Secret Pop

Oct 28, 2004

There are flies on the windscreen, for a start.

Sarah just called to tell me that our cousin Michael passed away this morning. Yesterday, we found out that he was in a coma. I don't really know any of the details. Only that he was in Israel and that he was HIV-positive and that he was the closest thing to a son my dad ever had and that he was my Aunt Geri's favorite person in all the world, her grandson. I hadn't seen Michael in years, but I remember him treating me like a person even when I was a little child. And I remember going swimming with him in our pool in Northern California. I remember those things with great fondness.

Last night, I wore a black turtleneck sweater that I haven't worn in a while. I always have trouble finding it when I go to look for it. A sea of black knits to rifle through. I hung it over the back of a chair in my room last night when I was getting ready for bed, and this morning, I picked it up and caught that familiar scent that many of my sweaters have. My perfume. My skin. My sweat, I guess, if we're being grown-ups about it. Nowadays, that scent always transports me back to one very specific point in time. One very specific night in an autumn of a few years ago. When my sweaters brush past my face and they carry this scent, I am taken there immediately and without fail. And without reprieve. This sweater has been sitting in a drawer for at least a year. Possibly two. I might have put it away without washing it -- you can do that with sweaters, right? as long as you don't wear them for an impromptu game of touch football? -- and it sat there in my drawer, waiting to be sent back into the game. Dormant. But the scent stuck with it. Even my washed sweaters seem to hang on to a bit of it. Something that would seem to be the most organic and impermanent quality. It lingered. As if there was something living on in my clothes. As if some part of me might live on when I am absent. You can smell my perfume when I leave the room. Sometimes you can smell it when I haven't been in the room for days. There are fingerprints on things that I don't remember touching. There are flower petals pressed between the pages of books. Some of them have fallen behind pieces of furniture. I won't remember I own them until it's time to move. There are notes I wrote and left. There are songs I made up. There are expressions I make with my face that only people who know me understand. There are ashes in my fireplace and dishes in my sink. There are reasons for me to be remembered. Perhaps enough to outnumber all the reasons I should be forgotten. There are desk calendars I wrote things in. Documents of my passing. Scribbles that tell where I was supposed to be and where I went. I got an incredible feeling of déja vù the other night at Matt and Lesley's play. I think it was during the synchronized swimming portion (which was my favorite part). And there is no way I had seen it or knew what it was going to look like, but it was like I was seeing something so familiar. Like I'm living my life in a loop. And I keep passing by these same scenes. Maybe it's how we deepen the grooves, deepen the footprints. Maybe it's how we prove it.

The scent of my sweater, especially right at the neck, makes me think that parts of us live on, even when they're tucked away in a drawer. Even when they dwindle in disuse. People persist in the world. Even when you haven't seen them since that time you went swimming with them in the pool in your backyard. They stick around with you. The only afterlife I can conceive of is the continuing story of everything you ever did being passed down in an oral history to the people who know your name. Heaven is when they only retell the good parts.

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