Friday, January 27, 2012

Death

We were lying in bed.

I was under the blanket and you were not. This is ordinary. This is normal. This is good.

My mind a robot. A bee a robot. Language a robot. Keep calm. These things come in threes, come in waves,let them wash over.

Language bee. Death bee. Together bee.

I asked you when you think you first realized death existed, which is not the same thing as the first time you actually realized death existed.

But it's a placeholder.

You were very late in noticing death.

This worried me at first. Then I was jealous.

I was half your age when I started to think about death.

Probably you are wrong. Probably you knew much earlier. But probably you were indifferent in that survivalist way of yours.

Do you think it's people talking about death or more seeing it? I mean the thing that makes it real to a child.

You weren't sure and really didn't care.

Possibly it was when I became a killer. Possibly it was me as a very small human killing a thing. A bug or something. Or seeing something kill something. Because killing is pretty natural to a child. Or maybe it was an animal I saw attacked in a documentary, where death is considered educational. Like Bambi. "Behave because your mother could die any day." A world of hunters. PBS? Or maybe a cat next to you on the floor where you lived as a small human being, since small human beings live mostly on the floor. Or a cat killed a bug that stopped moving. Or a bug your brother stepped on. Someone on t.v. being graphically murdered. "Why isn't this thing moving anymore?" Put it in your mouth because now it looks like food. Listen to your mother scream.

On t.v., they talk about kids who saw their mom or dad murdered. Or saw the aftermath. When they were two or three years old. Many adult killers think it doesn't matter, since the kid can't explain what he saw to police or himself or anyone else. It's like leaving a dog or cat with a fucked-up mind at the scene of a murder. They're eternal three-year-olds too.

Some killers seem to take delight in leaving images like those trapped in a child's mind.

One mother was stabbed to death and lay on the living room floor for several days while her three year old walked all around her and tracked her blood through the house. He'd go get food that he could reach. He'd vacuum with his toy vacuum cleaner. Vacuum through the bloody carpet and trace her shape like an evidence technician. Spill Bugles from a box onto her body and into her congealed blood soaked into their thick green carpet.

Finally someone opens the front door.

I told you I think what I remember was a circus and an earthquake. On television. News report.

I believe it was an earthquake in Romania (how am I even remembering this?) and my mother tried to explain it to me. Many had died since they were at the circus. Many were small children.

Like Voltaire after the Lisbon earthquake, I had questions.

My mother threw her hands in the air. She was mentally ill and God kept her busy in other ways than explanations, which she found difficult then.

I also remember a woman hanging from a crossbeam. Maybe this was a dream. It was around the same time as the earthquake and circus memory. Maybe it was also on t.v. I remember her hanging there and her head crooked to one side and her expression. I think it might have been a horror show that came on at night.

I remember after I had internalized these images,a weird transference occurred. I began to be afraid of the plastic bottle of laundry detergent in the basement.

The woman on the bottle of Downy in the basement reminded me of the woman who had been hanged or had hung herself. I have no idea why. Maybe she physically resembled. Maybe it was the way the woman on the bottle was swathed, hidden, and peered out mysteriously with a disturbing smile.

I knew she wasn't coming back except as images. I think that was the horror getting through right there.

Our basement was dark and dank with a concrete floor and its cinderblock walls were painted a pale luna moth green.

I think I was four. I remember the terror I'd experience when I saw the bottle. How I'd run upstairs.

She's no longer on the bottle.

So.

Death is laundry.

I suppose that does make a kind of sense. Everyone is forced to do laundry when someone dies.

You told me that this is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect me to say. Since I'm crazy.

7 comments:

  1. Ha, death and laundry. Mom had a little TV on the counter in the laundry room in the basement; there I witnessed a soap opera death. I must have been about three. Someone had left a knife sticking point-up on the ground (why? I didn't think to question it), angry man chases woman, trips, then rolls belly-up, eyes glazed, knife in chest. Woman screams, hands to her face. A vivid memory. Didn't mention it to anyone at the time; I just turned it over in my mind. That may be why those Downy balls, the dispensers, always seemed creepy to me.

    My first death? Earlier than that; I must have been about two. Dismembering Daddy long-legs spiders in the garden. I had no idea what I was doing, and no one else seems to have noticed. Don't remember how old I was when I realized what I'd been doing. Poor little things.

    I also have a vivid memory of my father crushing a carpenter ant between his fingers and hearing it crunch. I'd already been bitten by them once or twice, and was impressed by his lack of squeamishness.

    There was also an memorable death at the movies--Charlotte's Web--I cried all the way home. I wasn't thinking of the Daddy long-legs, though--this is the first time I've juxtaposed the two memories, come to think of it. But Charlotte seemed more human than arachnid.

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  2. It's so strange the things we remember and the things we don't, and we know (number-wise) that the stuff we forget (okay, maye it's all in there but inaccessible for now) is like 99.99999999999 percent of what happened at that age. I think I have one or two memories from as far back as your three, but I think those are actually good memories (toy memories). Lots of kids probably treat daddy long legs spiders like the people behind the scene at those buffets treat crab legs. I mean if they walk by a very small child they're just "asking for it" lol. And they do kind of look like miniature Mars attackers from those H.G. Wells movies, so probably you were just instincively defending the planet. I've heard of Downy balls but can't even visualize them. Charlotte's Web was obviously your first experience in ROMANTICIZED death, your first experience with emotional manipulation. Wait, you did say soap opera. So...I guess that might have been romanticized death. I remember a poet describing a bad soap opera actress who obsessively emphasized every third word. That was her acting "style." It's intertesting that you internalized that troubling image and didn't tell anyone or ask anyone. I think that says a lot about how people miss the impact of violent shit (even fake stuff on tv) on kids. I'm not a parent but I am horrified when parents think it's funny to let four year olds watch one slasher film after another. I'm not saying the kid's gonna be a serial killer but I do believe all the stuff people say about desensitization. I'm happy to say the only death I saw today on t.v. were the singers dying (figuratively) in American Idol auditions (oh, and a few egos). I think their favorite people to show are the ones who are convinced they are Celine Dion and are tone deaf. Because they always make the biggest pronouncements. One wanted to list all the famous singers he's better than before launching into a song nobody could even recognize. I won't say he couldn't sing a note because he could sing one. The same one. Over and over. ;-)

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  3. The Downy balls were about the size of a croquet ball, translucent plastic with a sky blue cap. They look almost the same today.

    I never said anything to anyone if I was scared by anything. I see kids (including my son) instinctively telling their parents what they are afraid of and I'm bemused by it, that trusting attitude. I never even tried to get into bed with my parents as far as I can recall. I remember my sister saying she was afraid of things. For some reason I felt as if telling anyone would make me more vulnerable. Which is an oddly macho attitude for a little girl.

    I was never afraid of unreal things, like monsters in the closet or under the bed. I was afraid of real things, like the toilet overflowing, or the house burning down, or people breaking into my first floor bedroom window. I'd only ever seen the first thing happen, but I knew the other two were possible.

    I remember there was some very dramatic music when the soap opera guy rolled over. Da, da, DAAAAAA! Something like that. Would it have been as traumatic if they'd used, say, the Benny Hill music? Maybe it would have been worse!

    I remember feeling horrified when a coworker talked about her toddler's reaction to the Chucky movies. Whenever he'd misbehaved he would blame it on Chucky.

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  4. Okay, now the Downy balls sound extraterrestrial to me. Now I'm scared of them. You must have been a soldier of a little girl. Maybe you are the oldest sibling (I forget if you told me that) so you had the "I'm in charge here and can't show my troops any stress" mentality if so.

    I'm still afraid of toilets overflowing. It's so The Shining.

    Da, da, DAAAA! Yeah whatever happened to Da, da, DAAAA! I almost miss that cheesy "zinger" (think that's the technical movie name for those sound effects).

    Chucky made me do it! More plausible than the Devil anyway. A future congressman, no doubt. A Capitol fellow!

    I remember my nephew as a child was terrified of the My Buddy doll my niece had received as a gift.

    Because he equated My Buddy with Chucky, and there really was more than a little passing resemblance.

    The second Chucky movie is freakin funny...the one with Jennifer (or Meg?) Tilly doing the voice of Tiffany.

    lol I lose it when I watch that.

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  5. Nah, I was a big whiner, though I am the oldest. I just didn't talk about what I was afraid of. But stuff like I want chocolate milk, not plain, I want to stay up and watch this show, I was a big whiner.

    It's Jennifer Tilly--she often plays psycho sexpots, Meg often plays sweet and vulnerable.

    Nowadays da, da, DAAAA! makes me think of the Dramatic Chipmunk:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1Y73sPHKxw&feature=colike

    Hahaha, 33,897,516 views!

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  6. I was a chocolate milk junkie as a kid too. Now I don't know what the hell that shit is because it says "CHOCOLATE DRINK." So...that ain't milk. I doubt it's soy either.

    Ah Jennifer.

    Dayum...the chippies are beating most pop stars that tour the world and give up blood, sweat and tears.

    And they don't even exist. Nice!

    My AOL is so fucked up. Last night I kept getting error message when I tried to click on a link an editor sent me for proof pages. And he sent it like three different times. He must think I'm insane.

    I didn't realize it was probably my AOL then.

    But today when I tried to open email the mail would open for like three seconds then it would transport me to a different error message that ends: "/Suite.aspx"

    I don't even know if it's my computer, my browser, AOL or wtf.

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  7. You could try googling the error message and see if there's any useful information out there.

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