On Death and A Certain Kind of Bravery

aqua-notes-homeI have several friends who have their best story ideas in the shower. I’m not of these. Usually in the showers, I sing. Or recite poetry. Shorter poems are perfect for timing how long to leave conditioner in my hair.


The shower gods hear all and forgive. They know that if I don’t remember to recite every now and again, I forget ALL MY BEST RHYMES. Tragic.

Walks, on the other hand?

GREAT for story-generating, or for fixing story problems. (Walks are just great in general.)

…Except I don’t usually take my phone or a notebook and pen with me on walks, so sometimes things are lost unless I repeat them over and over to myself for safekeeping.

But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about. What I MEANT to write is that I had this thought in the shower just now. Or, right after actually, as I combed out my recalcitrant hair. (Tangles, thy name is Legion.)

It was all about when people die and what is said about them after. How bizarre it sometimes gets, in a Facebook culture, wherein a bunch of people who may or may not have a glancing acquaintance with you feel they must weigh in on your death, have an opinion, spare a few seconds to acknowledge it–at least give it equal importance to a Sesame Street Meme. Sort of the way near-strangers suddenly remember you on your birthday? An obligatory ritual chiming in. I’m not saying it’s BAD. Just… bizarre.

I mean, the Victorians were bizarre too. And then there was that whole thing with the Russ, and cutting up dogs and horses and throwing them in the tent with the deceased, so maybe death rites were always dire…

I wondered, idly, as I combed my wet hair, what might be said about me. How it would be the people who knew me least who would feel the most compelled to say something. How these would all be surface observations, or obvious inferences about my personality derived from my own compulsive daily Facebook updates–which are, as anyone who knows me can tell you, only a very specific slice of my personality. Not insincere, but benign and accessible. How, if you created my obituary solely out of what might be inferred from my updates, this would read as benign and sincere and accessible, and perhaps vapid. You know? Who can say?

Who would step up, I wonder, and tell people that they loved me, that they were mad I was dead, but that in life, goddamn it, I was sometimes a monster?

That I had a monster’s sense of humor. That I was too detached and too dreamy and too privileged to fight for radical change. That I was particular and finicky about things like styrofoam and slimy spinach. That I clenched my hands when I made my way through crowds, and grew petulant at the thought of going to parties (even if I LOVED the people throwing them), and that sometimes I drank milk that was a little off, and laughed about it and called myself “PUNK ROCK” which is funny because it is SO NOT TRUE.

How my clothes were mostly safety pins and yards of glittery fabric for most of my teens. How in my thirties they were mostly gifts or procured cheaply from thrift stores. How writing sometimes felt like carving cement with my teeth, and how sad and angry and small NOT WRITING FAST ENOUGH constantly made me feel, and how I comforted myself with delusions of grandeur and spoke in invented accents until my friends looked at my with a hard mix of irritation and alarm and how I was vain and confused and not as smart as I wanted to be, how greedy I always was for more, how I tried to prepare for my death by thinking about it all the time, like that Gaston Leroux line, “Talking of Death, I must sing his requiem…”

I bet Patty Templeton would step up. Or Stephanie Shaw. They would step up, tell the truth about me, and say: “For all she was a monster, she was my monster, and it sucks that she’s dead.”

Laphams-Quarterly-Death-IssueAnd some of my other wholly dear and deep friends would feel my death just as keenly, but be beyond all words about it.

But mostly, it’d be hundreds of one-liner consolations straight out of a Hallmark bereavement card.

And that’s as it should be. This weird, wonderful world.


But off the topic of honest obituaries (sort of), there is a GREAT issue of Lapham’s Quarterly I’ve been reading on DEATH, and it is FALL 2013, Volume VI, Number 4, and totally worth your time.

And that’s about as far as I got. My hair was combed and braided and I had managed to put on some clothes. Then it was time to write.

I think I want to write my brother a song about hydroponic poison gardens. And update the Indiegogo stuff. I recorded an EP this weekend, did I tell you? No? Well. Next entry then.

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