A Dozeneuphemisms In The Family

I am here to bury Rex Sforza, to eulogize him, to finalize his life—he can’t do it because he’s dead. Suddenly, shockingly dead.

Not to “send him on his way”, not to “lose him”, not to “wish him sleep or rest” and heaven forbid, not to tell the world he’s “gone from us”.

There are precious few topics in my life where I have precious little patience for others, where I find their speech to be the ugly blathering of ugly mouths, and death is one of those times.

Lest you, Gentle Reader, think I am merely experiencing the anger phase of grief over the death of my good friend, the wonderful man Rex Sforza, I assure you that I am “merely” nothing and my brain can be in two (or many, many more) places at once.

It’s a multithreaded world and I had to find out about Rex’s death through the ridiculously indirect rubric of Facebook friend comment status update statuses which themselves contained the ridiculously indirect and abstract rubric of those who shrink back into euphemism when faced with the only absolute most gay men will ever face: death.

The only other absolute as human beings that exists is realization of a child, and only very very recently have I had the chance to see that reality on the face of a gay man I can truly relate to; that’s how I know it’s an absolute: by giving empathetic attention to a wonderful father.

My cousin Carol—though “cousin” hardly does justice to the familial closeness of the relationship—was online and listened. She’s awfully good at that. She’s awfully good at a lot of things that world seems to have lost the knack of. She and my other cousins, her sisters, all are, as are my two parents, three brothers and two sisters-in-law.

It’s a family of listeners and perhaps that’s why I have no patience for the masturbatory periphrasis of all these euphemisms. It’s fear that drives them, or a crowding of personalities to try to best each other, trying to “get all of the misery right”.

Literally, a crowdsourced effort to kill the notion of our Death in the Family.

But Rex was a man. A gorgeous, beautiful, brilliant, artistic man’s man. He was as flawed as me or you or any of us, as all of us, because he was one of us. That’s what made him so easy to touch and be touched by.

In fact, he always led with that. Rex and I weren’t ever “officially” in each other’s company until—it’s a good thing I can touch type because my eyes are closed and my head is back, face upturned towards the ceiling as I type this—until we’d reach out as men and grab one another’s hand in greed, as close friends pull each other into a hug, as gay men kiss each other on the mouth and as gay men who simply adored each other, lingered in the hug, fuzzy cheek against fuzzy cheek.

I’ll always remember those moments carved out of time with Rex—not so much the moments themselves because I would be completely given over to them, but rather the guardpages of time before and after. Especially after: the smile on his face just for me, and certainly there was a smile on my face that was just for him.

And then we just were there, with everyone else. It was both good and bad that we could be like that because I think both he and I took advantage of the fact that no matter how many months passed without checking in with each other, we could close the gap in a matter of moments as if no time at all had passed. So we let months at a time pass.

And now he’s not asleep, not gone, not lost. Not sent away.

He’s dead and there’s no lesson in that. There’s no hope in that. There’s no wishing for it to be anything other than so. There’s nothing good about it. There’s nothing noble in it. There’s nothing grand or splendid or propitious about it. There’s no reason to be sanguine about it now or ever.

I will miss him terribly, do miss him terribly. I know what it is to live with death and there’s no feeling better about it. There’s only distracting yourself from your disconsolation if you can’t live in your own skin, and only you can decide for yourself if that’s an offense to the memory of the dead or not.

There is no judgment from the outside in the matter of the death of a loved one, and if someone tries to tell you that—including me, and if you think that’s what this entry has been about, you’re one of the people for whom the redundancy “reading for content” was invented—pity them.

And kindly tell them to stop interfering with your shit.

I loved you a lot, Rex, and I’m glad I always made sure you knew it. And selfishly, I’m even happier you always let me know you loved me, too.

My friend is dead and the world is short one short, beefy giant of a man.

The Case of the Flash-Aphasia

There’s always something more you can do. That’s what I’ve always told myself. I’m not being glib here. I always have. Always. That indefatigable sense of, well, I’m just not sure. Lay persons would call it optimism. Pessimists have called it idealism. For me, it’s been more of a mathematics issue: gamblers would paraphrase me with “you’ve got to play to win”. In other words, where there’s life there is, if not hope, at least opportunity.

If you’re waiting for an “until now”, your wait is over. This time, at least, I’m predictable.

Until two days ago, by far the nastiest test of my stubborn bright side was when Allen was very close to death. So close, in fact, that his body (he wasn’t there anymore) lacked the muscle tone to keep his vocal cords out of the path of his labored breaths. Go ahead, try it yourself: take a deep breath and sigh. A long sigh. But let your voice come through that breath. Awful, isn’t it? A hollow sound, plangent and plaintive and nothing more. As if Unstoppable Time is extracting life from you with a painful billow.

Still, when Isabelle coached me that day she told me, “There are details you don’t have to pay attention to anymore, Jeff. This isn’t going to end but the one way.” And still there was some stubborn, almost autocratic, bit of me that twitched with involuntary disagreement. It’s not that I didn’t know it would end that way, it’s just that the absoluteness of her words kept ricocheting around inside my giant head and standing my ground was the first attempt to make it stop.

The beginning of the end was only a month or so prior to his death, when I came home one day and he was speaking to me but not using the right words. He’d grabbed a pen and a notepad and wrote down what he was trying to say, but his assumption that it was only his speech that was damaged turned out to be wrong. There were words on the pad, but nothing any more sensical than his speech.

Approximately fifteen hours ago minus thirteen years, Allen’s body was making that exact sound. Approximately fourteen hours ago (again, minus the thirteen years), the sound had stopped. Silence had won and I despised it even while respecting its sway over our bedroom. I spoke softly and kissed him on his cold lips, saying, “Goodbye, Yog.” No tears, certainly no wailing. I was nothing but the Utilitarian Stoic: there were things to be done, coroner to call, family to call, my voice aimed at anyone who had the ability to hear me.

But this is not about Allen, it’s about me. That’s a new thing. As you might have read, I had a slightly-more-than-a-moment first-hand experience with aphasia myself.

And my previously indomitable “where there’s life there’s opportunity” obduracy has finally met its match. Oh, it’s “probably nothing”, my little aphasic episode. The doctors at Davies’ ER said so. “Atypical migraine” they called it. Two CT scans, one with and one without contrast dye, showed all-clear, but fear is winning. Fear is the mind-killer, it’s been written, but my fear is about the potential mind-loss. The philosophical cart ahead of the paralogical horse is not a practical configuration.

The fear is so front-and-center that I’m not sure about my LA trip anymore. A strange city where I know no doctors, no hospitals. A trip that I’ve so much been looking forward to—especially in getting to meet Adam—that I haven’t been able to much think beyond July 18. And yet still, right now, I can’t imagine myself doing anything but bringing people down, much less having any fun myself.

Anyway, all of this put another way? After Allen’s death thirteen years ago today I reminded myself with authentic confidence that “I’m still here”. It was a restorative that never failed me. Now I cannot even muster those words without also adding “but for how long?”

I miss him, y’know? But right now I’m worried that I’ll miss me more.

The Society of Solitude

You don’t find out what really hurts until the hurt does its thing and is past. Even in those aftertimes, the After-ness lasts and lasts, coloring each step, each breath, each thought. Hurt is that dark hound in the dark night in the dark times. The wolf may have his hour, but Hurt—Hurt trundles along, rickety wheel-turn after rickety wheel-turn through day and night, through sleep and awake times, never permitting deep sleep nor full consciousness, for that matter.

Hurt is the path it leaves behind. Hurt is everywhere nothing is. Hurt is a shadow cast from no principal. Impossible, yet undeniable.

As far as forces of nature go, Hurt Cheats.

Hurt is a dirty drug, one of those substances that brings no leisure nor entertainment value. Hurt finds Hurt and goes synergetic. Hurt piles on because it flares higher, burns brighter when arranged like charcoals in a barbecue pit.

A human becomes a a stencil cut-out and Hurt sprays around it. Such Silhouettes peel themselves off the walls and off the floors. They slog along, dripping paint like breadcrumbs drawing still others along to where the real party happens: Empty shells lacking depth playacting at being real and vital, taking blind stabs at genuineness and intimacy, all self-congratulatory for Living Full Lives.

Except that the pretty colored spin-art splattering the walls is neither art nor beauty, just orgiastic false-coruscation.

But the Hurt agree it’s evidence of the sublime, pretty colors to brighten a day and stave off the Hurting for even just a brief interval—respite where you can get it.

Fear.

Fear is a fertile soil for germinating Hurt. Fear of Loneliness. Of Hurt. Of Solitude. Of Self. Of Awareness. Of Awakeness. Of Choice. Of Free Will. Of Risk. Of Being Wrong. Of Being Right. Of being Alive. Too Alive. Not Alive Enough. Of Being.

The Hurt scatter, climbing into their own shadows in wait for the next lodestone to appear, on which they clamor and claw, hoping for more than the sad Silhouette but too timid to just reach out for it for fear of—yeah, you got it—getting Hurt.

Sure it’s a bitch living with Fear. Living with Hurt. Living in Fear that we’ll each have to one day accept ourselves as Self-Mendicating bits of flotsam, there but for the grace of no one but our own self and our own accomplishments, our own accumulations of wisdom and ignoble acquisitiveness.

And we do it all Alone. And we do it in spite of and because of Fear. And Hurt.

Or we don’t and we die Alone. In Fear. Hurting.