photo by Clare Kelly

Intimacy is focused, and I don’t know how to stay still. I read about black holes, and it said that once you cross the event horizon, you will eventually be broken apart. Every day, when I wake up, I fall into myself. My life is like this: I’m learning new programs, there are tectonic shifts, inside them I’m convulsing. I see things you don’t see, I feel things you don’t feel. I go somewhere that is still earth, but I make it new with my mind. I want to devote my life to something. I used to want to devote my life to someone, but who wants that responsibility? I understand why, I’m not sure if I want my own devotion either. It burns and it takes over and then it desires. I want to believe that I would have been a good mother. I want the ocean.

Sometimes I go visit a nursing home on West 3rd, by the Beverly Center. It doesn’t fit in with the other businesses on the street, which are for forgetting about death. Anyone can go into a nursing home and walk around and talk to lonely people, if they want to. I have an official hospice volunteer badge, but I never wear it. No one questions you, at least not in LA County. The officials are busy and the residents are lonely.

One woman would scream every day for hours. The only way to calm her down for meals was to have someone sit with her and rub her hands. They were surprisingly soft. She was blind, and she told me she was afraid of the water. She didn’t know how to swim. She kept calling someone’s name, but when I asked her who they were, she couldn’t remember. In her mind, she was always getting dinner ready for guests, and no one was helping her.

I had a dream where I learned something important. It was a dream where I was in a cement cell with no windows, solitary confinement. I was staring at the wall and thought “if everyone likes me, then I’ll be happy”. I could feel that it wasn’t true, even in the dream.

Happiness is easy and I have it all the time – cookies, movies. I want beyond it. I’m losing followers. I feel like I’m burning myself from the inside out. What else should I do with my time here? I can sit with dying people in nursing homes. There’s a quality there where the noise fades away and it’s like we’re feeling how close we all are to the corpse. It feels good to me.

It used to be sex I was afraid of, but now I think sex is mechanics and I can sometimes fool myself into thinking that I understand it. We generally want sex, but not death (to sell death, it must be disguised). Both produce intimacy, but it’s death that’s more mysterious: we haven’t mastered our ability to simulate the experience, to imagine that we understand it, to feel safe living with it. Gradual death has its recognizable stages: the appendages grow cold, the breathing, shallow. Morphine drips. One hospice patient told me that at night she goes on stage. They come in, and they break her hands. This happens, she says, every night. She used to work in the entertainment industry. She died on Thanksgiving. Once she told me, with great certainty, that she was allowed to read ahead in the script, and it calls for pain.