I’m listening to my own heartbeat right now.
For the past few days the moment I knew would happen did take its turn on my emotions and I crumbled beneath it. On the 14th of October and days leading up to it, I knew that I would become withdrawn, pulled back, sedentary. And as suspected, said day came and I refrained from the normal patterns of life that many require of me….
There are stupid things I do that I know Peni would disapprove of. She would hate for me to memorialize her. She’d hate for me to gripe. She’d be livid.
(Now pay very careful attention to that sentence because it reeks volumes of what’s been happening of late…..its all in past tense….no remark of how she IS).
I keep her in the grave, in some way my head works. And it’s not doing me any good. So, after a long bout of cleaning, scrubbing, knitting, washing, cleansing to keep myself busy and in my own head yesterday, it dawned on me this morning: I can keep her as the corpse down and dead….or I can remember that she’s with me, her spirit smacking me aside the face when I’m ridiculous.
You know, that was her motive with me. She’d often say, “You’re so lucky you’re pretty. Because you can be so STUPID sometimes!”
She didn’t relish in my disasters. She did her best to help me avoid them. She was my safety net when I said, “Hey! Guess what I can do????”
Throughout yesterday I was trying to find ways to let her go.
But, in her usual form, she reminded me that it was lunacy. I never felt good. I felt ill throughout the day. This morning, 5am, I felt it. She’s with me, she’s not gone anywhere. She’s beside me, above me, around me, still smacking me and saying, “When will you learn??? I LOVE YOU!….I’m not gonna let you fall prey to your own ridiculousness.”
So, on October 14th I crouched under the anniversary of her passing. On October 15th, I relish in the 16 years we had together. A faithful friend, a “spouse,” a mentor and messiah. (yes, she considered herself the husband in the relationship. I was called “wife.”
I have a lot of guilt over her passing. I had moved back to Savannah, so our relationship wasn’t quite the same. But, as with all great romances, we were never done, separated, nor detached….just on hiatus. I received a voice mail from her that said, “I really need to talk to you. Please, please call me back.” I was busy with life, busy with adventures and waited a few days. No answer. I sent emails. No answer. I thought nothing of it. Let it go, let it slide. On her birthday I sent one of our favorite bits of comedy. Tracy Ullman pretending to be a black woman working for the TSA. (Watch the clip here, you’ll piss yourself). No response. Finally, deciding to see what theatrics she was up to, I Googled her name.
That’s when I found out through obits and memorials that she had died of lung cancer, just a few days before her 40th birthday. I hunted down mutual friends and it was wild to me, abrasive to me, that so many people questioned, “We wondered why you weren’t at her funeral.”
I got so wrapped up in my own head that I had no clue my friend had not only died, but had tried to say goodbye. And that’s only part of the guilt I work with often.
Peni and I did a lot of theatre. Yes, I fancied myself an actor, but was only so-so. She was brilliant. SHE was an actor. I was just along for the ride. We played in Blithe Spirit. I was Charles. She was my first dead wife come back to haunt me. How wild to think of it now. I was a writer, that’s what I did. I wrote lovely dark things and we performed my short stories in coffee houses. And at one point she said, “Why is it I always DIE in your stories????” In homage, I wrote a piece in 2007 called, “Cheap Red and Nearly Dead,” that was published in “Stories Inspired By Siouxsie.” It was based on the song, “Are You Still Dying, Darling,” but was captured by our actual rendezvous with the populace.
Yes, SHE DID go to a grocery store painted grey (while we were doing Blithe Spirit). Yes, WE DID get shit faced and audition for a play as a joke…and got the parts. Yes, I DID scream an involuntary racial slur (“CHINK!”) in the middle of a Chinese restaurant. I did capture those moments in that story, because they were hysterical interludes in a life that kept us bonded. We terrorized, we theorized, we bluntly beat up with our own sense of self endeavors, that we were going to have fun. I wrote the ending of the story with her dying…..never knowing in one million lifetimes that it would actually come true.
So, to anyone who wishes to read, I’ve posted a pdf of “Stories Inspired By Siouxsie.” Scroll until you find “Cheap Red and Nearly Dead.” I think you’ll laugh…I think you’ll cry….I think you’ll understand why I have such a hard time with this. I didn’t ever think the end would be factual.
…and life imitates art.
While you’re reading the story, I’m going to spend a few moments having lunch, watching the clip of Tracy Ullman again and again….and then rest a few. Yesterday I tried to do what I could to let go of her. Today, I’m going to reunite and laugh with her.
Peni Lotoza. Oct. 20, 1969-Oct. 14, 2009
“Do you know what she’d be doing now,” she asked me as my grandmother lay passing. “She’d be wondering, ‘I can’t wait to see what happens next!'”