By: Kelly McClure
Even on a sinking ship, the desire to pretend that everything is fine is all consuming. The passing of time does more than add lines to our faces and weight on our backs, it coats us with a warm, numbing goo that forever whispers "everything will be fine." Even if it's not. Even if you know it. Because what is the alternative? Everything NOT being fine? That would require work. And we're exhausted. YOU are exhausted.
Everything is fine.
The mustard seed of truth is real. The nagging suspicion that plagues your mind the minute your head hits the pillow and keeps it up until the sun washes everything away in blinding distraction. Something is wrong. Something IS wrong. If you lay flat enough and prevent your mind from drifting away from the idea - of the wrongness that IS there - it will float to the surface as your numbness is pushed down like a blanket from the pressure rushing up around you.
Your muscles twitch as it first hits you. The wrongness. An electricity runs up your back and collects at your throat, taking your breath away and causing your organs to lose their sense of gravity. You struggle. Bubbles rise to the surface. You float downward, into the wet darkness that you have suspected all along was there. The wood of your structure bloats and creaks - doing its part to keep you contained for as long as it can. There must be a breaking point. It breaks at the moment your lungs fill with water - your ears and the wood of the boat burst at the same time. Boards and slivers of wood drifting away from you as everything goes black and your salt joins the mix. Something was wrong. It still is. But now it's not your problem anymore.There was a time you thought "I can't do this anymore," and it was a wish to the world that stuck.
There is work to be done. Who will do all of this work?
Three weeks ago I sat across from my Dad at his kitchen table in rural Illinois. It was a sunny day. Cold, but not too cold. Normal. The streets outside were quiet because most people were at work, but we were taken out of all of that routine, put onto a different timeline, because something was wrong. The table we sat at was covered with a large lace doily and a large glass vase filled with fake flowers. The flowers were caked with dust. If you were to ask my father where these flowers came from, he wouldn't know. If you were to look at these flowers a year from now, they would still be covered in dust, if they were even still there, and they probably would be because where else would they go, and who cares? My mother bought those flowers and my mother set up that table. Now my mother is gone. Into the mix. Sucked out of the goo. Gone. Gone so far down that if I were to reach into the water to grab her back out - reach down so far that my arms were completely submerged and my chest lay flat right up on it. Right up on all that salt. I wouldn't find her. My dad tells me a story.
"You know, on our first date - your mother and me - I was driving her back home to the farm. We were in my first Mustang and there wasn't a light in sight. It was a clear night, and we were driving - and I had my right arm around your mother. Out of nowhere this huge cinder block came ripping through the dark, not even bouncing up from the road or anything, but from straight ahead, and shattered the windshield." He took a long pause while I just stared at these fucked up dusty flowers. "I think about that now and you know what I think? I think that was an omen."
There is something wrong.
Who will do all of this work?
It is never more apparent that life is just a passing, crumbling of uncertain time than when you're suffering a loss. And it's never more apparent that you never knew what "loss" even meant, until you experience the absolute snuffing of a flame. THE flame. The fleshy, hot, salty, loud, quiet, mean, kind, stingy, generous, always there, always there no matter what, vessel of cells that brought you here. Your ship. It's sailed. What now? And what now? Just gotta float around I guess.
It's like body surfing. The remembering part. Calm nothing, and then rocking. Laps of images - at random times hit your whole body. Your chin pressed against the cold leather shoulder of a jacket in winter as you're being carried somewhere. The smell of hairspray. The smell of perfume. The sight of a smile turning into a frown. The smell of cigarettes. The smell of peppermint gum. A tone. A laugh. An inside joke. A red Jeep driving away.
Gone is gone. Like gone gone gone gone GONE. And I know that there's a God because this pain is bigger than the moon and the stars put together. Otherworldly.