Death is inevitable but I don’t want you to die.
I see now, the tragic irony and perhaps even the impossible consequences of that little attractive law of the universe, what one will desire to one will come. To desire, to think, to talk about? I never talk about death, but death is in everything that I talk about. It is a vapor coiled tight in my lungs.
Hello, Death, old friend.
You see, my love, I have faced Death across the platform too many a time. He is a friend to only those who know him before they know life. Death isn’t unkind, nor murderous. He is the original tragic hero, the Lucifer of mother nature, the misunderstood man of melancholy made to be magister of a madhouse. Those who fear Death, who hate him with hedony, who spit in his face and call him a liar, who seek in vain a gamble that was never a question, but an answer they fight courageously and with good intention to always forget. Those men are marvels of majesty to me, I envy those men. Those men fight vainly for beauty that does not exist, it is all honey and chaos, it has always been iron rust and decaying flesh.
I know this, yet I do not want you to die.
I am a fool but I am also a fool that has known pain and death and far too much sacrifice.
So I say, to you, you would like my heart served up to you, dressed merry with parsley, on a silver platter? My question, then, would you like it carved out and hung by my entrails over the chair, would you like to taste the blood of the fingers around the gut-cable, would you like me to present this gut-cable to you like a delivery nurse would a newborn’s umbilical cord to be cut? Would you like the heart beating as it does presently, that is, to the tempo of the one-person boat flailing madly against storm waves of stretches of ocean that make definite the inevitable and yet, still, the boat flails?
You must have it, you say. Then I must have a conversation with my old friend, I say.
Hello, Death, old friend. You took the father I never knew and so could only hate for the shadow of the terrible man that he had to be, to leave, to choose to leave, you took him from me and I embraced you, I did not spit on you, I did not hate you. I understood and we waltzed and you tasted the salt of my tears and together we laughed oceans.
But Death, my old friend, not this one.
Let us waltz again, Death, my old friend. We will laugh and make deals like in the stories, the ones the humans love to romanticize or vilify. But never, of course never, understand. That’s for you and I and our tea time hours of hot matcha and biscuits broiled with bitter-sea laughter, yes?
Yes, let us waltz.
One second, my love, I’ll get back to you. You must understand, this has been a long time coming and it’s not easy, saying good-bye to a promise you fashioned for yourself out of the sanguinary splinters of a lost daughter’s tears.
Yes, my old friend, yes, I am listening. We have fun, these little conversations of ours, don’t we? Ironically, and I know, you know this, I know. However, I must: thank you, Death. You accompanied me and cradled me and nurtured me in the flawed symphony of voices that I am today. I am astonished and in awe of the pain that you have gifted to me, the pain that has made it possible for me to see with eyes unbound into a world that is more beautiful than I could ever imagine, than any story of mine could ever dream up, than I could ever admit. You made a masochist out of me, sure, but that was also my choice, a survival tactic, and I don’t blame you. It is what it is what it is. Still, I am not asking you, I am telling you, as an old friend. I am telling this to you as that child, that child that you weaned so lovingly with venom, I understand, you do so with love, you weaned the child with venom to equip her most brilliantly for the world at large, your pupil, I am telling you this as your old friend: not this one.
I know this is not how this works just as you know that every child must once and again rebel against her father. So I will make you a deal, because we both know how this really works, don’t we? You do what you must, you make the numbers right, you tip the scales as nature sees fit, you balance the blade of the battlefield that weighs upon you like the sky does Atlas. It is organized chaos, all numbers, and I know you know what I am saying.
If you must take this one, I know that day is not today. But if you must take this one, be it tomorrow, a month, ten, sixty years from now, I tell you: take me instead. Fill your quota and do right by this silly broken fairywren of yours, this old friend, this faithful daughter. Do not see it as snuffing out a brilliant candle too soon, my friend. I love you dearly and terribly and always will. Thanks, in large part, to you, I have burned brilliantly all my life and I assure you, I intend to continue to do so until my last roaring breath. So console yourself with this, when you must take this one and so you must take me, and so you do, know that I have no regrets because I have yelled always and there is no such thing as snuffing out a brilliant candle too soon, not with me, not when I have yammered so freely and have loved and been loved by so many and have seen so much, every day is a full life for me, not when I have met him and have had the luxury of holding his bones and kissing the grooves of his mind, so do not cry, my old friend, for youth is arbitrary and it is you who taught me that.
Why, you ask? A choice is a choice is a choice. Will it make you feel better if you are told why? They say, there’s no use crying over spilt milk. Keep off the grass.
I will admit only to you, my old friend, the whole truth. Because you must understand that to them I am human and humanity is a romanticized ideal entrenched in the morality of wise men in togas who had the luxury to perpetuate it. I keep using this word, luxury. Breathing is that, I know.
The truth isn’t as black and white as humanity would like to make it out to be. This deal, part of it, of course, yes, and this is the part the romantics deny, it’s selfishness. We have been down this road before and honestly, let’s be really level with each other here, old friend, alright? I scraped my limbs together even though I was left for roadkill on an empty highway which was then and still now abandoned to Pinus sibirica and Siberian tundra. Could I do it again? Sure, clearly, you weaned me on venom and I can climax in cold, sometimes the venom, it acts as catalyst for addiction, I clammer for it. Masochism. Is it? I give myself too much credit. But still, how else does one survive in this world? I read the news and pain is inevitable. It is this way for many, for everyone, truly, but there are some who have felt too much pain so when they read the news, they deny it because it is easier to deny pain, easier but not better. And further still, I will admit that I stood with you at the platform for the first time when I was only six years old, but we both know that the first time I met you was when I left my mother’s womb for the world outside it. Then I was just born and I didn’t know who you were and besides, I hadn’t yet received the privilege of standing next to you, no, I was born on the platform across from you, left on a bench. All women are born on the platform across from you, all women inhabit that bench. Being born a woman, as with being born anything other than white, really, and male, truly, is being born with a trauma equal but different from that which made me stand next to you.
The point is, I can survive it. Still, I say: not him.
I have a grandiose sense of self-importance, Death, you know this. I am selfish, a survivor. I would not give you my breath for many that society, that common sense, human decency, a good dose of morality, would deem it right for me to give it up for. I understand the philosophy of killing one to save a thousand, not because I wish to, or because I believe the world to be capable of only such philosophy but because, the truth of it is, all ideals aside, the yolk of the world has been fried too long and for the preservation of vital nutrients, the leather of the skin is coming off.
I understand all this because I have to, because the world is what it is and only slowly and painfully, with two steps back for every step forward, it is becoming what it should be, what it was meant to be.
I am saying to you, I understand sacrifice.
I stand on the pillars of it, I owe to it the sulfur in my blood and the iron in my spinal cord. And for the first and only time, I refuse it. I refuse the sacrifice, the self-mutilation. Because there will always be the little girl’s voice in me, the one that asks, but what about me? When will it finally be about me, Death dearest? When will you ask me first before you take?
That’s not how it works, I know. Don’t look at me like that. Let me be silly.
The other part of it, the reason why, hear me out. He, too, is achingly bright; not brighter than I, but equally so, yes. But look closer. Brightness is brightness is brightness, it is the luminosity of this boy that astounds. Apparent brightness, as you know, is deceiving and he has tear gassed himself into believing the fraud done onto him by invisible cages of supposed saccharine liberty and freedom of manhood, humility, morality, loss, politics.
This is the principle of the scales, no? To douse one and kindle another. But I am not finished yet. The difference between this one and I is that his cages have nurtured and benefited him, have shaped him into a good man of honor regardless of his refusal to see that, I tell you, I know this more than I have known anything in my life, and I know that that is not saying much, and speaking is the only thing we really can do when it comes to such a thing, don’t you think? How else do you waltz with Death?
Finally, you’re laughing, old friend!
You understand, then. He is flawed but at his core he is good. I am good but at my core I am flawed.
Let us dance to that song, that song “Shall We Dance?” from the King and I.
One two step, one two step, one two step!
Oh, silly, stop it. You know the answer to that question. Of course I don’t want to die. But that’s not the point.
You’re crying and I recognize the taste. Your tears taste like those of a father when he finally must let go, I can taste that you understand because pain is understanding. You must walk me down the aisle and you must pass on the hands of the child you nurtured to a man whose calloused and stained fingers can only but promise a world to. I know you and I both thought I was meant for the world, not a world, much less his world, but things figure out funny in their own way, don’t they?
I have dreamed of this boy in gestation, I have written pieces of him into worlds and characters; I laugh, because in my lovers before him I always stayed in the hopes of the realization of an image, a thought for long I thought and knew in doomed quarters of self-pity to be in vain, I stayed by the image of an idealized man I could shape the given lover into, an idealized man, a fiction I thought I invented from bodies and whispers and the deepest aches of my womanhood. I laugh because I am godly but what ego I have.
Now this man is asking for my mutilated heart, which he has seen and kissed with tenderness and reverence, which he has performed Kintsugi on. And if I am to give it to him, I understand that this conversation must be had, so I am having it.
It is, after all, because of the venom that I see quite clearly: one can spit on Death or one can shake hands with him.
Will you shake hands with me?