December 27, 2012
So now you know
So, that was something.
I don’t know what to say after that. I either say nothing or everything. I wish I could share some profound truth that’s been revealed to me — I do feel like I know more now than I did before, but all the truths have been mundane. Everyone knows how the story starts: “I got the phone call…,” and beyond that the details don’t matter: where I was (home), what I was wearing (a towel), what I was planning to do that day (meet a collaborator and do some work), before I got the phone call. All that matters is that I got it, THE PHONE CALL, the one where someone’s dead. Doesn’t matter who or why, especially because there’s never a why. Somebody’s dead. It’s pretty generic.
It was my stepfather calling, which is how I’ve found myself describing him in the wake of all this — before, he was always “my mother’s husband,” but once you’ve heard a man keening, keening, like all of his organs were being strangled, I guess you have a relationship of your own. He said she had a heart attack. That’s pretty mundane. Quick, too, one hopes; one is led by oneself to believe.
You know what, I can’t do this. I can’t write about it yet. I don’t know what the fuck to say about anything anymore. My stepfather — and you know what, I don’t like that either, now that I see it in writing; I don’t like the possessive, “my,” because HOT POTATO, MOTHERFUCKERS, HE IS NOT MINE; and I especially don’t like the “father” part, which is a huge insult to real fathers everywhere, including my very awesome one; this guy’s had nothing to do with fathering anything except 70 million cats and a houseful of squalor — now I don’t know how to finish that sentence either. My mother’s husband. What about him. Enough.
My mother’s husband says she loved watching the Monday night sitcoms on CBS. Her favorite show was “Two Broke Girls.” This makes me want to start watching it. She used to love “Perfect Strangers,” back when I lived with her after leaving the group home. Sometimes I watched it with her. It was funny, at the time. When my mother laughed, it was almost silent; she sort of bowed forward and put her knuckle to her nose, then picked up her head again and said, “That’s hysterical,” or “I love it.” I know this is a stupid thing to say, but: She loved to laugh. (I’m waiting for the obituary that tells us the deceased hated to laugh.) I loved making her laugh.
She did a lot of “funny” voices, do you know people like that? There was a woman I worked with at New York Press who never ever spoke in her own voice. It was always, “Hey, pardner’, can ya make me an extra copy of that?”, or “See here, doll face, I’m going out to lunch now, see?” I worked with this woman for months, and she was continually in character, until one day she stopped by the assistants’ desk to tell me she was going home early. It was only noon, and she didn’t look well at all. I said hey, Deb, are you okay? And she said, in her own nondescript Mid-Atlantic accent, No, I don’t think so. No, not okay. And then she walked out and never came back. True story.
My mom’s favorite voices were Bronx and British, and she did both very well, as she grew up in the Bronx, and then had two British roommates when she was eighteen and working at Magic Novelty, which she always pronounced Mayic Novelty, in the voice of the Spanish-speaking women she worked with. She also had a version of the boop-boop-be-doo voice, but hers was much more cartoony than sexy. She was very interested in being beautiful, but she didn’t try to look sexy. That wasn’t her thing at all. I have a kind of exaggerated way of speaking, I think, with every word trying to do double duty: explicating meaning while also commenting on the ridiculousness of assuming that anything has meaning that could be explicated. I feel like I express a lot of verbal air quotes. I got this from her, for whom most everything was a kind of stage dialogue.
I think the thing I wanted to say above was something about the moment of the call, how I’d expected it someday but not so soon. How I’d always wondered what it was going to feel like to get that call; how bloodthirsty I thought that curiosity made me; how I worried that curiosity might overwhelm all the other feelings I wanted to have at that moment, and that I’d miss it somehow, that I wouldn’t be able to experience anything but the glamour of the moment — no sadness, no love, just ZOMG, it’s happening, wow. But that was not the case. One day maybe I’ll be able to say what it was, but it wasn’t that.