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|It's True—You Can't Go Back|
Issue #57 (May 1986)
We had been drinking Ripple and toking joints and watching a mind-jelloing TV clone show, which, under the circumstances of our emotional and psychological fog, made perfect if not eloquent sense, when she dropped one of her linguistic bombs into the dialogue: "I've never been fâ€”ed in a coffin," she said.
I know that that statement was very important to me; for despite the Ripple and the grass I remembered it, and acted upon it [quoteright]by noon the following day, and 72 hours later, thanks to the prompt action of my friend Angelo, (son and heir to August Caprucci Morticians,) a model L-25 Polished Oak, Silk-Lined, Fully-Complemented Infinite Rest Shell was catafalqued in the middle of my living room.
Despite her confidence I had doubts that the intended feat was accomplishable; but in view of the potential telling and re-telling that was bound to follow success, should there be any, it was worth a try.
When she arrived at my apartment she was strangely excited. I had never before seen her veneered with such an aura of mystery â€” a sense which seemed to cloak her being with an indescribable wonder which I cannot, well, describe.
She looked past me to this focal point of universal drama and she stalked it, circling it, sometimes near sometimes far, sometimes wide-eyed, sometimes slit-eyed, sometimes with courage, sometimes with fear but, seemingly, reaching out to it, almost in response to its reaching out to her.
This courtship game played on for five long minutes, five which seemed five squared and squared again, several times over.
I felt as though I were an intruder to a seance; a non-believer privileged to stay among the participants to something beyond his experience and, in a respect that I did not intend but nevertheless conveyed, I watched the exercise in self-hypnosis in silence, and with, I must admit, a touch of trepidation.
Finally she acknowledged me, sort of at a distance, sort of like a robot. Her first words to me were "Go away. Don't come back for three hours." It was like a picture talking to a picture, as though neither of us were real.
I left, knowing that the next three hours would pass in slow motion, but realizing fully that when indeed they had lived out their time I would be back, and I knew, further, that I would not be late.
The three months of those three hours finally cycled and I found myself in the hall putting key to lock.
I could not possibly have imagined the reality which filtered through the semi-light to the decoding of my mind; candles, stationed at random throughout the room, were oozing dancing images on everything standing still... Incense sticks, all differently scented, hanging down on strings of smoke, were blending themselves into one great sensorial experience, indefinable and unprecedented... Unrelated glasses, perhaps fifteen of them, each one filled with varying issue of the fields and the vines, promised ambrosia in which coursed undiscovered tastes yet to be found and relished... And a still life of crackers and cheese and fruit awaited the joy of everlasting existence through destruction at my hands.
She lay in that repose, not of this world, shrouded in a white gown of the passed, her face the palest chalk, her lips the bloodest red, her eyes staring wide open as if inspecting the infinite secrets which, for the living, were yet to come, but which for her were now in view.
The incredible reality of her death game frightened me.
I was not sure that a game was being played here.
Oh, Holy Jesus! Oh, Holy Moses! Oh, Holy Allah! Had she gone through with this madness? Had she killed herself to experience the ultimate climax?
I touched her hand. It was... cold. Her face was cold, too. As were her feet. And her breasts. And her shoulders. Then I touched the final proof...
Oh, thank you, Jesus! Oh, thank you, Moses! Oh, thank you, Allah! She was... alive!
***Of course, this all happened many years ago, and I've told the coffin story many times; about how she had soaked in ice-water for several hours to bring her body temperature down, and how she had endured the pain of the following immobility in a half-conscious state, and how, as she warmed back to life, we had shared the exquisite beauty of each split second which made up the endless eons which sprung from them... And how we had pretty much destroyed the L-25 with the make-up and the wine and the crumbs and the nail rips, not to mention the love spots, which are hard to get out of silk.
***And now I'm telling the story to you, and I guess, as the others who have heard it, you sort of want to know if all this had yet another ending, a finality, perhaps... a denouement.
The next day I called Angelo and told him what had happened, expecting to have to dish out a thou or so for the box she and I had placed into everlasting memory, but Angelo said not to worry; he would slip it into a cremation and no one would be the wiser, unless, of course, there is some sort of life after death in which case the corpse would know, and most likely consider itself blessed.
***We stayed together for several years after the happening, and we created some rare moments for ourselves, many of them nines, but no tens like the night in the coffin.
Then one day she caught cold, and in a matter of days she was dead.
Really, this time.
Angelo prepared her, less ostentatiously than she had prepared herself of course, but after all he was a pro and it had been, forgive the expression, her first time.
As a final tribute to the wonderful moments we had shared, and the depth of feeling which I had felt for her in life and in death, I visited her the night before the viewing, and I crawled into the coffin with her.
I touched her... and kissed her... and talked to her. But it wasn't the same. It's true â€” you can't go back.Â
Off-the-wall storyteller NORMAN FINSON is also a professional auctioneer, playwright, composer, singer... you name, he's done it.