To Let Go of the Hand of The Dying
Nights come more easily now. See how in the last hour before darkness, the withering sun outlines everything in gold, an aureate amber dripping from leaves and trash as though they are both sharing in the same dream. A crow calls incessantly from the tree outside my California bedroom, its voice somehow both high pitched and gravelly. I find myself thinking about what it wants, maybe nothing more than the same thing we all want: to be heard.
This moment is quiet. Not in the sense of lack of sound, because there are many sounds: the whistle of mockingbirds and finches, the rustling of leaves in the autumn wind. A car zooms up the hill celebrating its power, hip hop plays in a back yard far away. There are sounds, but for me there is not noise. Noise is what I have experienced all day, a day I spent aimlessly in the vortex of social media, scrolling and scrolling, and scrolling. Letting the voices of thousands of strangers into my head. I am scrolling and looking for something, though I don’t know exactly what. I see things that make me laugh, things that make me afraid. I see things that flabbergast me and make me smack my teeth quietly, shaking my head the way my mother and her sisters used to do when confronted with bad news about which they could do nothing but rue the day. A crying shame, they would call it. It don’t make no damn sense.
I think often of how lucky my mother was to have left this plane twelve years ago, before all the crying shames were stacked upon one another as they are now. She and I did not get along particularly well. My memories of our time together are clouded by my resentments, justified and unjustified, my youthful indignation, my unwavering belief that the way she had done her life, and by extension my life, was all wrong. And that I would, if given the chance, do everything differently and better. However, a few days before she passed I found myself suddenly freed from these selfish delusions. I don’t know where they went. They simply vanished as though the mere specter of death was enough to wipe an entire part of me clean. I could remember that I was mad but for the life of me I could not remember why it mattered. All I saw when I looked at her was a woman at the end of a turbulent life, frightened and resigned. It could be argued that dying early was her choice, she knew the consequences of her habits and was only 54 years old, a baby, when her time came. Nonetheless in her final days, once the decision was irreversible, I saw regret and fear in her eyes. It does not make sense, I suppose, to hold anger at someone who is dying, someone whose hand is trembling in yours.
An interesting thing about death is that the longer a person is gone, the closer they become to you, the more of your space they occupy. When I was alive and she was clear on the other side of the country, I did my level best to keep her trapped in the occasional phone call, rarely a text message. I hated when she worked her way into the thoughts of my daily life. Now that she has been gone for over a decade, I find her everywhere. In the call of crows, the halos of light, the caresses of the wind at dusk.
The less noise there is, the louder her voice is; the more present her touch. Sometimes when I am on my endless scrolling days, days in which it seems I have absolutely no power to stop myself, to refocus my attention toward anything other than posts and Tik Toks and tweets, I think that what I am looking for is something to make it all make sense. I’m looking for an explanation about what the hell is happening and why. How is is that an obvious con-artist occupies the White House; is in charge of a country that itself is an obvious con — an organized crime syndicate that hoards money, charges tributes, and kills anyone that works too hard to break its tyranny. I am looking for something that explains why this is happening, something that confirms that I am not crazy. I do see others who recognize it too. In fact finding new ways to say that everything is fucked up has become a content genre unto itself. But it’s never enough. There can never be enough tweets and Instagram posts decrying the state of things — whether through humor or desperation or dramatic earnestness — to make me feel at peace. I cannot be at peace because it is still happening. The President is still calling into news shows high on drugs, coughing into the mic, selling his lemon-y used car of a national vision, and people are still buying, still turning over their money and lives — and if necessary my life and the lives of the people I love — in exchange for something that was never ever true, not even for a day.
Sometimes I think that I’m looking for an answer to that in my endless scrolling, and none is forthcoming.. But then there are times, like now when the light is just like honey, where it is entirely clear to me the real reason I keep filling my head with noise is because I am afraid of what I can hear in the silence. It is my mother’s voice, which comes not in sound but in an embrace, a pair of arms, warm and soft, arms that used to hold me, arms that beckon me away from all this and toward something bigger and clearer and entirely less solid. I am afraid of the space that beckoning puts between me and you, between me and my friends, between me and everyone I think I need to be close to. So I stay here, entrenched in our web, tangled up in our drama, entirely afraid to let go of the hand of what is still dying.