Echoes and gatekeepers

By Carrie Black

Is remembering enough?

I see echoes. There is a line of demarcation in my life. There is a before, when the future occupied the bulk of the scenery and the past was, mostly, ignorable. And there is now, when all things are measured by their distance from the Moment. I cannot experience anything without placing it carefully in context with the day my daughter died.

Everywhere I go the past rises up to greet me. Addie spent most of her earnings on dragons, and rings, and dragon rings from that shop. That’s the art school that drove her out when they found out she was transgender. That window was her room on the psyche ward. We spent hours on this street going to and from the residential hospital. Back then, in the before time, when maybe I could have saved her if….

The echoes bounce around new experiences just as readily as the old. Would Addie have liked this movie? Would she have noticed the misogynistic creep two tables over? What joke would she have made just now, if she were still alive?

Tiny details expand until they take up all the room there is. Until a full breath will break my hold on functionality.

And the echoes are never alone. It’s not just a memory flitting by on a brief field trip away from long-term storage. The most capricious of gatekeepers accompanies all my rememberings. At least Scrooge was warned, “You will be visited by three spirits, this is your chance to change.” He gets to the ghost of Christmas Future and a pointing finger, ominous setting and prophetic tombstone are sufficient explanation. Scrooge learns his lesson, satisfies the gatekeeper and goes home.

My gatekeeper did not come with instructions, only a generic demandingness. Every gatekeeper wants something for their services. The story usually says in advance: Pay the toll, answer the riddle, be valiant enough, and you can pass into the future bettered, or unharmed, or at least free to go. I never know what my gatekeeper will want from me.

Is remembering enough?

Do I cry a little or a lot?

Must I change the bit of the world within my reach?

Shall I be very, very angry?

Will I tell a story about Addie, or tend her grave, or talk to her memory?

What will be the proper acknowledgment that I may pass into the future taking the good with me?

There aren’t any new stories to tell about Addie. No new art pieces. No more clever comebacks. No dance shows or lighting projects. No doctor visits. No lost in thought ramblings. And still she is with me everywhere I go.

Sometimes the echoes and the gatekeeper come smiling. Sometimes I can remember us playing together, laughing until my belly ached, without the smiles being swallowed up by the grief. The space she used to occupy doesn’t consume everything. Most things still, but not all. The echoes, the gatekeeper, and I are learning to live with each other.

I will remember. I will do things just because I would have loved to do them with Addie. I will cry until I am dehydrated. I will finish old projects we started together and begin new ones without her. I will laugh blissfully remembering her humor. I will collapse around the pain her absence generates.

The echoes, the gatekeeper, and I. Together

Carrie Black is a regular contributor to CATALYST. She has a learning fetish, is a chlorophyll junkie, obsessed with good chocolate and addicted to good company.

This article was originally published on October 28, 2019.