First Reading

I read from my book for the first time last night, at our first open mic of the year. I chose the first piece “Day of No Dead” because it isn’t too long or too short. When I got to the part about memories returning without effort, “her left leg trembling. The shock I felt at seeing her head nearly bald…Bending over to kiss her cheek,” and especially at this moment: “seeing dismembered strands of hair strewn on the pillow,” I choked up. I paused, tried to contain myself, almost didn’t go on. I couldn’t believe it–a rush of emotions completely through me off, un-beckoned, most likely repressed for too long much as a buoy forced underwater popping up unexpectedly. Perhaps it was guilt I had openly confessed in this piece–of mourning more for a lost pet than for a dying sibling. Or tangentially, still grieving over my father’s death one year and two months ago now. My relationships with both were not “typical,” whatever that means. As I ponder it now, I had conflicted feelings about both, which according to Zazen Buddhism, is essentially more about me than about them. I feel the loss of my father more strongly because I was in closer contact with him than with my sister. In his musings on the Singularity, Kurzweil claims that you really do lose a part of yourself when someone you love dies, the pattern of thought tied to that person. That part of your mind atrophies. And so I had lost touch with my sister long before she literally died. Yet memories of our youth filed deeply away, still within reach. Of course, when I read the part about seeing her shriveling body–a traumatic sight–it triggered all sorts of sadness, anger, misery, and confusion over what I was losing–a component of my lingering childhood and adolescence. You cannot cut ties just like that, no one can. And when you try, all the more mired you become, like trying to erase the stench of a dead skunk. I nearly stopped reading, but my kind audience, particularly a current student in English who had also read a brief but sweet poem about feelings. She said, “You can do it.” And I did. I had to forgive myself for indulging, I swallowed and went on to the finish, encouraged by kind faces of those enduring my long-winded essaying on the necessity of obituaries, and their overall failure to encapsulate any life.

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