Happy Birthday Gil- we will always love you
Reading Mark Doty’s Dog Years, I realized that some things I will never be able to write about without sounding like a sentimental, driveling, emotionally stunted idiot. Take my dead friends; they deserve the shrine of ink; I know I have, and will, fail them. Even now, writing about writing about them, I am stunted. I am nine years old, I have been punished by my father for hitting my sister; I did not hit my sister.
I look into the center of things, try positive thinking; of course you can, you are good enough, smart enough. Pass the sugar plum fairy a desert grown fig. Ok, take two. Focus on the image. Let the narrative do the work. Show, don’t tell. I play with the buttons on the tool bars. I listen to songs on YouTube from the years they died.
Gil, for instance, died in 2004 of cancer. I don’t even know the type. The image the doctors gave us was this: go inside his lungs, hurl around a bag of rice like you are playing pick-up sticks, watch it scatter. The rice were tumors, course. That is what the physician said- the grains of rice were tumors, of course. Gil died in 2004. That year was a musical wasteland; it was milk toast post-punk and Kelly Clarkson. I am sorry for that Gil.
Greg Bershad died in 1992, I think. Things were a bit better, minus the boy bands; you had Nirvana and The Beasty Boys. I did not even hear about Greg’s’ death until months later. His number discontented, no surprise from the brilliant artist turned part time junky; I sent a post card with my number. His mom called: thank God you wrote Rich, you’re the last one who did not know. He died with a needle in his arm.
It is 2011. I sit in my writing chair. My wife is cutting my daughter’s bangs. She must be sitting- she spent too much time out of her wheelchair today- there is no way she could be standing anymore. Tonight is our second snow of winter. When it snows in Tacoma, it destroys the rhythm of the machine.
I try to count the spokes of her wheelchair staring at me from the shadows. I think there are seven, but I keep forgetting from where I started. This happens to me often.
I digress. I digress so I do not fail. I have failed. I will fail. The snow mixes with rain now, three am; everyone turned into unconsciousness. What is sleep? The wasting of life? The rehearsal for eternity? A simulation of that void I so desperately wish to forget?
I search the web for their names. They died long before the craze. They never knew Facebook. Greg never even had an email address. There is one reference to Gil, an obituary: He lived in Chico and worked in organic gardening. This is all that is left.
I knew I would fail. I walk into my daughter’s room. She breathes just like her mother. I knew I would fail. I sit in the corner, listen to her cacophony. It is all I will ever have.*