I wrote something about this character I had in mind, Charlie Topping. Things like ‘he was my oldest friend; we went to college together; he really loved bacon.’ A week later the eulogy arrived via email.
Since this was a book about writers and hyper-literate New Yorkers, it was an opportunity to really dive in deep.
The kind of book I wrote,” he explained between sips of coffee, “is the kind of book I like to read.
I went to Google, and though this was almost ten years ago, which is like 100 years in internet time, I found a ready-to-go eulogy to buy within about twenty seconds.
Millions of Americans do strange or extreme things without quite being able to articulate why.
Millions of Americans fall apart each year. Millions of Americans can’t quite explain how they feel or why and don’t know what to do about it. Millions of Americans try to connect the dots but can’t. Millions of Americans have stopped trying. Millions of Americans don’t give a shit. Millions of Americans cry quietly in the kitchen. Millions of Americans are still waiting.
"A beach is a terrible place for a standoff. Even the ground will not back you up. And yet, how many beaches have been launch pads for invasion? How many a spot that armies storm?"
Image from Flickr via Miguel Figueroa
From “White Girls,” by Hilton Als
We met in 1982—I was twenty-two, he’s seven years older—and the only time I effectively left our twinship for a time was in 1992. That year my beloved K died from AIDS. He was diagnosed in 1990, and I spent 1990, 1991, and 1992 in a kind of couple daze. I’d look on as old men walked down city streets arm in arm with their wives. I would watch babies resting on their mothers’ bellies in patches of grass and sunlight in Central Park. I would watch cigarette-smoking teenagers glittering with meanness and youth, whispering and laughing as they shopped on lower Broadway. These exchanges of intimacy were all the same to me because they excluded me, that twin who somehow lost his better half. I was an I, an opera of feeling with a very small audience, a writer of articles about culture but with no real voice, living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, a dream of love growing ever more expansive because it was impossible, especially in the gay bars I sometimes frequented in Manhattan, where AIDS loved everyone up the wrong way, or in a way some people weren’t surprised by, particularly those gay men who were too indifferent to be sad—in any case night sweats were a part of the conversation people weren’t having in those bars, in any case, taking your closest friend in because he was shunned by his family was part of the conversation people weren’t having, still, there was this to contend with: friend’s shirt collars getting bigger; still, there was this to contend with: his coughing and wheezing in the little room off your bedroom in Brooklyn because TB was catching, your friends didn’t want you to catch it, loving a man was catching, your friends didn’t want you to get it; his skin was thin as onionskin, there was a lesion, he couldn’t control his shit, not to mention the grief in his eyes, you didn’t want to catch that; those blue eyes filled with why? Causing one’s sphincter to contract, your heart to look away, a child’s question you couldn’t answer, what happened to our plans, why was the future happening so fast? You didn’t want to catch that, nor the bitterness of the sufferer’s family after the death, nor the friends competing for a bigger slice of the death pie after the sufferer’s death, you certainly didn’t want to catch what it left: night sweats, but in your head, and all day, the running to a pay phone to share a joke, but that number’s disconnected, your body forgets, or rushes toward the love you remember, but it’s too late, he’s closer to the earth now than you are, and you certainly don’t want to catch any of that. So. You search, like some latter-day Frankie Addams in Carson McCullers’s The Member of the Wedding, for your “we of me,” but at a distance. Your we could be dying, but so filled with love, all those couples in the park, dancers in the street, unlike you, so resentful of the romantic strain love engenders, the pulverizingly tedious self-absorption loss wraps you in: I was subjected to that. This is what it meant to me. The ego—what a racket. And what of the person who actually disintegrated, and the imprint of his sad eyes and rotten luck in your living atmosphere of air and buildings? He has only you to go by now. To stay awake to the memory of his toes, and small buttocks in those jeans, the sound of his heels on the floor, and what it sounded like when he said “we,” as you lay in bed holding his dying in your now relatively well-ordered world of health and well-being.
Read the rest at Guernica / A Magazine of Art & Politics
Standing above me and around me I see how we are all the same, that none of us are white women or black men; rather, we’re a series of mouths, and that every mouth needs filling: with something wet or dry, like love, or unfamiliar and savory, like love.
From “A Lifetime of Food,” by Naz Riahi
Maryam gets up and puts on the samovar, looks outside to see if the squirrels and the birds—mostly crows—have taken the salvaged food she leaves for them at night. They have. They always do. There is a joke that one of the grandchildren made. She remembers it now: A grandmother who has turned herbivores into carnivores. The grandmother who always feeds. Relentlessly.
Which grandchild said it? She can’t remember. There are other jokes and other grandchildren and years between her thoughts and memories.