Welcome to Blog Anything, in which Riese and Laneia take turns writing about whatever the fuck they want to. They will be writing as if they’re writing for their tiny personal blogs and not for a giant website, because otherwise they will get really self-conscious and never write anything at all. Today, Laneia attempts to process the most clichéd of all feelings. Next time she hopes to write about braids and Willie Nelson.
none of it ever happens when we’re ready. i might write lists and make lesson plans but this life… it doesn’t care. it just flows. so i’m learning to flow with it. i’ve decided to open a space in my heart for death. i know enough people living crazy enough lives where i’ve decided that random deaths need a place. so now, i’m ready kind of…where the act of dying or the suddeness of a death will be a part of life and not something that needs to shock me. what will shock me is the loss of that particular person. that should always be the point and trust me there is a difference. if you don’t get it yet, then you will. i promise.
-gabby rivera, “Death, Dapper Bravery and the Perfect Song“
I’m sorry this is about death. I tried to make it about so many other things, but it kept being about death. Death and eventuality. It’s embarrassing.
There’s a wrinkle on the left side of my mouth, a laugh line. (I first typed ‘life line,’ which is so perfect that I’m wondering if I should just learn my lesson now and call it a day.) It’s deeper than it used to be, but I don’t care about the way it looks — I care about what it means, and what it means is that I’m dying.
An annoying wretched little beast in my head, like right behind my eyes I think, or maybe in the back of my throat, keeps reminding me, in this ground rumbling rippling way, that I’m going to die. I’m going to die die die. And, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to grow very old first, very slowly, gradually watching my body morph into various versions of itself and fall apart, gradually watch my children grow up and leave, grow old themselves, and then I’ll die.
Oh, death! I can’t believe I was ever so unfamiliar with you! I’m now completely 100% AWARE: I am going to die. Other people are also going to die. Things will happen and people will wish I was there to see them, but I won’t be. I’ll be too dead for that. I won’t know babies or songs or how things end. I could die in five years. I could die before I even finish this stupid draft. Then there’ll be this eerie unfinished thing for Megan to find and read. I wonder if Riese would posthumously publish an unfinished draft? I mean I literally wonder about these things.
The week after my dad died, a Beatles documentary came on TV. I DVR’d it because he couldn’t, but I never watched the show. I also never deleted it. I couldn’t get over how unfair it was that he’d missed it. He’d be missing a lot of things, of course, but my tunnel vision was zeroed in on this one documentary that he would’ve called to tell me about, to make sure I watched, too. It wasn’t that he’d missed it, but that he wouldn’t be calling me.
I get irrationally angry that Megan never knew my dad, because he would’ve really loved her. He would’ve [so many things].
But that’s the thing, isn’t it.
I was pregnant with Eli three years after my grandmother died. His name was going to be Zeplin Arlo, much to everyone’s unhappiness and eye rolling. Then I had a dream and in it, my grandmother called him Eli. She rocked him in this rocking chair and looked down at him smiling — to say that my grandmother didn’t smile a lot would be misleading. She did smile, it was just a slightly reserved smile. She was a very happy person, almost to a ridiculous degree, but her mouth was mostly set into a straight across line, like mine. She had a different kind of smile for babies, an unselfconscious one. That was the smile she was giving the baby she was rocking, and she called him Eli. “Hi, Eli.” I think I named him that so I could have a memory of her talking to him, even though she never would.
Now it seems like everyone keeps dying or breaking, even though I know that’s not true. Over the past 11 years, only four of my closest people have died. I don’t know if those are good odds or not. In those 11 years I’ve also seen my kids go from falling asleep in a high chair covered in spaghetti to almost driving a car, and it happened so so fucking fast, like I was shot like a rocket the day after my grandmother died, and ended up here, with a 14 year old who eats all the cereal and an 8 year old mini Yoda, in a state I never wanted to live in, with a job I love so much that I almost get mad at it, and the tall girl I didn’t move here for, but who kept me from leaving.
It’s all just a little much.
So the people are gone now, and I’m not. I’m right here. And here is good — I’m not mad at here. But here keeps being part of the rocket launch, the trajectory. I keep looking back to where here used to be and I — I guess I want to apologize to it, for not appreciating it enough, not ever. I want here to give me advice on how I can treat it better, do more things for it, so it stays with me longer. What can I do for you, here? Don’t go.
I’m watching my fingernails slowly start to look even more like my grandmother’s. I hear myself say the most ridiculous shit to these kids, and I’m hearing my mother 20 years ago. I’m my mother. But I don’t want to be my mother! I don’t want to be 20 years older, but in 20 years I won’t have a choice. I just want to keep being me — to be wrapped up in myself in a way that isn’t inherently bad or selfish, but instead looks like growth; looks like a thing I can do, alone, without the little beast in my throat, or in my ribs (it travels), always talking to me about these other people. “Look, you’re washing your face in this way. This is the way your dad’s mother washed her face, too. Remember how she always talked about her routine? You should write to her. She’ll be dead soon.”
“Your nails look just like Mema’s. Mema used to be alive, like you, and she painted her nails then, too. I wonder if she wished she’d done something else with her time. I wonder why she chose the colors she did. Can you believe she used to be here, choosing colors and painting her nails? Isn’t that ridiculous. Now she’s dead and none of that even matters, does it. …Does it?”
“You need a shampoo that’s moisturizing. This desert is demolishing your hair. Your hair wants to be curly and frizzy and fluffy as fuck, but it can’t be, because you keep staying here. Mary Ann had the curliest hair. I wonder what shampoo she used. Is the Tennessee humidity really that important? Will your hair ever work? Your grandfather had super curly hair. So many people you’ve loved have had the curliest hair. Did you realize that? And they’re gone now. Not all of them, of course, but a good damn chunk of them. Their hair looked a lot better than yours. Just saying.”
“Oh you should call your dad to— shit. Sorry. Never mind.”
“Is that a wrinkle? It’s not going away. You’ve stopped smiling and it’s not going away. Push on it. No that’s not working is it. Hm. Well this is just what skin does, as it ages. As it marches gallantly to the grave. Well, it is. You’re marching gallantly to your grave Laneia. We all are. We’re all spinning spinning spinning just grazing fingertips on things in hopes we’ll leave a mark. Anyway you should stop opening your mouth so wide when you brush your teeth. Keep those wrinkles down.”
Slade was in bed, Eli was standing at the top of the stairs and I was in the dining room with Megan, crying and thinking of my mother. Her father was dying in a hospital bed 1600 miles away and I wasn’t there with her, for her. I’m not religious, so I wasn’t finding comfort in the idea that my grandfather would be reuniting with his dead wife. When my grandmother was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, my mother and I became a single unit. We were hospice and family, nursing this bold heart to its death. It was an honor. My grandfather wasn’t the same without her. My mom became his mom, in a way. And she was doing this without me.
I was in the headspace that you get into when a person is about to leave forever, where you realize that you weren’t done with them yet, that you had so many questions and things to show them. You had plans. It’s a guilt-ridden, selfish place. I was toeing the flimsy line between deep sadness and deep apathy, like when sadness laps itself and the only thing left to do is shut down. Because when you’ve already lost one person, and another person dies, everyone dies all over again. You’re at every funeral you’ve ever attended. You’re getting every phone call again, telling you it’s over, they’re gone. You’re on every floor you ever fell to with every feeling of WHAT THE FUCK DO WE DO NOW.
And because it keeps happening — people keep dying — you become acutely aware of the simple fact that it will always happen. You don’t have much else to think about. So if it will always keep happening, then what’s the point? Of anything? Like being born and living is just a cruel, slow way of ensuring that everyone around you will eventually be devastated when you leave.
It’s a flimsy line.
I walked to the stairs when I heard Eli (in the way that all parents hear their children, which doesn’t require actual sound), immediately snapped from my grief and into the role of his mother. He was in pajamas and his eyes were half-closed, just like in the movies.
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, I just had to pee.”
“Do you need me to tuck you back in?”
“No, it’s ok.”
“Ok, I love you.”
“I love you too.”
My mom said losing him was like losing a father and a son all at once. She said, “I don’t have anyone now,” and I thought, when I don’t have anyone, you won’t be here to talk about it with.
laneia: again and again
when did people love each other forever?
was that ever a thing
riese: it was never a thing
laneia: it wasn’t, was it
but they said it was
riese: maybe in order to get something similar
we have to believe it had potential
like if we don’t believe in the big thing
we won’t make the little thing happen
laneia: but i think i’d still be willing to try, even if i knew it wouldn’t last
i think i do that every day
riese: me too
laneia: i’d still give everything. even if i knew it would end.
Now when something good happens to me, I immediately wonder about the trade-off. How is the universe balancing itself after gifting me with this great thing? How will I eventually pay for this?
It’s exhausting, waiting for the other shoe to fall. I’m trying to let go and just dive right in, but I’m worried that the more I love someone, the more likely I am to lose them. The more fun I’m having, the quicker the whole thing’s gonna end, and I don’t want to be caught off guard again. I’m tired of always worrying about it and I’m tired of never being ready for it. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS, WORLD. Even with a million reminders every day that things don’t stay the same, I’m supposed to pretend that I think my life is different? That we’re safe here, in this happy place? I’m supposed to stop worrying all the time, and start relaxing into this.
I’m supposed to stop feeling like life is just a series of heres that I won’t be able to keep.
What happens to a memory when everyone who remembers it is dead? That’s what I can’t get past.
I don’t know how to end this, how this ends.