(Life With Parenthesis)

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She told me, “You will not fade quietly into the night.”  I told her, “Neither will you.”  She laughed, she said, “How come you can’t say it?”  “I can say it,” I said.  “You will not fade quietly into the night.”  “Say it like you mean it.”  “Okay, okay.  YOU will not fade quietly into the night!”  “Guess what, though,” she said, “I didn’t mean it.”  I sighed, but I then I saw the epicenter of mischief in her eyes.  

(I searched the obituaries for days trying to find his name.  I didn’t ask at the autopsy because it seemed unprofessional.  Professionalism was making small jokes while going through the routine.  “It’s a Nascar shirt,” they said.  “It’s a speed demon shirt.”  The kid didn’t wear his seatbelt.  He was nineteen and flew through the windshield after hitting a tree.  When they felt for fractures in his jawline, blood came out of his mouth.  When they felt for fractures in his skull, blood came out of his mouth.  Blood couldn’t come out of his nose because that was stuffed with brain pieces and spent memories.  “Well, that’s a sure sign of death.”

The smell seeped in and I got sick.  I sat down in the hallway and listened to the saw cutting his skull open.  The blade vibrates instead of spins so it doesn’t spray bone all over the room.  They didn’t say whether or not that was too personal, or they just don’t like a mess.  They cut it open and then comes the rest of the brains after a few slices of the optic nerves and other connections.  The foramen magnum is there, a hole at the base of the open skull that leads to the spinal cavity, the hole that the soul spins down into when you stop breathing, like a charity coin funnel.  You should be able to go your whole life without seeing a foramen magnum.  

I’m back in the room.  I disqualify myself from what a person should never have to see.  It takes a minute or two to realize that they also made the Y-incision across the torso.  The thick yellowish layer of body fat reminds me of a girlfriend saying, “Just let me lay here for a while,” and the silence that ensues.  “What are you thinking about?”  The doctor pulling out intestines.  The doctor putting the organs in a large metal salad bowl.  The person eventually gets put back together for the now-benign experience of a funeral, but not like how you would imagine.  Everything is bagged and stored away beneath the body stitches and staples - in case there should ever be one more pursuit to prove there is something greater within.

After the fifth time of trying to hold back the nauseous endeavors of reality, the doctor tells me, he tells this mess, “Go sit upstairs in the lobby.  There are couches up there.”  I try to retort with wit, with life, but I stand there a moment in personal silence.  “I might just do that.”  

The way I understand it is this.  We don’t leave fallen soldiers behind in war.  We don’t bury the dead in anonymity on the side of the road.  But, here is a profession where distance is key, where names and bodies no longer go together; forensic pathologists with medical degrees in separating body and spiraling soul.  I have a pen and they have a scalpel.  I weigh the surreal and they weigh the spleen.  They ask me, “Are you okay?”  I say, “I am fine.  I am fine.”  I am fine.

I must have been feeling the last of my morbid teenage-fascinations die.  I don’t think I’m traumatized, although little things remind me of the glass-shredded body, like adjusting a loaf of bread dough before putting it in the oven, or a random smell from the complacent city.  I think what this writer experienced was a severe transition.  All I could write when the day settled was, “Goddamn, why can’t people just wear their fucking seatbelts?”  Obviously, my language corrupted by the inflection of the day.  My insistence flawed by one of the other witnesses before the fact, “My friend was in a car accident a few years ago.  Her car flipped and she drowned in a few inches of water because she couldn’t undo her seatbelt.”

There are exceptions to everything.  I’m sure you’ve heard that one before.  There are even exceptions to what can justify itself as the beginning of an inspiring life full of story.  But, don’t stray too far just yet.

There I am sitting on the couch and my cell phone rings.  I answer it because I think it may be one of my friends calling with inquisitive nature.  “How was the autopsy?” I was expecting to hear.  Instead it’s, “Matthew, don’t be alarmed.  It’s ________'s mom.  How are you?"  I stare out of the window at the rooftops stretching for miles in the afternoon sun.

“Oh, I’m fine.  How are you doing?”  Here it’s coming together that she’s still holding onto her daughter’s cell phone.  I kept her number in my phone for months, and if it was in there any longer the screen would have said, “________ calling.”  Your dead ex-girlfriend is calling.  She wants to know why you broke up with her.  She is exploring the possibilities that you could have carried her in a different direction from the events that led to her death.

It must be on everyone's mind.  “Why did you break up with her, Matthew?”

Such a bullshit response that comes out of my mouth.  If you want to give some blame I’ll take it.  I stay up at night thinking about it anyway.  I’ll take it all.  I’m so fucking greedy.  Writing corrupted.)

She told me, “You will not fade quietly into the night.”  I told her, “Neither will you.”  She laughed, she said, “How come you can’t say it?”  “I can say it,” I said.  “You will not fade quietly into the night.”  “Say it like you mean it.”  “Okay, okay.  YOU will not fade quietly into the night!”  “Guess what, though,” she said, “I didn’t mean it.”  I sighed, but I then I saw the epicenter of mischief in her eyes.  



2 Comments

Wow. Incredibly powerful. The emotion is so strong and genuine; a very moving piece of writing.

I haven't read this yet, but this comment is just on the title. Have you read any of E.E. Cummings poetry? He does some cool stuff with ()s.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matthew R Moore published on September 19, 2010 3:13 AM.

I liked your book, but I wish you had written it differently was the previous entry in this blog.

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