On Saturday evening, we sent bottles to sea at Mile Zero – full of notes and wishes for our friend Bronwyn who died a little more than three weeks ago in Berlin. I haven’t written about this yet because I’ve not been sure what to say – my circle of girlfriends from teenagehood are much more like family than any cousins I have – her absence has been a ragged hole for some time. For though she left us only recently, she has been disappearing bit by bit into addiction for the last few of years.
I confess now that the last time she was in town, I refused to see her and offered her money for a hotel room instead. I was distressed when I spent time with her, and so I had chosen (on what turned out to be her last visit) not to do so.
At the memorial I spoke something that was true to me – and that is that as a woman alone, facing addiction, after a lifetime of living on little money – old age was going to be very unkind to our friend, and even at our middle age it had become clear that she was living with a lot of physical and psychic pain. I worried about her often, even though I found our interactions difficult and m/s/addening for most of the time that we knew each other. Even when we were younger and she was much healthier – maintaining a friendship was a struggle, it was intermittent – though in the moments when it was on, it was totally golden. She was like that – charming, and frustrating, and brilliant, and insulting all at once.
I’ve been unpacking these last two weeks, in the wake of this death, and it’s hard to escape the fact that even though Bronwyn and I rarely lived in the same city – my life is littered with things that she mailed me, made for me, artwork she sold me, notes that she left on my kitchen tables. She built the bookshelves that now grace our music studio, the ring in my nose that she pierced when we were nineteen. It’s amazing to me that someone who I felt I could never get close to, left so many fingerprints all over my life. It makes me realize how present she was – even in her long absences from Canada and from our friendship.
When we were younger, I wished I could be like her – the brilliant parts, the relentlessly creative and charming parts. But as we grew older I saw that the other side of that was a kind of distress, and disappointment in other people that could find no salve. For as bright a light can be, its shadow side will be equally dark – and she struggled under the weight of this all of our lives.
I don’t regret that I didn’t see her on the last visit to Vancouver because I know we would have argued with each other as we had been doing. I couldn’t give her what she wanted, and I was far too boring for her, and I wanted her to take responsibility for her health and get some help and on and on and on. On the other hand, I am deeply grateful that I reached out to her in April in order to send her some film she had left in my home – and that we had an exchange that was much more careful of one another.
I am going to close this post with the last thing she wrote to me because it seems prescient even though it’s clear she felt the change she describes didn’t involve her. She saw the contours but missed the light – such is the haze in which we all find ourselves, I’m sure, near the end of our lives.
In the last few days, her voice has come to me quite strongly. I hear her in my head making commentary about my actions, I turn over notes from her among my things. When I read this final bit of writing to myself, I hear her intonation and volume. I realize how well I knew her, and how much I have missed and will continue to miss her vital, vibrant, presence.
From Bronwyn, April 4, 2016
I have been reading about a group of Hindu mystics that worship an especially violent manifestation of Shiva and dose themselves ritually and regularly with an alchemically refined form of mercury in order to achieve immortality thru transcendence of their addiction to time. Which makes a perfect kind of sense. The left hand path of god.
These are strange days, defined primarily by the absence of time and light and the comfort of other people. An endless night of dark dreams. I’m busy with the old gods- the anti-social and insane ones. Dangerous business no doubt, but an undeniable whimsy of the strange driver I’ve given over the wheel to.
Relinquishing control is never exactly easy or comfortable, and come to think of it- I don’t remember doing so actually, the where&when, like accidentally selling your soul to the devil, only to be surprised at some moment when he comes to collect.
Now, at this moment, I find myself here, in a dark corner of some messy and drunk bar, surrounded by what passes for my community, all these drunk monkeys.
Winter inundates itself into the fabric of reality. I am turning the dawn into a silver nimbus and folding these days into a filigree of ash. Fill my pockets with it, cover my skin in it, breathe and sleep and dream in it.
Silence and loss.
Like ships passing in the night- there is a sense of vast and depthless space surrounding this tiny island I am living on. Within these four walls time stops almost completely- it vibrates and hums like a violin string pulled taut, and before it breaks it’s tight resonance could break glass.
Nothing changes, but at the same time it is sure that the center cannot hold.
These days seem to crawl from some cthulian place, grey and murky, bending under the weight of
themselves. The fabric of the sky rends with the sound of old clothe ripping, and snow pours thru the cracks and fills the spaces between all things with the silver secret promise of transformation.
On the streets outside malignant forces are gathering- insurrection or the first days of war- it’s hard to tell in the beginning. Riot police gather on the corners like gangs of mean kids, at ease (for the moment), but making their presence impossible to ignore, full of the promise of ill intent, body armour and tear gas, cameras and malice clutched in tight fists. Clusters of black hooded figures drift and then dash into doorways, and the friction of these two opposing forces attempting to occupy the same physical and psychological space casts out sparks of energy, of diesel and intent, and all up the street things are catching fire, cars and dumpsters and abandoned christmas trees. All the streetlights on the Rigaerstr. have all been sabotaged, and the light at night is now the shifting dancing red light of fires climbing to the sky, the ashes dancing between flakes of falling snow.
Strange days for sure. A dangerous kinetic sense of possibility and change to come. I’m not a part of it, but it is all around me.