25 March 2013

Oh death

Our terrace house in Taman Sri Minang is a kind of hotbed for discontent at the moment. Everyone is sleeping fitfully, the kids are waking and crying and sleeping and waking all through the night. It's hot: it's always hot. Mia is clinging to Yoko like she is an infant again and trying to breastfeed. Everyone looks exhausted, burnt out on another day. What's the answer: the blog goes quiet for a week under the weight of it. Two people sitting silently at the kitchen table, waiting for something to change.

How to think about the past without being nostalgic. Maybe Frank Zappa can help:
...I've also talked about the End of the World being a question of whether it's going to be by fire, ice, paperwork, or nostalgia. And there's a good chance that it's going to be nostalgia because the distance between the event and the nostalgia for the event has gotten shorter and shorter and shorter with each nostalgia cycle. So, projecting into the future, you could get to a point where you would take a step and be so nostalgic for that point where you would take a step and be so nostalgic for that step you just took that you would literally freeze in your tracks to experience the nostalgize of the last step, or the last word, or your last whatever. The world just comes to a halt - remembering.
'The world just comes to a halt – remembering': Frank Zappa must have looked into the future, seen me, and been horrified.

This morning, I rode past an accident. I saw the car first: a Myvi with the front left bumper crumpled. And then I saw in front of the car, the bike that had been hit and then the body of a man, face up and spread out on the asphalt, dead. No one was next to him: he was alone in the middle of the road, no helmet and with both of his shoes. He looked bigger to me in passing than he probably was. His shoes, in the glimpse of him I got–I remember his shoes. High tops, but with loose laces. I don't remember seeing his face. The cars slowed, and there were a couple of people standing around, but he was dead: very, very dead.

Everything seemed to come unravelled in a moment, all the feelings I have bound up and managed to keep at bay to make this whole adventure work. I wanted to suddenly stop my bike, get off and walk back to the house. Tell Yoko that I had made a mistake. I'm sorry for this, for all of it; let's buy tickets now, back to whatever life we left. The body with the life sucked out shocks you: how can anything be worth it. I wanted to put a pair of jeans and three shirts in a suitcase, tell the kids to get their shoes now, and leave everything behind on the next plane: it's too hard. A landslide of thoughts, inadequacies, fears: how long can a family keep going with so little money, so little energy. How much more can you ask those around you to sacrifice.

There were no dead bodies in Gurnee, IL, where my parents live in the States, and the place that is closest to home for me. Only when I was 15: the body of my grandmother, after a long illness (I had the urge to touch the body on the leg). No, I have just been insulated: there are dead bodies on the streets all over the world. Just like that: just suddenly dead. No reason, no lesson. Just suddenly dead. What's shocking is how surprised I am. Of course, the world is saying to me, of course, this happens. Take a look around yourself for the first time in your life, you spoiled child. What did you think happened.

Why didn't I stop and try to help. I just kept going like everyone else. Poor, pathetic dead man. Another dead man. Malaysia will make you confront the world as it really is if you let it: not the as world as it appears behind tinted glass windows of an SUV, but the world from the view of a Yamaha Wave 100. We are all only one mistake away from being dead in the street.

Do not be afraid, the good book tells us. I like this line; I always have. Being afraid is a terrible way to live, but insulating yourself from fear is even worse. What's the balance, I wonder, riding away from the body and talking to it in my mind: Why am I not on my knees next to you, waiting for the police to come. Why did I leave you behind as well. And it ends there, without a simple answer, or good or bad ending. It just ends.
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