I’m back from a weekend in Ithaca and my friend’s memorial service.
We had no official religious people present, so the four of us made our own ceremony, out of our memories and a few objects. A housed me and J, in her new apartment on Geneva, and L came the next day. Many others wanted to be present but couldn’t.
We felt a great pressure to properly represent both the absent people and our missing friend. It was a very hard weekend. I was sick, one of my friends threw out his back. None of us slept well. We wanted so much to do justice to him. We were so stressed out that I got into this argument with one of the present friends:
A: This is really stressful.
B: What do you mean, this is stressful? This isn’t stressful. Why would this be stressful?
A: I mean that we are stressed out.
B: What do you mean, we are stressed out?
Around 3 o’clock on Saturday, we began. We began at the falls, but it was too crowded there. We adjourned to Telluride House. It was the last day of the TASP (summer program for high school students at which we met, ten years ago). We walked into the house as the last TASPer was walking out.
We were dressed all in black, carrying an egg crate full of flowers and a folder of photographs. She, the last TASPer to leave, was carrying a suitcase and wearing a white T-shirt. I wanted to tell her our errand, but I think she knew without knowing.
We sat on the second-floor balcony, overlooking the hill. We laid out pictures of him, and lit a candle. We drank rum and smoked cigarettes, and shared them with the ground. We read poems and tributes from those who could not be present, and those who could. J had composed an aphorism for the occasion.
How silent is a flash of lightning:
thunder marks its noisy memory.
A bee rested gently on the white card with his face on it in the center of our setup. Ignoring the flowers to the left and right, he crawled in a circle around the picture.
We hid picture icons of his face in the House, and tacked one to the TASP bulletin board in the main hall. We cast walnuts into the river. We planted a native columbine by the little creek that adjoins the House on the Cornell campus, and placed a stone next to it. We laid flowers on the stone. Then we burned the papers we had brought.
It rained lightly (leap up like that, like that, and land so lightly) throughout. So lightly.
Almost six hours from when we had started, we walked to the Ithaca Commons, and ate dinner as if we had fought a war.
Having returned to Baltimore now, I can see that there is no “justice” with things like this. The only justice the living will allow is for the dead to not be dead. No funeral can be adequate. No memorial can substitute for the person. Whatever you can do – and we did all we could – is good enough.
The heavy rain came on the return trip. Driving back from Ithaca in it, slowed by fog and construction traffic, J played Arlo Guthrie on the Ipod, and then we caught a radio special about Dylan going electric at the Newport Folk Festival. They played an all-electric version of “Maggie’s Farm.” Then a documentary historian told about how, after the negative crowd reaction to the electric guitar set, someone went back stage and convinced Dylan to come out again and play some of his acoustic songs.
He didn’t have a guitar, so he borrowed one from the crowd – and he sang “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.”
J and I reached Philly so late last night that I couldn’t go on to the bus to B-more. I stayed the night in a room belonging to one of my brother’s co-telecommuter co-workers, J’s roommate, in another instance of the world being small enough to fit in your pocket.
I met S, a philosopher, and J and I spent much time lying on the floor and bemoaning our hurting backs and hearts to her.
J’s roommates are moving out of the West Philly house. The room was almost empty. I wrote a poem about the green glass bottle on his bookshelf. The next morning, I carried the bottle down the stairs, helping him move out. And he dropped me off at 11th and Market, by the bus station, and I caught the 10 AM bus back.
I am here now.
I mean more by this than that I am sitting, sweaty and dusty, in my empty room, in the house where I pay rent, typing on my Frankenstein laptop. When I move to a new place, often I feel that I have left most of my self behind. This is why we move, sometimes. But now that I have been to Ithaca and back, on such a task, I am all here now.
Click Restart to shut down all applications and restart.