Memento mori

Memento mori

The insoluble fear that you’ve fucked it all. The slowly dawning realization that your belief system is flawed. Was flawed. The kind of words that are gold furniture varnish – no, golden lacquer on exquisite masks.

Age 4, crouching behind a black polyester cape, drool pooling around the gaps in my ill-fitting costume vampire fangs. “I vant. To thhhhhuck. Your bluuuut.”

I wonder if I love Halloween and that shit because it’s all just one big memento mori. You ever think about stuff like that? I just laid down on the floor for most of Rumours trying to stretch out my neck. My neck felt a little bit better at the end, but boy was I calm. You hardly ever do nothing for 40 minutes. Well, 39:43. But I did jump back up in the middle of “Gold Dust Woman” to get back to this story.

I think in a way even my skull tattoo is my idea of God. But then, I always have been drawn to systems where death was not an ending, but a transformation. Where skeletons could dance and specters (preferred spelling: spectres) walk among us, their icy touches hammering home just how small the distance.

Jesus beats vampire every time. It’s basic stuff. Somehow inside we all know that this world…this world is a clouded and broken looking glass, a pale and needful imitation of truth smelling of vulcanized rubber and fear sweat. Some focus on the fallen and some on the risen but somehow we all agree there are angels.

Soon as the little baby Jesus is born Herod wants him 86’d. Somehow life is only about death. But that can’t be. Whoa, buddy. You got enough shoe polish on that midlife crisis there?

But, uh…wow. I mean, a guy’s palms can sweat just thinkin’ about it. My dad told me by the age of 35 I oughtta write my life backwards starting with my obituary. Just a little nice casual driving talk. Fuckin’..oh my god just now my head drifted off to the side thinkin’ about just how fucking much I hate my job, and how I really can’t find any joy in it, and how it feel like the world is on fire and I give the weather report to the arsonists, but then it’s like, you can still fuck, right?

There’s a big loud fucking parade outside. I live right off the main street, which is somehow not called Main Street. Anyway, it’s the fourth of July. The parade is going down the street the wrong way. (Oh yeah, the main street is a one-way.) Sirens and sirens, it’s eery. How would any emergency get solved right now.

And that’s that memento mori shit! I think I could get a spot on a space vessel taking our best and brightest out into the galaxy to escape impending doom on Earth even though I’m gay because I would be extremely valuable in the capacity of predicting worst-case scenarios. “Guys, why do we have all the emergency response vehicles in this jurisdiction going the wrong way on a one-way in the middle of a day when people just blow their hands off with fire? I really think we might have to…re-imagine this parade. Without so many fucking fire trucks.”

Most of us forget that we will have to die. Most of us don’t take it seriously that we, also, like all people ever, will kick it at some point and vital functions will cease. Not that you can tell from our vainglorious immortality projects, with all their vim and confidence. You can trick time if you just get famous enough, we tell ourselves.

We tell each other.

My life is my immortality project, bless Jesus. Maybe I don’t have what it takes to really make it in late capitalism, but that doesn’t make late capitalism right.

I made peace with my maker even though I wasn’t really sure what he was, age of 16 when I had this thing in my neck that was hard to diagnose. I’m fine now, they got it, weren’t no big deal, except it took forever to figure out what it was, stumping all the doctors I went to. I thought if they couldn’t figure it out, I was probably a goner, and that’s how I sat out on a big hill in my mom’s backyard cross-legged and looked up into the sky until I wasn’t afraid to die anymore.

Sure have been afraid to live sometimes, though. Could be another explanation for why I like Halloween so much. Halloween gives me the impression that I could try it all over again as something else, even a tortured chained-up skeleton, no matter if I get creamed by a beer truck or blow my own brains out one day when I can’t get my amygdala to stop misfiring.

’Course I don’t really think I need this comfort anymore now that I’ve got Jesus, I’m just working some things out in my head.

These I think are responsible for my childish love of Halloween, but they cannot, I think, account for the holiday’s continuing hold on my heart.

Memento mori means ‘remember that you will have to die,’ but I think for grownups Halloween is a holiday to remind us that others will have to die, and indeed already have. As children death is frightening and it can be used to keep us in line morally and socially. But as we grow up, death becomes more real, and in doing so becomes less scary and more sad.

I am haunted now by absences in my life, and they will only increase in number as time goes by. The whole force of a friend blowing through the trees on the wings of a Tom Waits song. The ever-present pinprick of regret of never coming to terms with one you had wronged more than she had wronged you. The deracinated, empty face pulling away from the body even in stillness. The heavy iron chains that seem to shackle even the one who quakes her deathbed.

When we worry backward, we are children. When we worry forward, we are grownups. When we worry the present…but how can we not?

Someday there won’t be any more chances for me to finish Little Women. Someday I’ll have either been a good man or I won’t. And someday I’ll be looking forward to joining the ones who have gone on before. Or I won’t.

And that’s, I think, why I love Halloween.

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