Month: November 2018

Cliffsides and Screenshots: On Death Mementos.

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I’ve had this screenshot saved in my phone since last year.  Since November 8th at 1:26AM.  I’m not sure why I kept it.  Except for the reason anyone keeps anything from the one they love, when the one they love isn’t going to have anything else left to give.  When the one you love is laid out to rest, and you are still caught believing that you can see their eyes fluttering.  When the one you love is three breaths from death, and you are frantically searching the room for the thing– the thing– that will help you three breaths and all your remaining years later to remember them.  To never let them go.  To keep the memory alive.  To… have something.

It’s a cruel ritual we play on ourselves– the ritual of grabbing mementos from death.  A shoddy replacement for a life we regret missing too much of.  Even when we had all of that life exclusively.  There is still the falling– the clawing at the dirt on the cliffside that we will work tirelessly to believe is a handful of life.  Is an adequate I’m sorry for what we didn’t do right.  But it’s still the dirt that let us down, that has us tumbling into a ravine of life without the one we love.

When we took Butter to the hospital that night, I was sure we were losing her.  My Someone pulled out his phone to snap a photo of her, drugged and scared in the backseat.

“No,” I’d said. “Not like this.”

“You’re right,” he said.

I wasn’t angry, but I concealed my own desire to snap that last photo, too.  To grab the tuft of her neck and bottle the scent of her smelly old dog smell.  Instead, I helped her walk the block– off leash– to the entrance of the place she would soon die.  It takes no effort to recall that walk.  How I had to push her back up from squatting to let her know she was no longer peeing.  I didn’t want to remember it like this.

But then, when they wheeled her into her last surgery– the one that failed– after we spent those two hours petting her on a gurney, singing her favorite songs and telling her we loved her, she popped her head up on the way out the door.  Her non-response for those two hours suddenly culminated in the face I do remember.  And I regretted every photo I never took.000431640015I think I’ll get rid of this screenshot.  Maybe tomorrow.  As I continue to fall down into this pit of life without her, this bit of dirt still left in my hands still gives me a tiny bit of hope.  The unrealistic kind that her head is going to pop up unexpectedly and all will be right again.  And this death memento is the only thing that keeps me sure that it is and is not true, at the same time.

Marko the Magician: On Tender Hearts.

Marko the Magician performs table side every Sunday night at the Italian restaurant– potentially the only restaurant we can eat at– in our little Vermont town.  We are house sitting for the month in the one-coffeeshop-one-stoplight place, and we are determined to feel like locals before we leave.  And the one thing that we knew for sure– from the signs on the door to the insistence of everyone in town– was that we needed to see Marko the Magician.

We anticipated a schmaltzy New England accented forty-something with too much time living in his mother’s basement begging for attention from uninterested patrons.  But Marko is legitimate.  He crashed our table within ten minutes of sitting, our friends laying aside their conversation to engage with their Sunday night celebrity.  We picked a card– any card– and had Marko retrieve it from his mouth.  He pushed our card through tables, sloshing our ciders every where and running to get napkins after we’d been amazed.  We laughed at his inappropriate jokes and felt disappointed as he left our table for the next.  If it didn’t get too busy, he promised to return.

We ordered another round.

When Marko returned, we talked shop.  We told him about our little camper and he told us about a gig he booked in California next week– and the gig he had last week in Toronto opening for the drummer of Styx.  I wondered how he got his equipment through security.  But he’s Marko the Magician.  Making things disappear is his specialty.

But his finest trick was his last– not the one where he made a Sharpie “X” appear on my closed palm without my knowing, but the one right before that– the one where he talked about the human heart.

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Harry Houdini, Marko told us, became most famous for debunking mediums.  He didn’t do it because they were edging too close to Houdini’s own show.  In fact, he occasionally employed practices that claimed to make contact with the Great Beyond.  But after Houdini’s mother died, he was so distraught, he sought out famous mediums so that he may speak with his mother one more time.  Time and time again, he left disappointed, recognizing that these spiritualists were not only frauds, but rich frauds.  There was the pivot.  He first apologized for his part in the market.  And then, he tore down the “vultures who prey on the bereaved” nationwide.

“You can fuck with someone’s head, that’s one thing,” Marko concluded, “But–” and he points to his heart here, swallowing a bit of emotion– “don’t fuck with someone’s heart.”

I teared up.  I took a deep breath.

Bravo, Marko.  Bravo.

Now– how the hell did he make that card stick to the ceiling?