The starry veil showed up completely out of the blue on the night my dad died. I had a guitar and was playing a song at his bedside in hospice when it appeared. He was on percussion, that death rattle cabasa in his throat, and I saw it twinkle from the corner of my eye. It was a shimmering curtain the length of the wall, soft and tremulous and as real as my own skin. I stopped singing and turned toward it, but it vanished immediately.
On the song’s final note, dad exhaled for the last time. My siblings and I huddled like penguins, kissed the tears off each others’ faces.
I got home that night and guzzled a whole bottle of wine. That’s what you do after you watch your father die, you guzzle wine, fill your veins with blood red booze until your brain throbs hard against its bone cage and you bob and swirl around the whole of the world’s oceans all night long.
From: Chelsea W. [email@example.com]
Sent: December-06-10 10:57 PM
Subject: Dizzy Love
It is hard to be in love. It is hard to be in love with you. I have no other frame of reference, so I’m assigning meaning as I go along.
It’s hard because it’s dangerous. Exhilarating, wonderful, but mostly dangerous, which is maybe the reason I’ve been so contained. Please don’t mistake my containment as a lack of feeling. I worry that you don’t know the depth of my feeling for you, and then I worry that you do. So much worry, and all about love. It takes up a lot of time, doesn’t it?
Sometimes I also worry that I like the idea of being in love better than the experience of it. There are no stakes in a fantasy life, so no danger. But this does feel dangerous, what’s happening between us. I don’t want to lose my independence and I can feel it being lost as I become more entwined in you and care only to be with you. I’m afraid I might lose myself in you a piece at a time, and then what? What will be left of me?
I think of what you said that night, laying in bed. And you’re right, I don’t know who I’ll be in a year or five years or ten. Neither of us do. Part of me hopes to be alone, but a bigger part wants to spend my time comforting and being comforted by you. And an even bigger part wants to understand you, and for you to understand me, and how else can people do that unless they spend years together? And then what happens to your identities as individuals? It seems to me that they would become tangled up and impossible to tell apart, impossible to understand. But I’m tired right now from all this falling in love and sex and lack of sleep, and maybe I’m being goofy. Maybe nobody needs to understand anybody, and trying is a stupid waste of time. Maybe real love isn’t about understanding at all, but about recognition, and about trying, again and again, to catch a glimpse of what remains when you tear down the bricks and mortar that we spend our lives building up around the rooms inside. You don’t have to understand, you just have to look in casually and wave and say Hey, how’s it going in there? Weird – your place looks a lot like my place!
Who knows? I want a hot dog.
“MagiCode Computers, Aaron here!”
“Hello! What can I do for you?”
“Download a human brain.”
“No, I mean extract it. It’s already in there.”
“Is this a problem with your PC?”
“Okay, tell me what the problem is and let’s see if there’s anything we can do to help you out.”
“Aaron, look, it’s not complicated. I was petting the starry veil, which is just in the periphery of my vision. It feels like a star with bunny slippers on and it told me to sprinkle one cup of my husband’s ashes into the hard drive of my computer. So I did and I need help extracting his essence from it now.”
“… um. Hold on, I’m just going to ask my boss.”
In the first few weeks after my dad’s death, Kris spent a lot of energy trying to comfort me.
“Talk to me, darling,” he’d say, and I’d tense up, pull my dress over my knees and shake my head and sigh.
“I don’t want to talk. I don’t feel like explaining things.”
“Here, stop being so cold with me, lean against me – please. Listen, I don’t want you to explain things, I want to try to understand. ”
“Well I don’t want you to try to understand. I want you to accept that you don’t understand and let me do what I’m doing, okay?”
A few times he took my face in his hands out of frustration, tried to twist his eyes into mine like screws. I smiled limply, squirmed away.
I didn’t want to be understood. I didn’t want to be reached, or seen, or comforted by anyone. All I wanted to do was focus on the periphery and examine the starry veil, so why couldn’t he just let me?
Eventually, after weeks of trying to connect and comfort and understand, Kris gave up. He began to treat me like a glass balloon instead, a depressing and delicate ornament, a thing that didn’t make any sense and had no place our home. He avoided me, tip-toed around me. He got drunk and moped and stared at me from the other side of the room, hoping his hurt would draw me in. It didn’t work. I was a haunted doll, vacant and untouchable.
Anyway, I couldn’t tell Kris about the veil. He would never have understood.
From: Kris <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, Dec 7, 2010 at 5:33 PM
Subject: RE: Dizzy Love To: “Chelsea” <email@example.com>
Sure it’s dangerous, but what if the thing you want most in life is right in front of you, but you won’t acknowledge it, because it doesn’t fit with your expectations of yourself. I’ve wasted so much life, that way. And so much of other people’s, as well. And you just keep marching on, through this grey and unfulfilling life, brutally unhappy and detached. Not just from the people around you, but from yourself. Unable to let go, and go for the brass ring. And try to be really happy. It’s too damn easy to be safe. Even though safety may be really just standing on a shrinking iceberg, afraid to really fly, not believing it can be done, while birds soar overhead. Don’t be fearful. Be a bird with me.
You speak of spending years seeking understanding. That’s marriage, I think. And, some people are happy in marriage. I see a lot of them, among friends and family. I really do. But, dammit, you have to marry the right person, at least. You can’t just make it work with anyone, even if it was good, for awhile. And hanging onto commitment for commitment’s sake is a death sentence for your soul. It’s such a waste. I’m not asking you to lose yourself in me, but I do want to understand you. I want to try.
At least as much of a problem as commitment for its own sake, is the way people define their relationships. They need words for them. But the words are only useful to describe the state of it to the rest of the world. When you start using the words to describe it to each other, the words themselves become traps. A relationship is never other than what it is. And to think of them any other way is pure folly. They ebb, and flow. They reach an apex, a summit, and then retreat again. Sometimes they do it again. And again. And sometimes, they don’t. It’s the way of things, all things, the relationships all things have with each other. As you pointed out in an earlier email, in nearly the same way. It’s not something to be mourned. If anything, it’s to be celebrated. You can’t cling to a moment that has passed, you never can. Likewise, you can’t see the future, and so much of what you’ve described seems to be about fear. Fear of not being understood, or, of not understanding. Fear of losing yourself, of slipping away. But Chelsea, you can’t grasp for beauty, as it slips away. A child doesn’t. Why should we, as adults? A child never mourns a moment’s passing, for they know another always follows. One that has all the promise of the one that’s passed. All the joy. Sorrow is an emotion that comes from looking back, and seeing beauty receding. Fear is about looking ahead, holding the beauty of the moment in your hands, and seeing it ripped away in those mountains in the distance.
A young child never looks back. That must be the source of their joy. It must be.
I’m really looking forward to seeing you, tomorrow.
Kris proposed to me when I was pregnant with our son.
I was in bed, just drifting into sleep, my hips aching and a pillow between my legs. The lights came on and I sat up, bleary-eyed. It was the middle of the night and Kris was kneeling beside me on the bed, a ring held between his thumb and fingers. He didn’t even ask, he just said Marry me, darling.
The ring was opal and encircled with teeny diamonds. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. It looked like the universe, like those galaxies with all the blues and purples and fire.
A few weeks before he died, I looked at my ring while I was in the shower. Half of the opal was gone. It looked like someone had taken a tiny hammer and ice pick to it, this jagged cut all the through the middle, with only blackness left on one side. I couldn’t remember hitting my hand on anything. I was always careful with the ring, because I loved it so much. One day the opal was whole, and the next it was half. How does half a universe just disappear?
“Can I come to your grief counseling with you? I’d like to come. I really loved your dad too.”
“No. Not a good idea.”
“But why? I want to support you.”
“Because honestly? I don’t trust you.”
“Wow. That’s really hurtful.”
“Maybe if you took a single night away from following the siren song of vodka, I’d feel differently.”
“You know what? You can be a real bitch, you know that?”
“Yeah yeah yeah, such a bitch, blah blah. Leave me alone.”
And he did.
It was only days after Kris died that I discovered this: by reaching to my side and humming the song Starfish on the Toast, by Donovan, I can actually grab hold of the veil. It turns out that the veil has the fur of an electric bunny, warm and mammalian and responsive to human touch.
The veil has been whispering things to me. Sweet things, sweet little nothing things and little poems. And also, directions – like this:
Get some of Kris’ ashes and put them inside your computer.
Get a bunny and plant it like a seed – that’s how new universes grow!
Take off all your clothes, roll in some dirt and curl up behind the Silver City movie theatre. Do it now; more directions will follow.
Ask the 7-11 clerk if he likes BBWs. Yes? Show tits. No? Show tits.
Did you ever think that the fabric of the universe would feel like bunny fur?
I’ve never been to one, but I’m pretty sure that ghost weddings have been done before and are relatively easy to pull off. All you do is plan the wedding and the ghosts will show up, like in Field of Dreams but with a groom and parents instead of baseball players. Because fuck it, I said yes to getting married – I never agreed to cancel my wedding, and I still want to marry Kris, so I’m going to. And all of our friends and family will be there, and the aisle will be a path of candles and lit pumpkins winding through the forests of arbutus and garry oaks to the top of Mount Tolmie, and the bats and deer will say hooray as I glide up the hill in my lovely dress. My dress made of spider silk, half galaxy and half black, all glittery and fine. My ghost father will be there in his 80s corduroy suit, and he will walk me gently upward while my ghost mother dabs the tears away, so proud and tender. And at the summit all I will have to do is close my eyes to see Kris there in his rumpled wedding suit, his beard all black and wild, his eyes all fire. And I will say my vows to the invisible him, my tragic poet, my scientist, my lover, my ghost. And the stars will clap and the band will play and we will feast and dance into the night.
Won’t you join us?
Space limited. RSVP.
Some jellyfish can go back to being babies after they reach a certain stage of development. But not the rest of us, the rest of us all go the same way, no chance of reverting back to a polyp and starting again. The heart stops, the brain shuts down. Loving and thinking, the two things that get us humans into the most trouble – poof! Gone. Trouble over.
There are CPUs piled among clumps of cat litter and styrofoam at the dump. Most of them could be plugged in and made to run again.
Kris’ body should not have died – it doesn’t make any sense. His heart was strong and unclogged, his brain a shining puzzle of perfect parts.
There was just no driver all of a sudden. The driver was gone.