Sunday, January 23, 2011
An inconvenient corpse
If I sound blasé, then good. That’s what I’m going for. In actuality, I’m rather in shambles about this. It’s being sort of thrust upon me to figure out what to do about this inconvenient corpse, the remains of a 14-years-dead relative that had apparently been stuck in someone’s closet somewhere. It’s a very long, and complicated story, and the telling of it isn’t really something I want to get into on this blog. Needless to say, having the remains of the aforementioned dead relative in my own closet is not something I want to do, not by any stretch of the imagination. It freaks me the hell out, a lot. So right now, I’m fighting to keep my head above water.
So, as is my way with things, I’m compartmentalizing. I’m trying not to think too much about the reality of the inconvenient corpse, while at the same time the idea of it intrigues me, on a writerly level. What shape would an inconvenient corpse take, in the fantasy world? Maybe it wouldn’t really be a corpse at all. After all, people don’t really die in the fantasy world. They’re immortal. Or if they’re not, they become vampires or shape shifters or zombies or whatever to compensate for their lover’s immortality.
Sometimes I think all the time I spend in the paranormal world affects my ability to deal with the real one. Here I am, dealing with a real corpse (er, urn), and I have absolutely no clue what to do. If it were a vampire, I’d stake it through the heart (with silver or wood, depending on what world we were in). If it were a zombie, I’d chop off its head. If it were a ghost, I’d get an Ouija board, and maybe a pottery wheel and some Righteous Brothers songs. But here, in the real world, I have real remains of a real dead person, and I’m flummoxed. Do I inter them? Do I scatter them to the wind? Is that legal? Do you need permits for that? Can I get someone to do it for me (because honestly, I really don’t want to)? Can I flush them down the toilet, like a fish?
(For the record, I don’t care what anyone does with my ashes. I won’t be there anymore. If I become a ghost, I’ll have better things to do than haunt a stupid urn, I hope! For the funeral, skip the casket and the viewing—that’s creepy. Also, skip the hymns. Play “Another One Bites the Dust” at least once, preferably when everyone is seated. Anyone who thinks it’s in poor taste shouldn’t be at my funeral anyway.)
I think this is one of the reasons the paranormal world has so much appeal to me: death, you see, doesn’t have to exist there. Oh, it exists sometimes, when it’s convenient and when it’s necessary for the story. But mostly, there are ways around it. Humans are transformed into immortality as easily as going to the gym.
As a teenager, I became a bit death obsessed. A bit, as in, I walked around cemeteries all the time and talked to myself. (Though, if I’m being honest, the talking to myself started well before my morbid teen years. It stopped in college, when I had roommates. Well, mostly.) There were a few years there when I made Bud Cort’s character in Harold and Maude look like a barrel of laughs.
I’m not quite as macabre now as I used to be, but the darkness still lingers. I think a lot of my fascination with the paranormal—both in my reading and my writing—has to do with my teenage quest for somethingness, that need to assure myself that we are not alone, that death is not the end.
I toyed with religion, briefly, but it never seemed to fit. By the end of high school I was a hard-core agonistic, if there is such a thing. Lacking conclusive evidence of anything, I opened myself up to everything. I liked—and still like, to this day—the idea of a world with infinite possibilities. I don’t think we’ve figured everything out. Many days, I don’t think we’ve figured anything out, but the illusion of knowledge is secure and comfortable for us. It just doesn’t work for me. I won’t answer questions I don’t really know the answers to. I can’t pretend to know more than I do.
And yet, what I long for is exactly that: answers. What happens when we die? Do we cease to exist? The possibly of not existing scares me shitless. And the possibly that such inconvenient corpses, inconvenient urns, are all that remain of people who once meant so much to me is too much to bear.
So I remain enmeshed in the paranormal world of infinite possibilities. Because there is hope there. In a universe where anything can happen, not existing is not an option.
But here, in the bleaker, harsher reality in which I live, I will soon have an inconvenient urn on my hands, which is not really a corpse at all. And I’ll put it away, somewhere I won’t have to see it, so I don’t have to confront my fear: that maybe that inconvenient urn—the one I can’t stand the thought of looking at any more now than I could 14 years ago—is really the end.