She has no name

Something Elliott Jones starts doing from that night on. She begins to say the names of the dead out loud. Whenever she comes across a mention of a deceased person in the news, or trending on social media, or when she passes by a statue or park bench with a personal dedication affixed to it – new, old deaths, she does not discern. Instead, she stops over every single name she encounters, takes the time to speak it. If dates are also given, she quickly calculates the space between their birth and their death, so that when she says each name, she knows, too, just how long that particular person was here on this earth. Angela, 45. Glynn, 87. Boris, unknown. Tamir, 17. Gabby, 7. Baby Shiloh, 32 days old.

People lost to cancer, drug overdoses, school shootings. Kidnappings and war and little hearts with holes in them. Lists and lists of ways to die, and lists of names to acknowledge. Elliott sees the dead everywhere now, and for the rest of her life she will speak their names out loud, lingering over the syllables, breathing these strangers in and out. It is her ritual for the dead. A way to let them know that they have not been forgotten.

She has no name to speak out loud for me.

I’m Alice, I whisper to her many times. Alice Lee. But she can’t hear me over the car horns and the sirens and the doors slamming. I’m lost in the buzz of her phone and the sound of the shower running, the hiss of the coffee pot downstairs, and the pad of her feet against the ground. My voice is quieter still when she is laughing or crying or gasping against the memory of Ash’s mouth.

The thing is. When the dead speak back, we are seldom loud enough to be heard over the clamour of all that living going on.

~ What We Have Left

(Because there is still so much more to say)

Riverside Park NYC

Advertisements

You have been loved

I imagine it’s something like lights turning on all over the world. One by one the illumination, as continents glimmer then glow. I see it as gravity pulling the stars back down. Collective sadness, collecting love. The bright flame of grief making our shared surface deeper.

Know this. You have been loved.

It’s not dimming, ever. To remember, to honour, to love in this way. We should do so well with the living. We should send out our sparks and turn up our songs while we’re both on the ground. Don’t you think?

You should know you have been loved.

lighthousekeeping

♥ Jeanette Winterson, Lighthousekeeping

I expect so much more from you in 2017. 

The weight of it

I never expected to be happy. Not in the sense that I would have a big, rich life, a red-like-Christmas life, where every day was tinsel and jolly. I only ever wanted to survive my own heart. To find small moments of light in the dark, to live knowing I’d find that light sometimes, even just a pinprick of it, to guide me.

I never expected to find peace. Not in the sense that I would come to terms, eventually, with what happened to my mother. With what happened to me. I wanted, or hoped instead, to learn to carry what happened, so that I could build some kind of emotional muscle, stronger tissue, and suddenly it wouldn’t all seem so heavy. I’d be able to walk with the weight of it, and just keep going. Like those young women, in their bright cotton dresses and bare feet, who carry water on their heads for miles. The ones who live in those dustbowl places, where everything is far away. If you tried to do that without practice, without years, you’d stagger, you’d spill your water, or crumple at the shoulders from all that weight sitting on your head. But they can do it, because that’s what they do every day. That’s what their muscle has learnt to remember.

I thought perhaps I might get the chance to teach my body what to remember, too.

~ Alice, Into the After

Balloon Girl, Red Heart by Banksy

The Girl with the Red Balloon ~ Banksy

Without my permission

Wednesday April 17th, 2013

Today is my last day. Of what? Of being alive? Of being in this world? Not exactly, because I’m here still, in a way. I can see everything and feel everything, although I’ve been trying to get that right, because it’s not exactly feeling, is it? It’s not the same as wrapping your fingers around a warm coffee mug, or flipping the pillow to the cold side, of finding the cool relief on your cheek, before you go back to sleep. It’s not that. It’s not immediate and ephemeral and lost to the next sensation just as you start to feel the first.

It’s something more complete. Something less connected to space and time. A kind of knowing, more than feeling. Sort of how you can swim under water and through it and across its surface all at the same time. Immersed. Perhaps that’s a better word for the way I experience the world now.

I’m here still, in a way. I am immersed.

At any rate, we’ve reached that date. We’ve come to today. I want to tell you about it, because they keep getting it wrong. The way people always get it wrong when they speak for you. When they tell your story.

My story, the one I lived.

Today is my last day. Today is the last day I lived my story. The last day I lived. There was an I, and it was me, and I was at the centre of my story, until someone else decided to take over. Until that man wrote my last pages. Without my permission.

You think you are the centre, that if you hold on tight enough, even when things try to pull you away, you’ll make it. But then someone enters the space you have created for yourself, they take up all the room, and suddenly you’re pushed right out of your skin.

It’s their story now.

There was an I, and now there is a he, a him, a his.

Today is my last day, Elliot. The last day of my story.

~ Alice, Into the After

On the Rocks

Not what I imagined

Jane

So this is what it is like to be dead. It is not what I imagined. Though imaginings seem very limited now, the things one can dream and feel when we are alive. Now that I am dead.

I am dead.

What a strange distinction. Between me before, and me now. Before I was one thing only – I was alive, I was breathing and pumping blood around my body, into my limbs, and all through me. Now I have no blood and no body. No fingers to wriggle, and no toes to curl under. I am just air now. I am what I used to breathe in. Only, it isn’t just. There is no containment. I am air and I am everything. If I think of something – say a wave crashing, then I am that wave, I am the pulling back, the curve and swell, and the pounding against the ocean floor. Then, if I am reminded of fish in the whitewash, I am suddenly the slippery, silver tail, I am the rushing school of gill and scale.

I only have to think it, and I become it. Not just feel it, but I am it. Anything and everything that exists.

Except me. I don’t exist anymore, and I cannot feel me. That girl, the one they call Jane. They still don’t know my name. And I, too, have forgotten. I don’t know who I was, what I had. When I think of me instead of oceans or fish, it suddenly goes black. I am dark matter, a rent in the fabric of the universe. Easier to be the wave, and the darting fish, flying.

But still I wonder, in the spiraling – who was she? Where did she come from and where did she go? When he did those things to her. When she died at his hands.

I am dead. This is what it is like to be dead. Imagining never once came close to this.

Wave

Very, very early character drafting for “Into the After”. As usual it has gone in a different direction than where I first pointed my pen. The body keeps the score – I keep thinking of this saying, and now I have met Jane, who is everything but herself, who can inhabit every thing that exists, but her own body. So many metaphors. Now to the hard part …

Into the After

Sometimes, I time travel through their wounds.

I take them back to before. Before the wheels over-corrected, or the under-tow pulled too hard. I take them back to the moment before they said yes to that guy or before they turned that corner – before life began to slide away from where they’d been.

I’m piecing them back to how they were, when they were whole and untouched. Everyone has it. Every body has it. A time before. Some people get further along than others – some get to live entire lives in the before.

Others come with the smallest amount of time and grace, and fall quickly into the after.

#

Into the after. The new working title for my second novel. To write, I need a literary leitmotif, a melody of words and ideas to thread through the story. I’ve found it here. Now the work begins …

To sink under slowly

The feeling is immediate under my toes. A sensation of sinking in, of earthing myself. The sand starts warm and soft underfoot, and closer to the water it becomes damp and hard, leaving my footprints in a trail behind me.

I scratch a crooked heart with my big toe and watch as a wave licks at it, then washes it away. A pang – is that how easily we lose something? I look out, fix on the moment where sky and sea merge, and I feel a kind of horizon ache. A sadness that expands before me.

If you are here right now with me Ben, you are the anchor, the thud that brings me back.

I keep walking, letting the last slide of each wave wash over my feet. We acclimatise to the coldness best in this way, inch by inch of skin, no surprises. I have never understood people who run toward the water, who dive straight in.

I have always been one to sink under slowly.

 – Anna, The Memory of Stars