The Stranger That Made The Grave-Digger Laugh

1 of January 2014

I feel like I should make this some momentous post or something.

Not many years ago, I thought about the new year as a marker day, signifying the passage of time, space, and congratulations, we’ve made it this far. But I suppose the atoms and cosmos lined up a little differently for roll call this year, because I’m processing events in terms of how much good I can contribute. What can I give to each individual person that will be a guiding hand, a force field of positive influence and good-will? As you know, I’m already attempting to keep my sarcasm in check, but now I’m striving to really be a light in the darkness; to give something more than just a fakey-mouth-closed salute and a cringing pat on the back. (Watch out for cooties!) I want to touch people, and maybe they’ll touch me back.

I’ll admit it, this year I was the stick in the mud wallflower clinging to a dream of where I could be for New Year’s. Mum and Papa patiently put down my biting comments and explained that three boys of legal drinking age as chaperones for a night out on the town wasn’t exactly anyone’s idea of “safe” for a fourteen year old girl. Mum asked me why I thought eighteen year old boys wanted to hang out with me, and well, I had no answer to that. But Papa knew why, and that’s because they don’t see me like I’m fourteen. They see a girl the same age as them with the same legal freedoms as them, but that’s not how it is for me. In this party town, basses from clamoring speakers permeate the atmosphere, dueling with the night crawlers for face room. Stringy foreign women dripping in costume jewelry and butt-tight black dresses trip deliriously over the cobblestone streets in teeter-totter pumps, while their men instinctively pack together and toast each other at every mention of Monday night football. I don’t want to be with that ignorant crowd, reeking of Mexican beer and the same conversations about whatStacydid and how great the Patriots are. No one even likes the Patriots, it’s just their cheerleaders that they use to distract the public from the bad defensive plays. So guess where I was when the tell-tale twelve chimes and grand finale of fireworks and boisterous hollering let loose into the night: on my balcony- alone. Did I mention I was alone? I was supposed to be with the boys, making them laugh their heads off. In that moment, I probably thought I was the lamest lonely-loner that ever lived, holding my back straight in solitude while a string of rainwater tears carved rivulets of black into my skin. I leaned over the concrete edge of the nest, twenty feet above the vacant lot of jungle that serves quite nicely as our neighbor. Across the untamed jungle and street is a strange edifice, an apartment of sorts called Studio One, except it doesn’t say the “One” part. Instead, the owners decided to make it even more difficult for the natives to comprehend by changing the ‘I’ in ‘Studio’ to the word ‘one’, only it’s turned sideways, to appear like the letter ‘I’. When the sun sets, the sign casts a luminous glow like color of a delicate, new blade of grass on the entrance, so I can see the silhouettes of the tenants, coming and going about their nighttime lives. As all else fades, the flickering purple shades of a television in the bedroom on the fourth floor cascades the white sheets with waves of light. In the kitchen on the third floor, two women congregate between chores like ants on the sidewalk, touching antennas as they pass as if to assure each other that they’re in the work together. A man sits, erect, in the other room without a shirt and occasionally the younger of the two women brings him objects I cannot identify but are limp and flimsy, like laundry to fold as he sits in his startlingly direct position. I threw my head back into the sky and counted fifty stars, sobbing out to the cloudy night that sometimes I wish things were different. My neck cramped up, so I set it right and peeked back, shamelessly, into the lives of the Studio One tenants. Happy fucking New Year, I thought, and realized what an awesomely derogatory piece of graffiti that phrase could make, so I wrote myself a mental note to put down a design for it in my sketchbook.

You see, I had an epiphany about two days ago. It happened on a Sunday morning, actually- another Sunday I was exhausted, but the desperate energy of trying to look awake and lively in the morning has crept away from me as of late. My family and I were, in unusual fashion, early to the City Express Hotel for our church service, so Mum and I ran into Mega, one of the all-encompassing markets here in Mexico, to do a quick shopping run and to pay our overdue electric bill. The thing about being a family supported by a lawyer is that you learn to live without consistency, finances-wise. Once a case is settled, Papa can rake the payments into his office, but until that happens, we have to live on whatever money is leftover from the last settlement. Papa is a lawyer of excessive scrutiny, in my opinion, by the standards of most competing professionals. He takes his job seriously, as he’s so good at it; but when it comes to fighting for people, it’s impossible not to love my Papa anyways, so money is never too tight. We bought two bags of pretzels- they’re the only reason we go to Mega- and found that paying the electric bill without some paper or other was a flop, so back into the car and off to the hotel it was. I was in a typical smirking-smugness mindset, offset by an occasional half-butt attempt to keep the peace between my siblings, and I didn’t have the faintest clue that not everyone appreciates misanthropic, egotistical assholes.

The air-condition was going at a familiar mach-twenty when my family and I made our organized chaos debut at church and took our seats. Pastor Doug began to speak about happiness, courtesy, compassion, bigotry, self-centeredness, and arrogance; I was completely, utterly enthralled. It never fails that the right words are placed in my hands week after week after week. Lately, I’ve been so removed and isolated in my day to day routines, focusing on how I can achieve my goals and mostly looking towards the future, when I have the independence to do as I please on a grander scale. But the Pastor from way down south wove a simple net of words that engulfed my temperament in one snap of the jaw. I was resuscitated from the abyss of wry humor and the dark present, fawning over schemes of how to make time tick faster so I can have my freedom. It’s not about me. It’s not about everyone and their mother. You see, to live you have to die first. Life is your memory, marking the passage of time. Life is timeso whatever you spend your time doing, well, that’s what you’re giving your life to. You know that I have big plans for myself, plans that I’m completing as I write this, battling my jungle disease in the never-again exotic Playa Del Carmen, and I urge you-no, beg you- to give your life the same passionate dedication to your higher purpose, like I’m trying to do with mine. But what I’m getting at here is that higher purpose. Imagine a government agent- a criminal, a friend- holding the cold, hard barrel of a nine mm pistol to your temple, hatred oozing from their pores and melting down into the weapon they hold. What is a liable reason a man could be so intensely enraged at you that he’d want to put a bullet through your brain? Would your life be on the line because of money? Would you be sacrificing yourself for family, or a cause? Let me ask you: would you be content to die for the thing you give your life to by spending your time on? We’re all pursuing the future and what we can do for ourselves in this world of materialism and hapless distractions. Now, I don’t want to live too long (if my lifespan is determined by health though, then being a vegan will carry me to the late 100s- but that’s a conversation for another time.) At whatever point in my life the grim reaper comes knocking on my door, if I have a door at the time, then I know I’ll be dying with the knowledge that I passed onto the other side giving my life to people. I don’t want to live in my world, I want to skip around and hopscotch through everyone else’s: changing old age to youthfulness with a listening ear, bringing dreams and goodies and flowers and cake in the form of relationships and chance encounters. I want to be the person who makes the girl slumping behind the Burger King counter strive for something more. The stranger that made the grave-digger laugh.

I’m calling people like me and hopefully, now you too, the A Team. We traverse the world and stomp on social standards and mediocrity. We spray paint in the blanket of the night because we love it, and because it’s a legitimate art form. We write letters instead of emails and seal them in wax. We rage against the chains of the government and their so-called socialism and all the corrupt ado of culture. We learn, teach, love, and look at people with eyes of knowledge and truth and sanctuary.

I used to squint through a big fat image of a dancing Venus, venomous clouds of asbestos burning my retinas and shrouding the world in cynical remarks. Now, I can honestly say I’m at moving towards peace with the part of myself that had so much trouble with my young age and lack of independence, the piece of me that prevented sight of all the good-doing the people around me could use. I’m singing the La-La song in the shower again. When the clock, like a tell-tale tattoo of a racing heart, beat out twelve strikes to signify the New Year, I was sobbing into the deep blue bowl of Playa’s night sky, and wondering when on earth my age would catch up with my mind and maturity. Mum sympathized with me, she knows what it’s like to be stuck in the midst of teenaged years that don’t seem to match up with the mature souls we have. She came into my room, beautiful as anything, and held out her arms, even after our heated arguments about the restrictions of my young fourteen years. I folded my arms around her and burst into another round of gunshot tears. She never fails to be my revival.

So cheers. We’re here. The New Year is abundant with opportunities to look up from your iPhone and really see your neighbor and their needs. They’re all just trying to get through life, but us, we’re the A Team.

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