the earth standing still

gortdaytheearthstoodstimm9.jpg

Do something for me, will you? Either make me laugh, or say something dumb so that I can sock you in the teeth. I need to break this stalemate one way or the other.

Some people think that who I am in life is not who I am here. They’re wrong.

Here, I may be more diplomatic, less likely to be made to feel small, less impulsive. Fair enough. Otherwise, this is the only place in which I’m remotely close to the truth. In life I make it up. I say that I’m fine, a robot devised, built and controlled by the true Kate to serve the purposes of chit-chat, good manners and daily life—mostly so that I don’t either laugh or sock people in the teeth when I shouldn’t.

In life, what you see is the one on the right. The voice that lives here is the one on the left.

Just so we’re clear.

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"I still can't believe that she's not alive anymore," wrote a friend of her baby girl. "That she was born so sick. That she lived for two months and then died. When does that stop happening, that feeling of disbelief?"

"I think probably never," I replied. "But it changes."

First you can’t believe your baby is gone. Then you can’t believe that you are gone, too. You are simultaneously more gone and more found than you’ve ever been in your life, a beautiful thing. You feel so much more and think so much less. You spit venom at anyone who would dare presume to either cross this gulf or heckle you from the other side of it. Death has draped one and then two silky-thin sheaths over you, one being a pallor, the other being concentrated gratitude, and with one on top of the other the resulting effect is a disordered fog that’s unconvincing either way.

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The other night I went to the old graveyard again. I was supposed to be elsewhere so I didn’t stay long, but felt again that its inhabitants wondered why I was there. The headstones stared at a churning ocean, and the sky was thick with dusk, and the wind was a chill.

I sat down next to one of three unwritten markers, just simple slate, and the ground emanated warmth, strangely, like a hum. Something told me I sat with a man, and I said I’m sorry if I’m squashing you and he said Never mind and I said Who were you? and he said A long way from home and I said oh and then I cried and then I got up and left.

They turned from the sea as I walked away, still as puzzled as they were before, still not forthcoming.