My father’s old adage about lying down with dogs and getting up with fleas is no longer valid in Manhattan. And for some of us who rarely lie down at all these days, the prospect of paying $4,000 for a non-warranteed bedbug treatment is daunting.
My neighbors downstairs have been 'diagnosed'. The required letters have been sent--- far too late, I suspect—and the nagging fear of another unpayable bill for a sort of biblical-aged plague reminds that the meek will not exactly inherit this hideous economically-driven civilization, but they will annoy us like hell. And despite our blackberries and high-tech lives, we have nothing on these critters. Not to mention cancer.
One of my closest friends died a hideous and inhuman death not because she chose to smoke, but because –well, for no reason I can find. Her absence leaves a hole I cannot seem to describe, and while the wake was impressive and the Mass sombre and meaningful, the finality of the coffin is unbearable when you love someone. Death, in this culture of greed, insurance, inflated hospital bills and lawyers, brings no relief. There is no etiquette or law that prevents the vultures from descending on whatever remains, and one either spends endless sums and precious hours planning for after-death, or just throws in the dice and lets one’s family and creditors duke it out.
I prayed for her to die on an odd-numbered day; it seemed appropriate--- but this didn’t work out either. And the morning of the funeral was crisp and sunny and beautiful. Cruel, it seems—the ‘life goes on’ thing. We weep, we kneel, we pray, and then eventually we go home and eat a sandwich.
For 2 weeks I continued to dedicate songs to her— the same ones she requested while she lay in bed, worrying about her husband cheating on her and too exhausted to argue with her kids. I would fall into a shallow sleep, awake with the sensation I am suffocating— my personal way of grieving— and then pace around my room. One such night I jumped out of bed in the dark and whacked my arm so hard on the door, I saw stars and got that feeling of overcoming nausea true pain elicits. When I could breathe, I swear I felt this rush of cool air in my sweltery August room... and I could almost hear her voice saying--- Watch out, you lucky fuck-- just feel that pain and stop the drama queen bs.
AFter an hour of ice packs, it was only a bruise and not a break... I went back for a dreamless desert sleep. She crossed over. I let her go.
The next day it poured. A record accumulation. Punishing rain, someone must have once said, because it jumped to mind like a cliche. Like delayed mourning. Thank God no major celebrities died and invaded our despair... no huge front-page world disasters...the unbearable quiet parade of photos from Somalia, the heroic children slipping away without a wake or a funeral mass. Amy Winehouse’s father was handing her clothes to fans... good man that he seemed to be. Okay...we had to witness her worst druggy performances on the news... but we will remember her for her talent, in the end... her style, her conviction, the person she was.
Another acquaintance had a massive heart attack in his sleep last week. Another death, like taking a lover after a heartbreak, punctuates sorrow...frames it, in a way. He didn’t suffer--- at least not for long... but there was no closure, no deathbed handholding and promises we may or may not keep. I will keep mine, I know that. I also do not have the task of taking her clothes from the closet, of changing her sheets. I have called her phone so many times, just to hear her voice...it still kills.
One night in a morphine stupor she was ranting on about how much she hated facebook; her daughters had made her a page. We went on about pathetic it was that middle-aged adults were signing up like some kind of social security. And what happens to your goddamn page after you die? People you couldn’t stand posting histrionic messages of grief for their own self-promoting pity parties. How I’d sworn not to tell anyone she was ill, how I knew in my heart that once she died her private life would be spilled onto some social diary page like the contents of Elvis’ stomach.
I woke up last night and called her cell. Someone finally shut it down. Maybe didn’t pay the bill. So I turned on my computer and looked at old photos. I cried. I destroyed another pot on the stove as the coffee charred to black tar. Before I went to bed in the 5 AM haze and the stench of burned Starbucks, I searched for her on facebook. No photo, all info private. I friended her.