Entries and Exits
[part 1] [part 2] [part 3] [part 4] [part 5]
Matias comes out and greets me. He takes me into your room and says "look who's here!" You see me and light up. You can no longer talk but you are still so very responsive. Tenderly your hand rests on your current favorite stuffed animal, a ferret. I'm amazed by the luminous color of your skin. I tell you how beautiful you look. Together, Matias and I go on about your radiance, how young you look, almost like a teenager. You like that, especially since you know that it's true. A few weeks later I write:
"I tell our friend, the one who touches you so lovingly, that he should get some rest. That I'll wake him up when it's time for him to join us. He lies down on the bed next to yours. He begins to dream. Above us is a video camera focused on your bed. For the next several hours, two women outside the room, both nurses, intently watch us on a small black and white monitor. There's nothing perverse about it. Gently, I begin to touch you everywhere. I start by kissing your hand, letting my hair drift across your cunt. I look up. Delicately, I see you kissing the air."
Many years after my mother's death, I'm sitting with a small group of people in a San Francisco apartment, the living room is covered with flowers. On the floor in front of us is a tacky gold box holding our friend's ashes. We're quite a group, diverse walks of life but dissidents all. Before we perform our made-up ritual for transferring Kathy's ashes to the more appropriate 19th century urn (luckily a leather dyke is wearing a hunting knife with which we are later able to pry off the tin box's lid), some of us take turns at saying a few words. Minnette is one of the first to speak. Within the past two years, she has lost both her daughter, Barbara, and her husband of many years, Herbert. The oldest among us, she talks simply and eloquently about Kathy. But she also talks about Christine, with whom she has had a deeper friendship. With understated tragedy, she tells us that she feels as though she's losing all her daughters.
Hours later, Matias and I are huddled together waiting for the trolley back up to the U.S. It's a few hours before dawn and every bench and possible place to sit is draped with very young and very drunk sailors from the San Diego naval base. We can feel Kathy with us. Somehow, it's the perfect setting for all us to be in after leaving the hospital, seemingly festive but actually debauch. As we travel across the border, I think about just how young these defenders of our shores are. Adolescents really. I feel exactly like I did years ago, when my friends just out of high school were sent off to be slaughtered in Vietnam. My initial anti-war sentiment was not because of any developed political acuity at that point. My fervor came from the fact that we were simply too young to die.
As we approach our stop for the train back to LA, I rest my head on Matias' shoulder and exchange curious stares with the sailor boy across from me. His blue eyes are thin and watery from a night of drinking. I look at him and wonder if he worries about being killed in one of these conflicts we no longer call wars. I compare his short life to my dear aunt's who has lived almost a hundred years. I think of a story she told me recently about being a small girl in the early 1900's and listening to her mother ask a ninety-seven year old woman what it was like to have lived for such a long time. The woman's answer, which my auntie writes out for me in Greek, translates: "it's like coming in one door only to go out the next."