Thursday, June 2, 2016
asking too much
the egregiousness of living on, the ontology of death. when laura cubarubbia died in 9th grade, having hung herself in a forested area near her parents' house in ohio, there was no way to understand what had happened. remembering her life, her living, the moment of her death, or the moment of hearing about her death--none of it goes anywhere in thinking about the absence of her in the world. what i'm thinking about now is the feeling that comes with this. there were a couple of the teachers we had been close to, and whom we had all met with the next morning, and they told us not to act like we could just go on, that it was not like any other day. in many ways, that was the only thing to hold onto, the sense that just because everything else did, you didn't have to continue on. already quiet, i didn't have anything to say. i remember that about being in the counselor's office at school, and i remember that about being together with other classmates--not being able to say a thing, and how everything that was said felt like a blow; the incommensurability, a kind of violence enacted by just being there. as if this was asking too much.
i've felt that in the past week, returning to minnesota from california, from the death of someone who was, unlike laura, very distant to me, but part of a community that i feel very close to. there is only a limning of a connection, and yet, there is a loss and an absence that i continue to stumble over, to not get beyond.
writing about the death of her adult son in Time Lived, Without Its Flow, Denise Riley tries to account for an experience of time--located specifically in the experience of a mother following the death of a child--that is the stopping of time. She begins: "I'll not be writing about death, but about an altered condition of life. The experience that not only preoccupied but occupied me was of living in suddenly arrested time: that acute sensation of being cut off from any temporal flow that can grip you after the sudden death of your child. And a child, it seems, of any age" (7). death as "an altered condition of life." if death is what happens to the dead, then this altered condition is a way of describing how this death--and the person who remains dead--continues to relate to those who (must) live on. a state of insufficiency that is also an asking too much. and then one wonders, what is life ever, if not this?
i've also been thinking in the past months about the acuteness or sensitivity to feeling after a loss of life, after a death, about what opens up here that does not elsewhere and what remains in this space that others seem to want to evacuate too soon, as it's suffocating or a form of death itself. i came to this in thinking about how palpable the sense of loss is to me in indiana, where my young cousin died, now nine years ago in a car accident. it's still not possible to go there, as i did just over a month ago, and not feel that his death lives on. it's not possible to not feel this everywhere, but especially, perhaps, in forms of silence that reach out to you, still. thinking about the poignancy of this, i went to thinking about how, with the death of my dad's mom when i was a year, it would have been quite possible to have a very acute (although unrecognized) sense of one's life being itself the continuing on after/of another's death. my dad's 30+ year depression is in this case not insignificant, itself something that has altered, it seems, only in the past two or so years.
when laura died, all i could see for years was the side of death. it was only possible to see everything about "life" i was learning--i remember it especially in the case high school history--as about death, or end, or stoppage, or disappearance, or non-existence. it was as if it was some kind of hallucination, like the only thing you could see was something that wasn't there for others.
riley writes, "How, then, can I struggle to convey this sharply distinctive life inside a new temporal dimension--while in the same breath I want to save it from being treated as unapproachable, and exceptional? That, straightforwardly enough, might be a question of allowing the myriad specificities of loss their distinctive impacts on lived time" (52). i have questions about what this temporal dimension might be--how to even think of "stopped time," making quick recourse to the tropes of repetition and the kind of stoppage or movement toward stillness that is deliberated there. a temporal dimension that opens up from image loss, or absence of impression, for example, of no longer having something you can "hold in hand," maintain (main-tenir).
all of the photos of california i took after the party were on a camera that i then lost/left behind, somewhere between the car rental place and the airport. probably nothing special, but i wondered, like rei's having lost her keys, if there was a desire for divestment, or a sense of insufficiency, or a hint that that was already asking too much, about continuing.