she does not have passwords.
she has so much to do.
she is glad that they had this last year together.
she told her toddler that his grandmother went to the garden.
she was only 56.
the accumulations of poverty: decades of insufficient healthcare, jobs nobody else wants to do. the collected debts of striving, after all, she did it for us, a tragic chorus my covenmate knows even better than i do. the losses we will not realize the devastation of until that devastation is upon us. i wonder how i can help. i think over my journals, what i have written, what i will write. breathing in, i again wish i could document the smell of woodsmoke exactly for future reference, and by that i mean: this specific fire. this exact moment in time.
my covenmate’s two year old son weaves around us around the fire. he calls us each out by name and attempts to identify notable incidents in our shared recent history.
the little one walks around my lawn chair. he walks clockwise. he points. “judith,” he names. behind the chair, he calls. “roland.” again, he faces me. again, he points. “judith,” he names. behind the chair, he calls again. “roland.” facing me again, he smiles sweetly. “judith,” he names. and behind my chair, he calls again: “roland.” the fire crackles. i lapse into the language of epiphany, where so many words swell wide and overlap the sound can only be understood by the uninitiated as silence.
“you’re right, love,” says his mother. “we did go hiking with judith at lake roland, a couple weeks ago.”
“weeks go.” he giggles, more fey than toddler. i am confident that we’re both aware there’s more to it than that. i reach forward and trace a crescent onto his forehead with my thumb, a common enough salutation between priestesses. he grins at me crookedly, conspiracy in his gaze, and turns away.
“BAMMM-BOOO,” he hollers, pointing at the next witch in the circle.
i don’t know what to think.
my friend died and i am devastated by his loss
my friend killed himself, emotionally disconnected from me completely before doing so, did not reach out to me in any way shape or form to say goodbye, then requested in his final (general assembly) letter that people not gather together to dwell on their sadness about him, and you know what?
because you know that scene in the neverending story where the horse is drowning and you can’t remember a time in your life before you’d seen the neverending story so you know the horse is going to die and as much as you hate that scene you know you’re going to have to watch it again, because, as it happens, you happen to know that’s why you’re watching this movie, right now, in fact, that’s what brought it onto your screen.
because the horse is going to die. and the horse is going to die. atreyu will not be able to save the horse. nobody will save the horse. no matter how many times you watch this scene, it is always the same scene: except worse, these years later, because you have context. loved ones you have also watched drown. loved ones who wouldn’t turn it around. who couldn’t turn it around. who tried with every fucking thing they had to turn it around, but it was big, it was bottomless, it was too big and bottomless to be turned around.
this seed was planted sixteen years and four months before its bitter harvest. paul had, in fact, by the time of this consolidating event, this ultimately successful suicide plan that took sixteen years and four months to run itself through, emotionally disconnected from me completely for several years before he took that step he, in the moment, sixteen years and two months ago, redacted. a more refined strategy than when we were sixteen, that first time we assumed these marks on the stage, our first dress rehearsal, still bearing little resemblance to the final performance.
i didn’t know for 48 hours then, either. two full school days had gone past. i thought: he seemed listless. edgy. like maybe he was coming down with something. i thought: that’s got to be what it is.
i listened to his mother cradle the receiver before i hung up myself. i hung up the phone and slid down the door of the cabinet next to the sink. sitting on the floor, i wondered who i could talk to about this. i couldn’t talk to anyone about this. i shouldn’t need to talk to anyone about this. this was an averted crisis. he hadn’t done what he set out to do. he’d been stabilized. he’d pull through. they planned to move him into the psychiatric ward the next day. he’d be out of the hospital in time for us to take creative writing together in the fall, unless his parents decided he needed to change schools again. oh, god, i’d hate it if we couldn’t take creative writing together, i thought, moments later sideswiped for the first time with that peculiar and guilty bigger picture: that clicked into alignment and i felt like a terrible person. i reminded myself that he hadn’t succeeded, so it was fine. his doctors would make better what his loved ones could not, right? i could think selfish thoughts about our upcoming creative writing class. he was young, he was resilient, and it would be okay, right? right?
except i was worried, as i should have been. i was terrified, as i needed to be.
and i was angry, as i had every right to be.
who the fuck did he think he was, trying to do that? didn’t he understand that his suicide would destroy me? he knew things about me that no one else did. he’d been there for me in ways nobody else could. i loved having him in my life. i loved him. sitting on the kitchen floor that evening with the windows open, the storm rolling in, i folded my arms over my knees and rested my head on my arms. goddamnit, paul, i thought. i don't know what to think.
even worse: his doing this opened up the possibility that other people could do this. other people could be plotting this. other people could sneak suicidal intentions past my notice even as we’d been sitting next to each other in biology lab for the entire school year. passing notes back and forth during filmstrips. drawing on each other’s notebooks. shit. shit.
even worse: what if me? what was i capable of? what if i reached a point where there didn’t seem to be any answers until i thought of the one that he did:
but then. did i even corner him, later that summer? did i shake my fist? tell him “don’t?”
i don’t remember. let’s assume that means i buried it. in ouija boards and weird phenomena. in my first tentative forays into ecstatic writing, shifting the frequency of my awareness with a pen in my hand. when i didn’t know what i was writing, i could write anything. messages from my spirit guides. scenes from other lives, previous, speculative, fantasy. i described dismembered figures and confusing experiences in intermediary states. i documented dreams, as i do now, with no real interest in interpretation. i wrote around my anger. i wrote the long way around my anger.
the friction between these tensions. the place where our losses converge. i wrote it out, as best i was able. i did not know what to do with that writing, so i let it disappear.
i don’t know what to think.
i have cast a circle. i have invoked my guides. i have prayed to my gods for guidance in this process: this is a destruction trance. i am dancing the world into ashes.
it is a physical ordeal, as such trances tend to be.
at the end of it, i am not covered with ash but a snowfall of scrap, bits and flicks of notebook leavings. at the end of it i am dizzy, lightheaded, placeless, ungrounded. i ground and center. i burn mugwort and sage. i do not know what i will do with the waste: grief processing, hundreds of scrawled pages from the last three years. i wrote it out, as best i was able. it is true in every respect besides one: none of it owns my anger. i wrote around that. it is time to own my anger. that is the reason i have been called to this ritual: my energy was getting stuck in these pages, and it is time, now, to transform them into an offering.
what are my options? my options are many.
i could shred it, stew it, pulp it and make new paper.
i could burn it and make ink from the ash.
i don’t know what i will do. i don’t know what to think.
all the same.