Thursday, August 01, 2013

Stations of the Breath - Part Five


Continued from parts One, Two, Three and Four.


What's an afterthought when applied to somebody's life?  One action doesn't reflect everything there is in a person, and not every aspect of their story is holy writ. You can look at it all with the Yeats line about how Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold or just shrug and mutter Whattaya gonna do? leaving it at that. It sums things up just as well but lacks poetry.

There isn't any poetry in self-destruction, at least not to the witnesses. The last thoughts of the instigator must have their own rhyme and structure, something that applies entirely to their own diminishing stations of the breath. They might be able to explain their motivation if they survive, or simply push it all away as far as possible to be explored no further.

All of this conjecture is ham-fisted on my part. Mea culpa. It's the only way that I can explain the brief presence of Celeste in the context of Zoe's story and not feel like I am somehow robbing her of her own voice in the matter. My only defense is that Celeste didn't talk about her suicide attempt. It happened early in Grade 11, let's call it October of 1984. Somebody told us what happened and it was briefly whispered about and after a week or ten days she came back to our theatre class with careful bandages on her wrists and a hospital bracelet that, for some reason, she wore for a long time.

Our class was closer than most, but the details around her attempt seemed only to be shared only among a small group of girls, her nearest and dearest. I wasn't privy to any of the background other than the basics; she'd been sad and moody (not unusual for teens in a performing arts high school) and the general consensus was that this had been a cry for help or just a really bad idea on her part. I also remember that there wasn't a hanging concern that she would try it again.

Maybe it was because it seemed so unreal to her friends in the first place, or perhaps it was just felt unreal to me. I was still raw after Antonella and didn't want to push the topic further or even think about it. Celeste only comes into Zoe's story briefly, later, without playing a part. My notice of her does. It's something that needs to be explained to understand the whole.

We haven't exactly kept in touch, but I run into her on rare occasions at get-togethers with mutual friends. Her scars are almost gone and aren't - now or then - a topic of conversation, but if you're one of those who saw them when they were new (even under her carefully placed bracelets and sweaters with overlong sleeves), you still notice traces on her wrists when she raises her glass of wine at a party.

It's all irrelevant now. I can't even tell you if her scars are horizontal or vertical or both. But a classmate with a graveyard sense of humour pointed out the differences in approach; blood clots easily from a horizontal cut, and flows quickly from a vertical slice. He'd remind you that's it's Across for Show, Down for Go. Or he'd pretend to cut a capital H into his wrist horizontally (H for Hospital) and vertically (H for Heaven), his routine probably picked up from a movie somewhere.

And he liked Celeste.

He was 15 years old and trying to be funny. And we were all friends at the time.

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