Friday, September 28, 2012

The Weight of Her That Would be Familiar in my Hands

My friend Amanda walked into my hotel room the other night. Through the door and past the foot of the other bed, never waking the other friend sleeping there. She sat on the foot of my bed, the weight of her that would be familiar in my hands, pressing down the soft mattress. Dressed in white, she smiled and spoke. Not hearing her, I raised up, turning my ear to the fullness of her lips. Still not hearing her, I looked and of course, she wasn't there.
She was seventeen or just barely eighteen when we met. She worked at the coffee bar on campus, and was beautiful in ways that made me afraid. I bought coffee, kept my eyes down, and only looked up again to watch her from far away. Friends sat at the bar, I sat with them, and I made friends with the girl on the other side. We walked, sat together and bellowed “Damnit, Janet!” and “Slut!” during Rocky Horror, played naked in the Rio Grande. She called me Cowboy. She was my roommate for awhile, and there were nights we drank in the kitchen, laughing and dancing, and nights she sat on my bed, half naked in my arms, weeping. Some nights, the same nights. She taught herself Latin, because she wanted to, and worked leather in her spare time. I've missed, for years and all the worse now, a leather armband she made me and I lost somewhere. Often I watched her start dancing alone, in dark and in the light, and bring the whole room around, everyone moving and laughing.
I have so many memories, they out number the glitters of fast clear waters. Of her laughter, of her small hands improperly but enthusiastically wrapping my Forty-Five the day I taught her to shoot, of her body, her mind and the whispers from her lips. I remember her so many ways, and among them, under dark clouds. When you're nineteen, there are days that are so fucking hard it hurts just to be alive. They are, until you're actually an adult leading a grown-up life and find out different, the worst. I was there to see Amanda have some of those days, and I remember times when, in the face of all else, she could cheer herself up by getting dolled up. She'd come into the house trailing dark fumes, only to go into the bathroom and start putting on makeup, and come out smiles.
One night this past July, in the little travel trailer she'd gypsied across more than a few states in, Amanda cleaned herself up, stripped to her most beautiful state, put on her makeup and lay down naked and shot herself in the head. She was happy, as far as anyone knew, and had plans with friends for the days that followed. Long ago I came to love the questions in life, and since I've been glad of that, because there are damn few answers.
I had grown a bit distant from her by the end, but had often had the thought that, as interesting as she was now, not even twenty-five, she would be fascinating in her thirties and beyond. If you keep a list of things you'll never see, it will always run ahead and outstrip the list of what you have. It is best to not take an account, but the hand is forced at times. Having been distanced from her, by other loves and an impatience with certain immaturities, there are parts of her living that were unknown as well, but that is so different. With the living you can, at the least, always turn and find that they are somewhere, familiar and breathing. The dead are the emptiness in our panning of the crowd. You can't roll back the days and go to her, tell her you love her or ask her why. This is universal, an unwritten law of physics: The mechanics of dealing with it.

As we get older, we suffer less for childish pettiness and the immature anguishes of our late teens and early twenties. Not that we suffer less, but we suffer less for the cheap and bullshit things that once seemed so important. In this still young awareness, of our selves, of the important, we see those who've been there with us for so long. Some people and ideas never last, they fall aside as we move forward, while others stay. The lessons we learn from those people are what has carried us, and if we are lucky, there are a few people who are still there when we get here.
Amanda was the second of my friends to die, in as many months. Paul, a friend and mentor, passed away unexpectedly the month before. And just a couple weeks before that, two of my dogs were poisoned. This summer has been a wave of absence, days on end of looking expectantly and adjusting to the emptiness in rooms, corners and telephone lines. Empty hands wrapping around formless air, in hope of the shapes and weight of the familiar.
I keep finding out that it is in the autumn when the lessons of the past year begin to sink in. This is when I grow, realign, and drive anew from experience. This is when everything comes, on turning leaves and cool eddies of air, from event into learning.
What I've learned now is something I'd long parroted in my own head, but which now is mine. I own this knowledge, as we all must. This is all very fleeting. The beautiful and the ugly, the naked, the clothed, the loved, the hated. You aren't here for long, and they are here for less. Tear off big pieces, splash in the waters, and drink mouthfuls of whatever tastes good. You cannot structure, moderate, or responsible death into abatement. You cannot abstain enough to not die. Abstinence and structure are the nature of death, as it is the only promise, the only fixed thing. We live within it's confines, and that is structure enough. All you can do is live.


firecop71 said...

Thats some good stuff right there.

Nagrom said...

Thanks Firecop.
Am glad to know you're among my readers here.

NorCal Man said...

A fine read. I was truly engrossed.

Steve Bodio said...

Fine as ever Morgan. I loved:

"You cannot abstain enough to not die."