Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2.23.2010 - The Three Year Anniversary

A friend of mine was mildly disfigured about the face in a car accident some years back. I say “mildly” because I think the scar is sexy, but I’m not a young, gorgeous woman, so what could I know about wearing it? And missing teeth are never sexy, except on hockey players. Anyway, she wrote her obituary afterwards as a cathartic exercise. After my own accident, she suggested I do the same.

Resisting the powerful urge to edit, I present the obituary as I wrote it forty-eight days after the fact:

On February 23rd, 2007, Aaron John Curtis of Miami, Florida lost his life in a traffic accident at the age of 34. Paramedics airlifted him to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s famed Ryder Trauma Center, but he died on route due to injuries sustained at the scene. While Aaron eventually settled in Miami, he also lived in Richmond, Virginia, Syracuse, New York, and Akwesasne (the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Reservation). Had Harper Collins published the book he finished but never quite liked, or had he finished the two books he liked very much and published them, or had he started the two potential Fantasy and Mystery series and had them published, any one of these places may have fought for the right to bury him rather than forgetting he had been there at all. In addition to these unseen works, he also never produced four scripts and never published 29 essays and 30 short stories of varying quality. Aaron is survived by everyone in his family he had known since he was born (except Uncle Fran and Grandma and Grandpa on his father’s side - and what a crazy fucking thought that is, considering all the white trash and filthy Injuns out there who are related to him), each relationship also of varying quality. He met his wife of eight years in 1992 and they never stopped loving each-other, so at least he did something right. Maybe the important thing.

Three years ago today, I knew I was going to die. The car came at me and color bled from the day as God took me out of the equation for a few moments. I didn’t know I’d be back. I didn’t see my life pass before my eyes, I felt my entire emotional life happening all at once, every friend and family member I’ve ever loved and who ever loved me. It was a moment that seemed to last forever, but I didn’t even have time to finish a single thought before the world went white.

If only- I thought, then nothing but white.

Given decades instead of milliseconds, I don’t know how I would have ended that sentence. Maybe the rest of my life is the end of that sentence.

I’ve rewritten my obituary a few times. Once, when I lost some time around an MTBI while biking (that’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, which is what they’re calling a mild concussion nowadays), I made that the inciting accident, but usually I just edit the emotional truth.

Let me make clear, I’ve never lived on Akwesasne. I’m a halfbreed, and we often have chips on our shoulders about not being Indian enough. I was up there a lot as a child and I’m closer with my mother’s side of the family, but I never lived there. I find it odd I’d want to die on a lie. Let’s call it dying on a wish.

I mentioned Harper Collins because they were looking at Scratch the Dead Places. At the time, it was still called Skritch Skratch Man. My cover letter was a chatty invitation for coffee with every cover letter cliché and mistake an aspiring writer is supposed to avoid. I even asked Stacy for some craptastic cover art. Of course they didn’t publish this unpalatable, unpublishable mess. Brimming with excitement at meeting my personal goal of writing a book, wildly optimistic when our Harper Collins sales rep offered to bring it back to the New York offices with him, I subjected an industry shaker with the insult of a first draft.

It was a difficult time for friends and family. To know me was to be subjected to three hundred pages of what amounted to a writing exercise.

“All the white trash and filthy Injuns.” From the litany of unpublished works listed in the obit, it’s clear I was worried no one would see and appreciate my work. My resentment at not having the right publishing pedigree manifested itself in this lame attempt at self-deprecating humor.

There was a question written on the back wall of my seventh grade English teacher’s classroom; “Will it matter that I was?” I think Mr. Genarro wanted to inspire us to greatness, not haunt us for life, but what are you gonna do? Since I almost ended, I was worried about my legacy.

Yes, getting outside notice feels good. Yes, I could use the validation and the money. Yes, it’s largely luck and who you know. But opportunity is luck plus preparation. I’m fortunate enough to love a profession which, all trumpeting over wunderkinds like Zadie Smith or Dave Eggers aside, embraces late-bloomers. Right now, I’m happy enough preparing.

The obit ends with the one thing which made me know I’d lived my life right; my marriage. Well, I still think I did the important thing right, warts and all. Love with your whole heart in this life, or get busy dying by slow degrees.

I suppose the only satisfying ending, the only fitting ending, is a three-year anniversary obituary.

Maybe later. Sorry to be a blog tease, but that sounds pretty fucking morbid.