WHEN YOU'RE DEAD
by Melissa Buckheit
When you’re dead you no longer have to think about the experiences of your childhood, get up morning after morning or cook meal upon meal until you no longer wish to eat. When you no longer wish to eat, you may be dead.
I kept a collection of newspaper articles documenting airplane crashes in my great-grandmother’s mahogany-stained vanity when I was a child blank I collected the articles after ‘tragic’ plane crashes would occur, and stuffed them in the bottom-left, corner drawer blank My great-grandmother came to America from County Galway, Ireland. The furniture was left to my mother by my great-grandmother, when she died of Alzheimer’s, after being ‘disowned’ by my mother’s side of the family blank She was sort of a bitch but I never met her blank and I was only told of her existence after she’d died. No one went to her funeral. “Your Great-Grandmother died” “Who?” blank Said as if they were having lunch blank In the drawer, each article was usually a front-page special, depicting the most eerie, disturbing, and matter-of-fact image of a burning plane.
The burning planes transfixed me. I didn’t know why. Each time I saw the image of a wing on fire or the charred crash revealing the body of the plane with a portion ripped out, I stuffed the entire section of the newspaper into the bottom drawer blank Call it a talisman against suffering blank There seemed to be so many crashes over the two years I lived in that apartment where I began collecting blank It flooded while I lived there with my mother and her drunk boyfriend blank How common is it to be in a plane that crashes? Natural Disasters? Beginning that summer, I imagined that if I were about to crash, I’d relax my entire body so that upon impact, I’d remain alive blank The hacked body of a plane eerily resembled the limb severed from the body of a crash victim blank Part for the whole.
My parents had recently divorced, and I was thirteen. That summer after seventh grade, I’d take long walks at dusk, alone, through the neighboring streets for hours blank One time a creepy old man stalked me and I hid in a enormous pine tree blank I was scared to death but bent on survival blank I listened to a Judy Garland mix tape of mostly early songs from Easter Parade, Meet Me in St. Louis and other pre-50’s musicals, every night as I tried to sleep blank I pretended to have a French twin as to avoid speaking English to my neighbors or to avoid being in my life blank I’d dress up in late-Edwardian clothing to imagine myself away to imagine myself away from that space. That space blank I raised feral kittens and fed feral cats in our laundry room. I lived in one of the ugliest cities in our state blank I read through two of my mother’s bookcases, each containing books about a single subject; the first was Hollywood, and the other was the Holocaust. My mother was busy smoking pot, having sex and ‘re-living’ her teenage years blank I don’t like to speak of it blank blank The drawer full of articles in my great-grandmother’s mahogany vanity was a secret, which was mine, a reality I controlled blank People were constantly dying in plane crashes blank when another article appeared, I was never surprised. People dying in plane crashes were real in a way the living could never be blank Surrounded as I was, a ghost.
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