“So, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it looks like we’re gonna have to put me down.”
“Oh, no! You’re kidding!”
“No, no, I wish I was, but. We found out yesterday. There’s no way around it, this is the way it has to be.”
“Wow. No other alternatives?”
“No, it’s for the best. It’s for the best really. I’ll go on to a better place, you know? I’ll be put out of my misery. No more earthly suffering.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re seeing it that way. You’ve always been an optimist. That’s what you need to focus on. The good it’ll do.”
“I mean, we had good times, didn’t we?”
“Great times, great times.”
“I watched the kids grow up, you know? I was there every step of the way.”
“How are they handling it—the kids? Have you told them yet?”
“We told them this morning. They took it hard, but they’re kids, you know? We expected as much. But they’ll get over it fast—until another playmate comes around.”
“It is for the best.”
“Now, I’m not the same, you know? We all want to remember me the way I was.”
“And if we kept me alive, it would just get worse, wouldn’t it? And no one wants that, least of all me.”
“Least of all me.”
We sat like little plastic angels in a giant douglas fir, myself on a lower bough and my friend near the top. We were eight years-old then, wondering about childish things—what a planet’s made of, what fourth grade will be like, how a dead body smells.
This friend was named Mercedes, after the car, of which she had a miniature rolling around her bedroom vanity.
Mercedes ran away a lot; I always imagined her speeding off in that figurine, never to be seen or heard from again. She’d go through highways like Route 66, past the bee-bearders in adobe doorways to a place where she could finally be loved.
I remember staring at the stars through the branches. The twigs came together like a circle of supplicating hands, berries hanging as prayer beads do. In my mind, it was a secular invocation, a prayer for all the things you’re told to never ask for, but that you know in your heart you deserve: glory, fame, riches. It was a prayer for me.
Our heads were full of secrets then, ours to keep. I hid mine behind a diary padlock, right where they couldn’t get me.
Funeral For a Failed Musician
When I go, I’ll hang myself by a guitar string, with a black and a white piano key death-gripped in each hand.
Cover my face and hands in a layer of wax and lay me in a coffin of hydrangeas. I used to talk to the hydrangeas in the backyard, and it’s only right that they should attend.
Not a word about god will be allowed. Not a word about paradise will be permitted on the Memorial Cards.
The peanut gallery will not be invited.
And as for music, my threnody: a tape can be played, a tape of silence, with a runtime of fifty-nine seconds, no more and no less.
Fifty-nine is all you’ll need. (To hear the hydrangeas whispering.)
If people enter through the jaws of hell—
If hell has a set of jaws—do they belong to a face? What kind of a face does hell have?
A hard, art deco face, a kind of Nazi art deco, red white and black with permanent lines that go nowhere but never end.
Or maybe hell has a human face. If it does, I think it could be yours, or mine. Maybe it depends on who’s doing the looking. That doesn’t seem fair, but I don’t think it would be.
The last time we smoked, I tried to light from the opposite end. And I was so wasted, I didn’t notice for three straight minutes.
If we’d been standing in hell, that wouldn’t have mattered. It would have been on fire before I got started.
In hell, the cigarettes are always burning.
As I watched the balloons float into the trolleybus wires, I wanted to follow.
Instead, I metabolized the MDMA. For hours, the gay boys danced and thumbed the tears from my cheeks and clinked their highballs with mine. And I forgot about the doctor telling me he’d get me some help, and my never hearing from him again. I forgot all about everything that had ever happened ever, happy as an idiot.
I heard that in Japan, mirrors line the train platforms. It’s so people must look themselves in the mirror before jumping into the path of oncoming trains.
To me it sounds like the perfect suicide for a narcissist.
(The only catch is that your family has to pay for the train line closure, afterwards.)
And as I watched the balloons float into the trolleybus wires, I wanted to follow.
“I can’t afford it.”
This is the most unromantic sentence in the world. Jarringly staccato, the ugliest of consonants push its syllables off our tongues like plates falling from a cupboard.
“I can’t afford it.”
This sentence prevents me from drinking as much as I’d like to. It prevents me from buying birth control pills, and orange juice, and shoes that aren’t falling apart. It prevents me from playing piano.
And I just want to play my Clavinova. I don’t want a baby grand, I want my piano back, to play like I used to, like I used to every day.
I want to hear coins jingling. In the keys of the higher octave…
Strings you can tug
You can be lion-hearted or faint-hearted, cold-hearted or warm-hearted. Hearts can be made of gold, or stone, or glass; they can be big or small, heavy or light, in the right place or wrong place, in your mouth, on your sleeve, or in your boots. They can be given, stolen, lost, won, broken, repaired. You can follow your heart or choose not to, pour it out, or put it to rest.
Sometimes, they bleed for someone. Sometimes, they skip a beat.
They have strings you can tug.
Man, I wish I had one.
The thought of seeing you again—it stalks me. It trails behind me like a balloon, a dying one from a long-finished party. I can either cut the string or hang myself with it, and if I could decide, I would have already.
I wrote this in a notebook when I was 15:
It was another slimy, sunny day and I was swimming in the part of the lake reserved for hotel tenants. The Okanogan can’t be reserved for anyone, my family and I thought, it’s a goddamn lake, not a parking lot, and we happened to be staying in the red-curtained Fiesta Motel. All motels on the Osoyoos strip have names like Fiesta, Siesta, Rosita, or anything else that gives the impression of a sweaty culture. I looked back to see our whistle-stop home’s handle glaring in the robin-egg sky, and turned back to the horizon with furrowed eyebrows and a new step forward.
Standing in a lake is like standing on a stage. It feels as if everyone around is watching you, expecting certain things from you, and estimating the amount of fun you might or might not be having. The floating-dock sunbathers are the worst in this regard, sitting high and mighty among the fishes, judging the wet scene from their dry oasis, as if they’ve fallen from the clouds above.
I paid the sunbathers little attention. My hair was salty and I was shedding skin like a snake from my shoulders, dropping bits of myself akin to upturned flower-petals on the silver waves. It was beautiful really, but the sunbathers wouldn’t know it. A drowning wasp caught my attention. Its revolting thorax twitched, and its shivering legs, functionless, crackled in the air. I felt no sympathy at all.
Fuming, sand pebbles rolling off my legs, the lake dripping endlessly from my swimsuit, I laid down on a towel. It was not comfortable. But I held resolute, knowing I was in full view of my family enjoying the August warmth of the Okanogan. Cringing, my mind fixed on the fish and my mother’s fragile smile without mercy. My fingernails had softened malleable like soaked soap, my head almost steamed, and I felt my veins stretch and squeeze with every move I made on the ground. Young men walked by and I repositioned myself, painting my face in as much shadow as possible. With tears in my eyes, I tanned.
Happiness is forgetting for the moment that one day you will die. Sadness is remembering that happiness is unattainable. In this way, sadness and happiness are inextricably linked, but we all knew this already anyway.
Should I go to bed?
It’s getting very late: The gloaming has past, twilight reduced to the lampposts’ modest radii, little halos of light so infrequent along my street that I can’t see any, not any anymore since moving into this new house. Is it time for bed? It is getting very late: The house is dark, my house seems darker now than it has ever been before, as black as the pupils of a cat, having dilated at killing some weaker creature, or as black as the pen-ink that spills over my pages and ruins it all.
Shall I climb into bed? I’m tired, really very, very tired and weary: The glass wall between myself and the world, preventing me—well today, I realized I am the glass wall, and maybe the contretemps of my life cannot be solely blamed on the porcine mass of flesh, standing with arms akimbo, that is my life’s company; but the blame is partly mine. Really, anyone who underwent a sad epiphany such as that would be similarly entitled to a night of good rest, a longer rest than usual. Then I should go to bed now, shouldn’t I?
I could put on a song, something lulling and yet plangent at the same time. There is no need for me to do anything else today, no need, and I have no desire.
How could I? This new house has sapped all my erstwhile strength, this house that I inherited and did not choose. Yes, I think it’s time for some sleep.
I could write a little note to my friends and family, and then slip off. That is the last thing I’ll do.
I know that some of the stars in the sky are planets. Could it be that my dreams remained false because I routinely urged, “Starlight, Star-bright,” to a planet?
Yes, I’ll write a little note.
Yes, I’ll put on one of my favourite songs.
Yes, I think those must have been goddamn planets.
The guilt was his face
What he felt most guilty about was wanting death. The guilt didn’t just “show on” his face; the guilt was his face, and it stained his clothes and his being and life in general for me. Guilt is the most terrible of emotions because it is the only one which does not feed your ego. In fact, it rejects it. And to have your ego rejected by yourself, ego by ego, is the worst humiliation. There is no true possible recovery from guilt.
You feel like you’re inflicting yourself on others with your ugliness. You feel like you’re inflicting yourself on others with your stupidity. You feel like you’re inflicting yourself on others with your infinite, vacuous, cosmic pain.
Just by being alive I feel like a hypocrite. Every minute I don’t off myself I condone everything horrible in this world.
So maybe I do feel something.
But in a detached way. It’s like… if you played with your old action figures. Maybe you’d enjoy it, but most of the pleasure you’d get from the experience is from remembering how enjoyable it was before, when you were a kid. It’s remembered pleasure, remembered sensation… like laughing when someone goes to tickle you even if they haven’t touched you yet.
What I feel is only a memory of something I’ve felt before.
Depressed people can’t help finding the negative in everything. They don’t see the world—they see a negative of the world, inversion, like in photography. If a beautiful painting had an ink splotch in the middle of it, even a small one, people would perceive it as ruined.
That’s what the world is like for the depressed. No matter how beautiful the rest of the painting, it can’t be enjoyed with a nasty black ink splotch right in the middle of it.