As I grow older – nearly twenty years old now – I am realising that death is coming closer, to me, and to all those around me.
People are dying around me. They’re dying in the cities I fly over, and they’re dying in the city that I live in. While I dance and drink and study and write, people stop breathing. Doctors are not gods. The great postmodern technological era means nothing in the face of death.
Yesterday was a particularly heavy day because it reminded me of the evanescent nature of health and life. Much like on the night – exactly one month ago- when three men broke into my house and I was woken up by security guards, I am forced to be grateful for that which I have not lost yet. We can thank whatever we want – burglar bars, medicine or Jesus – but the truth is, one day we will all die.
So what do I say to those left behind? What do I say to someone who has lost a friend, unexpectedly, suddenly, whisked out and away like a tablecloth pulled from a table and all the glasses are left clinking, shaking.
We are weak, like thin blades of grass shivering in the wind. And when it rains, it pours, and we are flattened to the earth, we are returned to our beginnings, to the earth from which we came, we are flattened, what are we?
Where do we go? Buried, burnt, swallowed by waters – returned to the elements. In my English course this year, I read a book by Justin Cartwright, about death and nature; the “mineral and geographical facts”, we are as earthly as ants and baboons, and death is but another segment of the cycle of life.
What do I say to my friend who hears death at night, rattling her bones and wanting to claim her, and she pushes on, not eating, not sleeping, sick, improving, weakening, growing and wilting and watching the hours pass, watching the days flicker like a disturbed television on the ceiling above her, her eyes flittering like insects, resting on nothing, there is no rest.
What do you say to that?
What do you say when misery and death stare out at you from a cellphone screen?
I cry. I run my fingers in my hair alone, 800 kilometres away and cry, listening to telephonic sobs and kick the walls, because that is the only contact I can make with anything.
Yesterday, when I come home. I talk and I listen and I hold her and if love is an element like water or fire, I rip out the dam walls and let it flow out.
I make practical suggestions. Money, money is always the problem. And science. You think we know it all? We know a fucking fraction. What do you say to the mysteries of psychology and biology? What do I say?
My English literature books will not be useless. I think of Cartwright and the inevitability of death. I think of Vladislavic` and the unknowability of people. I think of how both writers aim to show that the POINT is to keep trying, even if you know you cannot fight nature, even if you know death wins, even if you know you will always be limited in your understanding of anyone or anything.
The point is to push on, and keep on pushing on. Give all you can, because that is all you can do. You won’t win. But you will have tried. That is all that counts to me.