Absence. Sometimes the absence of a thing spins a circle of wholeness. A silver spear plunging into the verdant rivers spiderwebbing across my landscape; forbidden footprints trespassing in rainbow globs along my hide; unyielding faces blurring into kaleidoscopic mouths reprimanding broken bodies; incriminating mirages dragging untellable tales from their graves.
The delicious liberation from these once habitual hauntings I treasure, clutching to me the delicate tendrils of possibilities they nourish.
“Stiched Landscape” created specifically for Tick Talk using mixed media by Jena Pendarvis
Call it morbid, but I am on a quest to find the people I’ll die with. Occupying one’s time with the constant companion of thriving infections induces such ponderings. I would imagine that a person gifted with health and the sweet drip of time like warm honey would engage sugarplum thoughts of seeking company to build with. But she is not me; she’s not at the mercy of this maelstrom circling a sick cycle carousel around and around me. Contrary to the beating life inside of me, the insatiable armies of invaders close in, day after day and many times they nearly succeed in snuffing the pulse that is me, out.
So, in the way that years of survival seem to have left me cocking my head in wonder at the saccharin ease healthy folk parade along with, I tend to approach related inquiries in the same way. Finding people to live with, to expand, savor what simmers within you with dependency would be simple.
But what about a life filled with death? Mine has cultured isolation and palpable estrangement from friends, family and myself. Like the dry retching I’ve spent years recoiling from, the ripples of recognition that those you live with and those you die with may not be the same crowd, reverberate.
To say that I crash from the precipitous ledge on which I hover every single day is not a dramatization. It is only natural, then, I think for me to want someone to hold my hand on the way down. Again and again.
So, lie down with me on this sunny day and be my somebody to die with. Be here with me as I am tossed like a rag-doll, jerked this way and that by the surf. Wade in until you’re eyes deep with me today, tomorrow, maybe for a a while, until the dying is done and the life will begin again.
“Remember Not to Forget,” painting by E.b. Fromkes.
One advantage of telescopic perspective is the opportunity it affords for privilege. Cast a global view from your tiny island and what once appeared to be unyielding boulders, shift like a mirage through the lens of compassion. Though this standpoint has required daily cultivation for me to learn to acknowledge, upon doing so, I have become more empowered. Instead of leaning so heavily upon the crutch of attaining normalcy (whatever that is) before celebrating, I am learning to recognize victory in the now.
Before you roll your eyes defiantly, don’t worry, this is not some advice prescription for enlightenment. Much to the contrary, my reflections I support the claim that there is no such thing. The linear definition of success, happiness, and well-being propagated by a consumer-capitalist agenda leaves little room for individuality. Moreover, the emphasis of production and attainment in an ego-centric environment is quite stifling. The recognition of my own power to re-define what action or accomplishment warrants a warm fuzzy feeling is proving to be helpful.
Extending my thoughts toward compassion with genuine energy is opening pathways. As literal neurological roads are remapping, so too are opportunities to find a more livable tomorrow, today.
On revolutions around the sun such as today’s, I feel within my bones, the not so distant tug of my grave. Like a tangible exhalation within the pearlescent marrow, I am reminded of the barricades surrounding me. Instead of rolling swiftly towards the once greedy fingers of death, though, I breathe again. And again.
Back in the day when desktop computers the color of gum drops were all the rage, email was a fascinating phenomenon. My entry into the teenage years was characterized by long winded questionnaires my friends and I bounced back and forth. The question which remains highlighted in my memory is “if you could meet anybody, living or dead, who would it be?” While my peers fantasized about sharing space with the then airbrush perfect Hollywood star, my dream dinner guest had captivating, bottomless eyes and timeless wisdom. He breathed conviction and passion into every syllable, inviting imagination for a more temperate cultural climate.
He was Martin Luther King Jr.
These days, I engage in visualizations that posit this emblematic civil rights leader and humanitarian as much more than a beloved dinner guest. I carry his paradigm for equality, inclusion and integrity along with me as I would an accoutrement. I envision his form in miniature, perched casually atop of my shoulder, urging me toward patience in my social justice pursuits. I imagine in what ways he would contextualize the polarized American population within his framework of love. And then, I keep dreaming, just like him.
The irony of paucity is that it can convert almost anything into abundance. My writing has served as a connection to other people. The incubation of my existence has severed many ties to the outside world. Therefore, when opportunities arise to cast lines out and find others on the other end, such threads are spun with gold.
Upon receiving notification that my writing had been published today on a blog I thoroughly enjoy reading, the Drabble, filled me with exuberant giddiness. The gift of sharing the words inscribed within my psyche, is a sacrosanct gem.
Thank you for taking a moment to read and for your continued presence.
Anybody familiar with my writing knows that abandonment is a reoccurring theme. So frequently do I catalog the intense emotions intertwined with chronic trauma, that you may be surprised to know that not everybody fled. This is a somebody who stayed. A friend from college, I tediously sent Max a laconic text message after being discharged from Stanford Hospital and sent home to die in 2012. Words I thought were sure to be among my last. Please come. Without explanation, this friendly face drove five hours to my home. He acted with dignity, respect and compassion as I laid listlessly, tubes snaking out from my ghastly body. Despite the dire situation, he did not appear afraid. In between the pulses of pulverizing pain, I wondered if I’d ever see him again.
Fast forward six years, here we are today. Though I haven’t seen Max in several years, or even talked to him over the phone, there was something deliciously wonderful upon seeing his face and somehow feeling as though we are again, twenty-one years old, the very same people stowed away in desks, dreaming about one day saving the world.
This is friendship.