I wrote this piece and posted it on my tumblr three years ago. I'd forgotten about it until today. I'm publishing it here because I still believe every single word of it.
I want to write about loss. Four years ago, my father died; then my
grandmother died; then my uncle died. All these people within the span
of a few years disappeared. I attended their funerals, I stood in rooms
with their lifeless bodies, I put flowers on their graves, I watched
mourners amass and then disperse; I’ve watched each season come and go
without their presence. It has almost destroyed me. There was a time
when I literally could not leave my house, when I felt so anxious and
depressed I did not know how to function in the world. I can’t say I’ve
fully recovered from it.
Let me be totally honest: I am not a resilient person. Things get to
me; I brood on them; I can’t let them go; I almost wallow in melancholy
but it’s how I’ve been since childhood. I was very close to my father.
We were very much alike; shy, detached, contemplative, uncomfortable,
socially awkward but kind and good-hearted and respectful of other
people. He listened to me. We would often go to the park and play tennis
then take a walk. That’s when I would tell him all these things buried
inside, about my dreams to be a writer, to be a part of the world, to
matter in some way, how I didn’t belong anywhere, how lonely I always
felt. And he listened. He did not judge or utter platitudes. It was just
us and the trees and the squirrels and the endless sky; the sun on our
skin, acorns and leaves crunching under our shoes. We were together,
alive, conscious of our connection and our profound bond. When I lost
him, I lost a way of life; I lost those walks in the park, I lost his
acceptance, his gentle support, his belief in me, his easy company.
Ultimately, I lost myself. And I found out, in the process of all this
death, that you do not lose somebody once. You lose them over and over
again; every day of your life, every time you wake up, when you look at
their picture and yearn for them again. I live in a state of insatiable
wanting, for a time and a man that I can never retreive.
But this is where art comes in. If my life has been defined by death
for the past several years, it has also been punctuated by periods of
pure escape, through books and movies and paintings and music. It is
through art that I attain transcendence. After my father’s death, my
mother and I took to going to the local movie theater on a regular
basis. We saw comedies and foreign films and dramas and thrillers. We
sat together and laughed and cried and cringed. We found a world on that
screen that was beautiful and bearable, that eviscerated our minds of
sorrow for two hours until we stepped outside into the real world again.
I intend to write more about these films and what they have meant to me
in another posting.
To books. What can I say about them that hasn’t been said? I’ve
accumulated too many. They are piled on tables and hidden in drawers
because I am not blessed with bookshelves. The great books I’ve read I
still carry inside myself, like a little library of my own—like Mrs.
Dalloway or The Waves, like the Great Gatsby or I Am One of You Forever
by Fred Chappell or the story “Miss Brill” by Katherine Mansfield or
Rebecca Solnit or the poetry of Plath, Dickinson, and Whitman. They are
all within me because they have all awakened some part of me. If we can
keep losing on a constant basis then maybe it is also possible to
continually discover and unearth and then hoard and covet what we have
found and share it with others. Maybe that’s what makes life worth
living; to keep grabbing at these glittering fragments of life, these
words and poems and songs that we spontaneously come across. I don’t
know what comes after this life. I personally don’t believe there is
anything; so it makes me want to live more now, to revel in the moment
as much as possible; to read and create and think and empathize and give
and write and love and remember. Always remember. But I still miss him;
I still grapple with the meaning of a life that does not contain
him. And I can’t help but long for those summer days of us walking
together without a care in the world…