Sunday, August 17, 2008

Ghost in the Machine

I had forgotten how she moved, the way her stare had in it everything she was considering about any one task, and also everything outside of it. She taught me more about focus than anyone I've ever known. I had forgotten that in the year before she died, she'd starting doing her hair with some very expensive clay-based product, forming an unruly spray on top of her head. I had forgotten how her voice carried through the room only if you were listening for it--only if she meant for your to hear it. She said to me once, "I don't like speaking without meaning."

But it's all there. Or rather it's all here, in this YouTube video, which was sent to me by her once-partner Pam via email this week. My friend Meg died three years ago this September. The details are here and here if you want to go through them again.

This forgetting is exactly what I was afraid of. As backwards as it is, the grief that drives you deeper and deeper into yourself after something awful like this happens, it brings you close to that person. The details of their life explode into view over and over, even while you sleep. Especially while you sleep. This is not to say that I liked it. I hated it. But in some way, grieving is like hanging out with that person. And so you get to have them around a bit longer.

I realize that this feeling that they're hanging around is false. It's only your memory of that person replaying in your head--a sort of one-sided friendship. The time you stayed awake until the sun came up talking about your fucked-up families. The time you caught her, literally as she fell from the top of of the stairs, and landed in pile at the bottom. The time you started making jokes about the pickled plum paste in the drawer of the fridge and how that became a huge, undying metaphor for everything you ever did together, or knew of each other. For some reason.

In the Tom Hanks episode of "Inside the Actor's Studio," he talks about making "Philadelphia," and working with an HIV+ extra, who died before the movie was released. "And there he is on the screen," Hanks says, through tears. "These things, they last forever."

I'm glad the tape lasts forever.

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