Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Flash of Metal

by Sara Jean Yaste

The flash of metal shocks her. In it she sees the flash of memory, of her mother holding her hand when she drank a glass of soap mistaking it for lemonade, of her brother beating her up outside of their high school, right before they were to start a high school play, or her few boyfriends who couldn't handle her nature and also decided to use physical violence to deter her from herself.
She sees all these things and digs the metal deeper. "Not made for this life," keeps repeating over and over in her head, like a failsafe mantra, like an excuse, like an apology.
Another memory, "excuses are monuments of nothingness." A poem she was told to memorize and recite for her fourth grade class. Standing in line to leave the classroom and hearing comments from boys around her remarking that if she's standing a certain way or touching something it is because she likes whomever is making the statement. Two boys fighting over her on the playground (this was before she'd had her first kiss, mind you) and the teacher thinking it was funny and making snarky comments to her all the while.
Other memories, getting to sing a solo in third grade choir. Sticking up for her friend Vanessa who was small and different and would get picked on by the bigger kids. Sticking up for her brother who was a bit portly and would get made fun of at the bus stop. At one point she spit on the bullies and nearly attacked them. They didn't know what to think, coming from an eight-year-old girl four years younger than them.
Sometimes she feels like she's already lived several lifetimes, and it feels exhausting. From the myriad relationships, the small marriages, the bands, the jobs, the homes, the houses, the faces, the voices, there are just too many now to keep track, to possibly fit into one lifetime.
She used to play a mental game, of trying to remember distinctly each face, each friend, each human she has ever personally known. It was more an exercise in memory, as she didn't want to forget, like her best friend Candice from third grade. She didn't want to forget the soft nuzzle of her first cat that she rescued and then was put to sleep by her parents when she was away one summer.
Now all these memories, they serve no purpose. They make up the existence, the fog, of a mind that seems no longer capable of dealing with everyday life. Of the shattering realities of living in a world where beauty really is fleeting, where people too often don't really care about you, where love is in scarce supply, unless you are willing to bend to the will of those wanting to give it…at least she knows now, that is not really love.
Maybe if she dies and is reincarnated she will have a better chance next life? She remembers the name of the record by the boy who she lent $1000 to, and introduced to an audio engineer, to help him record a record. It is called "Better Luck Next Life." She also loved him, but her nature made it hard to stay faithful as he wanted, and so again she was dismissed. He never sent her a copy of the record as he had promised, although she did send him one of hers. He eventually moved to Brooklyn and married his new bassist. The bassist seems exotic from pictures, and she is happy that he finally found someone who will hopefully make him happy.
She remembers, that before the boy left, he told her she has to find her darkness. That she is always so polite and cheerful, that she is not being real. She scoffed at him, saying that he is much younger than her, that she experienced enough darkness already and doesn't wish to revisit. It is only now she realizes, one doesn’t always have a choice.
The cheerful mindset was one she carefully constructed over a lifetime, in order to combat the devastation of being hit by people she loved, of being voluntarily abandoned by her parents before she was 18, of so many short-lived friendships. There must be something wrong with her.
This must be why she always wants to stick up for the underdog. As that is what she is. But with no one to stick up for her anymore, at least in a way that actually makes a difference, not just someone trying to show empathy because they know it's the right thing to do at the time, she feels lost.
What can she really contribute to beauty now anyway? Her short life has already been so fraught with tension and instability, her carefully constructed veil of positivity now shattered and abandoned, her family and friends long out of reach, both emotionally and physically. What's the point of going on? She thinks to herself, sitting in the bathtub, transfixed by the glint of the metal.
She remembers hearing the news story of an Egyptian woman who threw herself from her fourth floor flat, after being served with an eviction notice, as she could no longer afford her mortgage.
This act sparked a series of improvements for the lives of other Egyptians when dealing with developers and landowners. She distractedly contemplates what goes through peoples’ heads before they decide to become martyrs, as if that's even a conscious decision each time. She wonders about the man who reportedly hung himself from a tree in her backyard, this backyard, of the house of the bathroom she is now in. She wonders if it was also because he was forced to move and he didn't have any options or rather, hope, left.
All day long, she's only eaten a single piece of toast, and drank two glasses of water. She has plenty of money to go buy food (at least for now) and is in her home that will no longer be her home in a matter of time. She's been consistently eating less and less. She thinks about this too, with an air of detachment, as if already from outside looking in. She thinks about the dreams she's been having lately. Of her mother finally coming home and hugging her. Of her lover standing in his ex's kitchen looking forlorn, like he made a mistake after all in choosing her. In reality he hasn't really chosen her at all. Sure he sleeps with her when he wants and helps himself to her domestic comforts like food and company, but then they have difficulty talking about their emotions together; he constantly breaks her heart by breaking it off between them only to miss her and then she accepts him back again...this pattern takes its toll.... This was all before, when she was trying to seek therapy, when she had more hope that this was all maybe just a phase, that it was something she could overcome.
She scans apartments for rent and jobs for hire. The random nothingness of it all is crushing.
What’s the point? What's the point of being yet another first-worlder that consumes more than she gives and harms nearly everything in the process, all under the guise of survival? This doesn't feel like survival, much less living. It feels like dying. She feels like she's already dead.
She thinks about how her grandfather, Allen, shot himself in the head with a shotgun by the barn while his wife, her grandmother, was inside the house just feet away. She remembers her grandmother telling of how brain matter was splattered on the windows of the kitchen. He did this after being diagnosed with lung cancer, and getting his truck taken away.. He had been on oxygen for a while and always said that he didn't want to be someone that sucked the family's money away. Later, when the grandmother developed ovarian cancer, (passed hereditarily in some cases...great) her grandmother would lie on her bed asking for her only granddaughter who wasn't there. By the time she was able to make it to her grandmother's bedside, the sickness had stolen her memory, and she didn't remember her granddaughter anymore.
She remembers looking through her grandmother's diary, after she had passed, and reading the entries leading up to the sickness…about not being able to eat, not being able to drink, about the pain.
She always felt it was her lot to also get cancer. For years now, she's found strange lumps on her body, deeply embedded into the skin. Since she can't afford health care, she doesn't really know what they are, but sometimes they are painful to the touch. A boyfriend at some point said he had a terrible dream that he was taking care of her, as she was bedridden with cancer. The boy said he sometimes had premonitions, long before he had this dream.
Shapes started forming in the water. The clarity of the pure coupled with the blush of burgundy seems wholly beautiful. At least something that is real. Something that is really happening, that she has complete control over. She won't be disgraced by need and rejection; she won't be tarnished by bitterness and struggle; she will find sweet relief, peace in the darkness, a relaxing bath in warm water. It doesn't really even hurt that much physically, and since she's contemplated this as a last resort for some time, the emotional pain has already long taken its toll.
She's not cut out for this life, so she's cutting out of it altogether.
She hopes her mother and father can comfort each other and not blame themselves. She knows she's reached out to them and they've tried to do what they can, but they are so far away and they seem to relate to her less and less as time goes on.
She remembers the will she so carefully crafted after making this decision.
The settlement money from the brothers who are evicting her, so that they can take her home and live in it instead, will go to the nonprofit music school she works for.
The omnichord that she bought from a friend in order to "keep it in the family" when he was broke and needed money and was going to sell to a stranger, will go back to him.
Her 1969 SG will go to her old bandmate, who inspired her to get one.
The rest of her instruments and music gear will go to her friend from Occupy, who always helped so much with sound and music needs whenever she asked, without fail.
Her clothes will go to her friend who runs a vintage shop and can sell them.
Her pink pillow will go to her mom, who made it for her, when she was 2. Her quilt and other handmade items from her mother, will go to her best friend who also makes clothes and jewelry and will appreciate their folk art nature.
Her book collection will go to her bandmate and love, as he always likes reading so much, and she never got to share the books she loved with him, as he is always so busy. She would often harbor the small fantasy of living together when they got older and reading in bed on Sunday mornings. But it seemed more and more evident as time went on that this would never happen.
A lot of the things that she wanted for so long would never happen. Stability. Unconditional love.
Her memories finally fades. The lives of other people will go on. Soon they will forget her, if she ever really existed at all.

Sara Jean Yaste is a musician, writer and artist currently based in San Francisco. Her work calls to question traditional values regarding private property, communal space, temporary autonomous zones and soul shelters. She describes her work as 'pastel survivalism' and 'electro wilderness.' She recently finished her first book, Examined/Active, documenting through photos and essays, emerging and established alternative art spaces throughout the Southwestern United States. She plays guitar and sings in the bands Future Twin and Dark Materials, and teaches music to youngbloods at Blue Bear Music School. Read more of SJY's work and reach her directly at www.sarajeanyaste.com.

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