Dream that one of my uncles commits suicide in front of me. We're in a green room, open windows, green carpet, standing semi-circle in a tiny room around a pulpit. He says something I didn't pay attention to, pulls out an oily black pistol.
Now we are all paying attention. This is the family on my father's side. I'm there on a road trip, just driving through. This uncle, I'll call him Sammy, he's always lived at home. He has a clubfoot, is a little slow, and he and my grandmother have always taken care of one another. He's not easy to talk to, but is a kind person, always happy to just be close to people.
He'd said something to me before pulling out the gun- some sort of strange aside which I couldn't understand-
and now as the pistol cracks and there is blood, so much blood flooding the green carpet and Sammy is suddenly dead on the ground, and I'm weeping, I realize his words were a test. Somehow I realize he had meant to take me with him into death as a favor, but changed his mind because of what I'd said: my thoughtless response.
I'm terrified, hysterical- this man, this innocent man who none of us thought to notice, all of this time he had been suffering. Invisible and suffering.
Blood everywhere. I'm calling my mom over and over, to let her know so she can tell dad. To warn her that dad might carry the same seed, the same propensity for secret suffering, for suddenly blowing one's brains out onto green carpet-
I sob and sob and the dream begins again. Now a memorial for Sammy. The green and bloody carpet. Beautiful green light through the windows. Clergy. A boy alongside me in the front row won't stop hitting on me- I grab him by the face and tell him to leave me alone so that I can listen, so I can mourn.
I realize young girls are watching me. After the mass they come up close, frightened but fascinated, and I realize I've made them question their status quo, this room, its resentful & hungry boys. But I can't stop weeping for Sammy. Useless weeping; he's gone. I dream of his suicide over and over until I finally wake up into sudden hush of morning.
Yesterday one of my favorite people was having a shitty day.
She texts, "Can I bring over a bottle of wine?" She's one of my most glamorous friends, with a hard-earned serenity. long honey-color hair and a yoga habit, but she's going through a rough patch. A shitty day at work. They've been trying to buy a house, but that's like trying to grab fire in this city. And other stuff.
I can relate, at least to the 'other stuff'- tell her about something similar that happened to me. She's visibly relieved.
"I always start thinking that I am a bad person," she says. "And I want so much to always have done the right thing. All we are in the world is the way we respond to things. Our actions. I want to be able to be proud of mine."
"I'm working on this thing now that has a psychiatrist character, so I'm reading all this Jungian stuff. I've been thinking about symbolism. For instance- my acne. It's like my social mask is becoming thin, its cracking. And you- with the vertigo and everything, it's like you're struggling to regain your balance. The symbolism in our everyday life, these arcs; you know it would all be obvious if we were reading a biography about someone else, but we're too close to our own lives to pick them out. The symbolism. It's something to consider anyway," I say. "Balance."
Later we are talking about her sweetheart, how she says he has trouble making a decision- "like, he obsesses. For weeks, Paula! But then he's fully in. I mean, it can be a good thing. Like with me- it took us a while to get fully together, you know. But now he never questions us. It's just, it drives me crazy because I can trust myself. You know? I trust my decisions; I can make them, boom!"
"But it doesn't sound like a problem, exactly," I say, "it sounds like he has a different way of being."
She laughs. "Uff, that is an understatement. Yeah... but I wonder,you know, I worry for him. He needs to be more decisive- for his career, if nothing else- and I wonder how I can help him to be more decisive..."
"Let's have a dinner again soon, we can bring it up and let Andrew spout at him," I say, and she laughs. "But... you know what? You do have to let him go on his own journey. He has to make his own revelations. You can't do any of it for him. And truly, maybe there's nothing wrong with his way of being. ... it's old-school in a wonderful way, isn't it?"
"His dad has had the same job his entire life. Can you imagine? So I think he's just terrified to commit to the wrong thing, ever. He's so loyal. He knows that about himself. Which is good..."
"I had this realization the other day- it is much easier to focus on other people, on helping them with what they need to do, because then it isn't your own soul on the line. Its so tricky; you need to support one another but also let each other grow in whatever way you need. You always have to take care of your own journey. That's so hard to do."
Her eyes water. She's been giving me advice about platform, about perseverance artistically. "That's what you can do! These little nuggets you're telling me. That thing you said from Thomas Moore earlier- “Failure is a mystery, not a problem-” you should put little stuff like that out there. It means something to you, it will mean something to others.”
“Yeah.” I refill our glasses.
Flies have swarmed the porch, but this is what we do- we always sit on the porch. We sit in the sunshine with our backs to the street. Meanwhile Andrew’s Boomchow subscribers keep coming up the driveway and we wave hello, talk to them.
Pauline West's first novel, EVENING’S LAND, is winner of the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Award and recipient of the Carol Marie Smith Memorial Scholarship for the NOEPE Center of Literary Arts.
Pauline West's books on Goodreads
Candlemoth: A Holy City Romance
ratings: 27 (avg rating 4.04)
ratings: 24 (avg rating 3.46)
Candlemoth Volume 2: How To Spend It
ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.40)
Candlemoth Book 3: A Twist of Fate
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.17)
Stalker: A Gothic Thriller
ratings: 4 (avg rating 4.25)