Elegy

(crossposted from Facebook)

Four people I knew killed themselves last year. At least.

Frances I knew as a dancer. I went to her memorial. I met her friends. They had nothing but amazing things to say about her. They said she always challenged them and herself to bring themselves fully into whatever was going on. I wish I’d gotten to know that side of her. All I ever saw was that she seemed distracted and a little sad when we danced.

Jonny I knew as a graduate student. He struck me as intense and intensely unsatisfied with not understanding things deeply. I knew that feel. As I started drifting away from grad school I saw him less and less, along with the other grad students. By the time I heard about his death, which was only a few weeks after I had decided to leave grad school, we hadn’t talked in over a year, maybe two.

Kathy I knew as an effective altruist. She was involved in drama I don’t have details on before she died, and she left a heartbreaking and controversial suicide note. She was clearly in a great deal of pain, and she clearly stood up strongly for what she believed in.

Maia I knew as a name on the internet. Under the name “Squirrel in Hell” she said many provocative things and told me once that I was right about something, which instantly endeared her to me forever. I thought of her as a kindred spirit, and looked forward to learning from her. I heard about her death (learning, at the same time, her gender and her name) thirdhand, and still have no direct evidence of it.

● ● ●

I have at once too much and too little to say. What is there to say to the dead? What is there that can be said?

Say, at least, to the dead: I’m sorry. I’m sorry it was hard. I’m sorry you were born into a body molded to a simpler shape than the world you found yourself in. A body that dreamt, softly, of flowers and rivers and lakes and prairies, of fire and love and the hunt, and meanwhile you were born into… a hospital.

A hospital. Did you know that the hospital used to separate you from your parents right after you came into the world, and put you all by yourself, where no one could touch you, for your protection? And though they fed you, you died, and you kept dying, and they didn’t know why? And that someone had to come along and tell them that maybe, just maybe, you were dying of loneliness?

(Did you shudder when you read those words? “Dying of loneliness”?)

Say, at least, to the dead: I’m sorry I never knew any of you. Not really. Not enough to tell your stories. Only enough to remember that you died, and that it was sad that you died.

Say, at least, to the dead: I’m grateful. There is a gift in death. The boundary between us and everything else thins slightly. There is an opportunity to let things in. There is an opportunity to sink back into our dreaming bodies, which have been waiting all the while for us.

(Death can cut like a knife through bullshit, if you let it.)

Say, at least, to the living: fuck. Fuck this. Towering infernos of fuck this. People our age aren’t supposed to fucking die. Not like this. What the fuck is wrong –

I have at once too much and too little to say.

Say, at least, to the living: the only place the dead can go is into the rest of us.

(Do you get it? That’s the only place the living can go, too.)

● ● ●

There is an art in leaving things unsaid. I hold my pose open. I sit in the question, trembling, my heart in my throat: how will you dance with this, and with me?

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