Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tell it like it was

I haven’t lost very many people close to me in my life yet, and I don’t feel very familiar with the contour lines of grief. I wish I could prolong that unfamiliarity, but I know it’s a terrain I’ll be traversing more and more as I get older.

In the meantime, I'm in here without a map, trying to slash my way through to the other side of sadness, hoping there's something like resignation, if not actually acceptance, on the other side. When I think of Bill, my grief tends to manifest itself in frustration at first. I’ll half-remember an anecdote he told me (Yeah, I was driving through Roseburg on my way back to Berkeley this one time, man...) and find myself thinking damn, I should get him to re-tell it, because I can't remember some detail-—and then memory kicks in, and I am suddenly angry and devastated that he won’t, that he can’t, that it’s just...gone. Whatever detail I forgot, it's gone forever.

I'm terrified that this will happen with Mr. Thel before he has a chance to write down his stories. Oh, man, and does he ever have stories. I mean, my stories at their most exciting are like this:

I was at this rollerskating party for one of my classmates, and they did the "Couples' Skate" bit, which...we were fourth graders, so we just held hands with our friends. And I was holding hands with Kelley Shamblin, who wasn't really my friend but she lived even further up Olalla Road than I did, so we rode the same bus to school together. Plus our parents knew each other; her dad kept rattlesnakes in these dusty aquariums in their house. One time someone told me her older brother Andy kept naked women under his bed, which I took literally for awhile.

Anyway, we were skating and Kelley fell down. I stopped and crouched down next to her to see if she was okay. And when I crouched down, I lost my balance. Both my feet shot out from under me and I slammed forward onto the polished wood without time to put out my hands. My front tooth took the force of the fall; it snapped off halfway down, leaving just this jagged vampiric snaggle behind.

One of the employees came over to take care of the situation. He found the broken-off piece of tooth, and found my mother, and took me aside to ask questions for his incident report. I was shaking, and bleeding, and sniffling, and feeling like a total idiot because everyone was still staring at me. And then this guy totally deadpanned, filling out his form: "What's your name? OK. What's your phone number? OK. Are you married?" And I remember finding it so incredibly ridiculous and hilarious that he would ask me that...that I actually started laughing through my tears, amusement at his joke overriding my embarrassment.

You know, they just glued that piece of tooth back on with some kind of tooth-superglue, and it stayed that way for the next ten years. It finally broke off and I had to get a crown last year.
Hum de freaking drum. And here, by contrast, is part of one of Mr. Thel's stories:
So there I was, running as fast as I could down Oudenarder Strasse with a dozen pissed-off drag queens running after me.

So here I am, running as fast as I can after the people in my life with a pen in my hand, trying to jot down as many of the details as I can before they vanish forever. And that is why I was so irrationally moody yesterday.