My husband's corpse is the cultural equivalent of a singing frog. I can say that now, present tense and all. Our marriage is the only thing I can resign to the past, since he will not soon stop being a dead musician. The permanence of my declarations repulses me. Even important ideas for lyrics will materialize as glyphs between my blizzardly, spectral inner-enthusiasm and the real page. I thought I could count on myself to obscure the death of my husband. I do it about as well as I keep my skirt down when crowd-surfing.
Support groups and Prozac had no chance to shake their chains at his back for any of his formative years, but since he was nine he was textbook. I knew that from talking to his mother. Sitting on the edge of a brown floral couch into which I could sink to my knees that scratched me into repenting from miniskirts, I squinted in the moody dark of her trailer at the casebook of his childhood. If I knew what would happen, I would have looked more at the photo album and less at the pile of Betty Boop dolls, arranged like a chorus line, occupying the opposite chair.
But I wasted no time figuring out how to prevent his death before it happened. His friends did. They watched him drink gin like he was an alien who, dwelling on Earth, found refreshment in the lung fluid of last-stage emphysemics. Even the most human of his self-abuse commanded an embarrassing gravity of compassion that I didn't even think to find weird. I just didn't participate in it. I did PCP until I went mute. I took a picture of him trick-hanging himself after Bush won his second term. If I had gotten sore when he asked me to do it, I would have been saying, I see you dead all ready and I can't look at it now. I didn't think about it. I took the picture. It was still framed in our living room for a month after he died. To take it down right after seemed superstitious. I would rather be considered heartless than think of myself as a practitioner of PC voodoo. I let him live, and he still died.
Our marriage at the time of his death does not make me think of the circumstances of our meeting. There is no causality. A girl liked him - a fey, keening gypsy who sang at café-volume - and this was known by everyone, everyone who considered themselves everyone because they knew a bit about the private life of Adam. When I looked at him arbitrarily and for the first time, somebody mentioned it and lent the air of malevolence to my small gesture that I require doing just about anything. I rode my own wave of infamy into a conversation with him as he was standing by a poster of my band, Le Sigh. I liked him right then and not before. I liked him because of his hair-rare, a natural neon.
He did not give me his band's CD. He never gave me a thing that had to do with them, the Enliveners, because he was not an artist when he loved me. I wrote some shitty lyrics after sex with him. We were amniotic and artless when in love but we were out of love enough to produce two albums each after we met. When we got married, I felt like all the cosmic happiness allotted me was redeemed like a splash of Vegas coinage in the tin basin of my Anahata chakra. I felt brave like the façade of the Duomo. I was great whether anyone said so or not, whether I made anyone's life any different - I was a monument, still and safe from subjectivity in my love. It was, and mine. I grew up in foster care - it was about fucking time something was mine.
Love grew like a weird, freak radish that, after suffering radiation, gets as big as a Volkswagen. I made him sing on my last record because he thought the song was stupid, "Oyster." He thought I was succumbing to the wispy, fields-of-heather romanticism of childbearing, so I put in a la-la-la chorus and I made him sing it. In post, I buried his la-la-las. There was a hint of malice in my photo of him hanging and I wanted to include it in the album art. He tossed out my old love letters from ex-boyfriends after I gave him the satisfaction of calling them ugly, and he drove home to see the subway singing girl the week of my birthday. That wasn't love. Neither was the music. Neither were the photographs of us together even when we were not killing each other. Neither was him dying. And there was love.
I believe his life has nothing to do with his death. I behaved this way from the moment I knew him, which was when he first got out of bed when we were sleeping together. He walked out to the gold Saturn hatchback and smoked and listened to Easter and came back inside. He looked applied on black velvet with glow-in-the-dark paint out there. I could tell what album it was, and every time he left the room, I'd have a hell of a time not humming "Ghost Dance." That was all the life he had, though, and I was not about to go screaming after that. When he was ready to stop living, I did the courteous thing which was to be unconscious of it and be rightly upset when I discovered it - to which I might add while it's still too close: the fact of his finality is one thing and a corpse is another.
Men tend toward violent deaths but his was insidious in its quietude: he was polishing his Squier and I could hear the coarse fiddling of him and his stuff in his room - the heavy brush of the keyboard stand and the shelf of books toppling when even one was removed - then too much of nothing. I checked. He did not look different because he took a bowl of prescriptions that each began with the letter v. That I had an easier time being more furious than sad was his benevolence. I put my hand around his neck at the same time I thought I knew I had to call the police or the hospital. I thought the hospital might call the police anyway. I thought quite immediately about my first foster family who I was with only months. They adopted the abused and neglected in bulk and that round it was me, eleven and psychotic, and a toddler boy called Rudolph. I bet he was older than toddler-age, but circumstances had not allowed him to advance. He kept me up hitting his head against the wall. I took my turn holding him back from it; he complied with a sorrowful totality and held onto a fistful of my pajama sleeve, which was as close to hugging as Rudolph - or I even - got at the time. But he kept bashing. One night I found it deceptively easy to sleep. In the morning the wall opposite our beds had a weird red stain. For trying to do some good by him, the foster parents went to jail. When Adam sat in the car in the dark, it occurred to me that I might go to jail someday - we were not fully integral to one another yet, we were still wistfully flirting with exes and unfamiliar with the names and addresses on each other's incoming mail. I had a choice. Jail was somewhere I had never been. I didn't have any eyebrows at the time because I had been trying to intern with a friend who breathed fire in a cabaret sideshow. I would have gone to jail for something fun, which was all anything looked like at the time - but looking at him in the Saturn in the dark, it dawned on me: this wasn't fun, and I had a choice.