I'm sitting in Starbucks… the forced change of scene is necessary sometimes… I isolate with my computer… like a priest living inside the confessional I begin to lose connection. Even the soundtrack… a dark, early John Lee Hooker now… it grounds me here. At home I might be ricocheting from youtube suggestions into some pathway of black nostalgic meandering, following some poetic fork in my mind always down, these nights… no bio-rhythm, no sleep pattern… just a kind of palpable emotional exhaustion, like a padded velvet room with a sense of dampness-- evaporated tears.
Death has become a companion; we can only make friends with his presence at this point; he is not going away, but is going to continue to intrude, hang around like mold in old buildings. Behind new renovations these things exist-- like previous tenants whose obituaries are archived in the hearts of their children who are themselves forgetting in assisted-living communities. Time is not kind in the second half of your life. Moments flood into my bedroom, like tides… I am soaked and compelled… the wash-up version of these deja-vus are often weighted and poignant.. or damaged. Things seem so fragile-- possibilities I'd transformed into life-choices; marriages-- my first husband--was an instant-- an attraction in a way-- nothing more-- but then there he was, months later, coming to New York-- walking side by side for two days while the summer humidity transformed us into animals with a twisted fate. I believed in the moment then. Sex was a version of religion-- a kind of dank purity-- or maybe ignorance; it was irresistible and terrifying and the moment was so important. Nothing was regrettable-- even children-- that incredibly random fragility of unpremeditated chemistry-- like a brilliant solo-- Miles, Coltrane-- at their most fucked up, tangled moment-- with an epiphany. I can remember conversations-- long distance calls-- as though things were inside the phone-- dreams and words that remained there for years.
Here in a public place-- a store-- people share themselves, whether we like it or not: their tragedies, their stories- their likenesses or differences-- some of us because we are so desperate in our loneliness--we pretend to listen, to find a thread-- we try to belong even though we don't belong to anything anymore. Our descriptions seem pathetic-- we use colors and they are so often pale shades of grey which give me a glimpse into the paint-world of Van Gogh who maybe realized this and filled his work with pigments that lived and fought against the dulling wash of memory.
My father's passing is processing itself with no effort from me. Those in his life who were parts of his inner circle have chosen not to eulogize him-- not even a public obituary. The world is a mystery-- we cannot control loved ones and personally I can't control who I love or don't love; it just seems to happen. I am wearing my Dad's shadow along with my habitual black-- the least pretentious color, I always sensed-- along with the invisible torch of mourning that is maybe the most inspiring aspect of life. We are here; we are not here. When my first love died, I was young enough to be unbearably distraught. He was the most magical human I'd ever encountered; maybe it was drugs and the time, and my emotional innocence-- but I still feel his messages and signs. I woke up with his scent… balloons in my house would wander into the bedroom while I slept and hang beside me, unmoving. I talk to him-- I write his songs, I play for him. But my father? I feel so little-- a sense of relief that he no longer has to file his 1040 and other things that caused him stress. He was never just a person for me-- always a kind of symbol of ill-fitting authority and unwanted paternity. He hated me. He hated himself… I understood that and he hated me even more for my insight and candor.
At these times of maybe enhanced introspection which is my euphemism for mourning--- we writers are hyper-sensitive to messages and signs. For me, that makes my day overwhelming even before I leave my apartment. Last night-- I was at the YMCA.. and I went into a bathroom. There was blood in a toilet-- maybe one of the young gymnasts mismanaging her monthly issues which gave me a pang of inappropriate compassion-- teenagers are so delicate and at the mercy of hideous parenting, sometimes; or maybe it reminded me of a miscarriage I'd had, in my first apartment in New York-- alone and desolate and left with a souvenir of a passionate night I was unwilling to serialize. Maybe just a sign of life-- of the least common denominator of us all-- or of death… of wounds, and pain, and the bizarre thought that no matter how much purple Prince ingested, no matter how ill he was, how beautiful, how radiant and costumed-- his blood would look like all of ours. Ditto my father's, who created no world-shaking solos, no anthems-- my father of the hero's deeds and the bloodshed and the purple hearts.
In the yoga room I peered in for a brief second--watching all the graceful bodies desperately contorting to find peace and some kind of physical meaning. Just observing this was a kind of violation of the rule-- I am an outsider… a voyeur. I am just passing, looking into rooms-- not participating but hearing things other people don't always hear, seeing things other people don't see. When doves cry-- when the soul of an infant wakes in the night--fusses, maybe bawls-- and eventually finds sleep once again, even though no one has come to relieve or comfort… I am listening. Such is my life.
Last night at 3 AM I was stuck on a train with a tall black man-- the obvious physique of a basketball star-- that quiet loose power I've grown to love especially, having had a point-guard son. He was coming from work at the men's shelter downtown-- his job. He'd had a tough few years, he told me while they repaired track… played in the Final Four, recruited by the NBA, sat on a bench and eventually played in Europe while they negotiated-- went up for a dunk, and came down one night with just a few degrees of torsion… and ripped some ligament in his knee… had a bad surgery, another one… and he was ruined. Some anger and frustration issues-- drugs, petty gang stuff-- his Mom died. His voice cracked a little when he mentioned his Mom. I tear up easily these days. I've learned from my son not to give into my instincts to touch people or hug them-- I'm an old white lady, he reminds me. Anyway, he was recovering from addictions, trying to manage his injury… glad to have a job and a place to sleep. A familiar story… because for every rockstar and athletic miracle there are thousands of random parallel tragedies… a massive infantry for every general.
But somehow, among the Prince videos we are all obsessively watching-- among the Bowie footage, the quiet Lonnie Mack brilliance, the Kurt Cobain and Nick Cave-- the Coltrane and Clifford Brown-- the achingly beautiful crumbs left us by the godsmacked mutants of the human mistake-- there are these unrecorded moments which haunt me. The grace of my basketball player-- coming down in slow-motion Hi-Def black and white like a dancer, like a genie-- like a diver breaking the water-surface after a triple-pike… or a jumper from some impossible bridge, hitting the current like a bomb… I play it over and over-- his non-existent youtube moment, his mime of greatness, of perfect athletic prize--this man who hugged me with strength and restraint so that I could feel his heart, at 96th Street… who is lost to me in a kind of death of a moment. For you-- the former Nike star with the cheap size 16 sneakers now--- I am carrying your torch along with all the others, in my private graveyard of moments, of lives seen like fragile starlight, of the incomprehensible ever-mounting statistical infinity of deaths which will always overshadow our lives in a sort of morbid quiet combat.. where no matter how hard we play and cry and write and love, silence is coming to wash away even the last of memory.