen years prior. I took a three tiered black metal basket and the black bear statue I gave him for Father’s Day when I was six.

As we drove the cat to the shelter, I sat in silence. My mother tried to comfort me with all the reasons that this was the best decision, but we both knew that this dusty drive to the shelter was a funeral march. The old tortoiseshell, weary and violent after being neglected and abused by a decaying alcoholic, was not likely to be adopted. Her name was Stripe. She was my seventh birthday gift from him, and twelve years later, we were dropping her at her execution.

That evening, we returned to our cheap motel. As we pushed the door open, the radio played a song in Spanish–the lyrics were about loving the dead.

The first night in the motel, some men were ogling my mother and I as we moved our things into the room, and the anger inside of me flared something fierce. I nearly started a fight when I asked if they had something better to do than stare at us.

“Honey, I can’t protect you,” she told me, as if it was news.

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FUCK A YEAR IN REVIEW POST

I’m currently sitting on my as of yet unsold couch in a robe and sipping on a glass of scotch while waiting for the hot curlers in my hair to work their glorious mane magic. Just like the rest of you basic bitches I am assessing the year that has passed and I have concluded that 2015 was a motherfucker, but the kind of motherfucker that I’ve always liked.

Folks have always been telling me that as you get older, you give less fucks. I’ve gotten a little older, but it turns out that I still give a lot of fucks; I am a tried and true fuck giver every single fucking time. “Give less fucks,” is terrible advice to a hyper empath and person with Big Feels, as it typically fosters an inevitable shame spiral:

Oh god, I give too many fucks! And now I give a fuck about giving fucks! And now I give a fuck about giving a fuck about giving fucks! And then I find myself scratching my nails off the brick walls of this fuck-filled room I’ve sealed myself in and I’m coughing on the fucks so hard that I start to puke and suffocate on my own vomit and then I’m fucking dead (and without fingernails, which is gross).

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and away we go

The sun descended on the land behind the trees, transforming them from a barricade of green to a silhouette that reflected black in the small lake that had been rented on our behalf. Once I saw the fishing boat out in the lilypads, I ran down to the tiny L-shaped dock on the edge of our Wisconsin oasis while shouting, “I AM HERE TO RUIN YOUR TRANQUILITY!”

Graceful entrances have always been my forté.

I kicked off my shoes and pushed the paddleboard into the shallow end. The competing winds had disappeared, leaving behind a placid surface and acute silence. All I could hear was the sound of my paddle dipping into the water–three strokes on the left; three on the right.

As I balanced myself on the board and pushed myself out to the deep, one of the boys in the fishing boat said to me, “Watching you do that is nerve wracking.”

I shrugged.

“I mean, I don’t want to get too cocky and jinx myself, but I feel like I’ll be okay.”

Even as I said it, the muscles in my calves twitched, my balance faltering slightly. It was my second time out on the water without a bathing suit or a backup plan; I came to the center of the lake, shifting my weight with each push of the paddle.

I looked up to see the crescent moon peeking above the glorious oranges of the sky and the dark wall of trees. This week of grown up summer camp, filled with s’mores and beer and hilarious company, would be ending soon. This time last year, I was finally letting what had long been unraveling completely undo itself–including myself.

In one year’s time, I managed to get everything I had said I wanted for years (or at least, I was on the pathway toward it), as well as just what I needed–unexpectedly, remarkably, often painfully. I didn’t know at the time that it would require reducing my life to a smoldering crater to get there.

Read more and away we go