THE MARBLE URN & ANTON CHEKHOV
I did something today that was organic, peaceful and morbid. This was my response.
THE MARBLE URN & ANTON CHEKHOV
a story about me & an organic, morbid hour of life
I bought an urn this week.
I’ve procrastinated on buying it because i didn’t like the feeling of more change.
But I bought it and today is the day.
I am listening to two audio stories to accompany the task. The first is Anton Chekhov's THE BEAUTIES, read by Philip Pullman, and the second is Hans Christian Andersen's THE EMPEROR'S NEW CLOTHES.
I begin cutting open the urn box paraphernalia, superfluous but appreciated. The white marble container needs protection and honor. As I cut into the cardboard, treated to look like wood, and wire metal binding, I carefully examine each piece as if it is a Vermeer original. I touch the smooth marble and notice the inside has a rough, sanded look. Simultaneously Pullman’s lulling British accent retells the Chekhovian story which he describes as “a story about nothing and another story about nothing.” But the detail is so vivid and picturesque, the twisting corners of description are so complex and satisfying that you don’t care. You receive it as a moment of life captured, as if you are inside a still life painting. I’m thankful someone took the time to tell me about the emotions accompanying pedestrian nothingness.
A feeling of melancholy grips me. But then it morphs into a release, a resigning to peace above situational turmoil. I smile.
I change my Audible track and THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES begins.
I start to transition the ashes of my friend whom has been in a hard, black plastic case inside a hefty plastic bag I received from the crematory. He’s been in our bedroom for almost two years. I lift the plastic bag with his remains over the mouth of the marble. I carefully inch the remains down the inside of bag until I know it will pour without fear of the remains spilling. As I pour my friend into the marble, there is a cloud of dust that billows up into my face. It smells metallic and earthy. He is dust to dust and ashes to ashes in my kitchen. It feels commonplace and monumental. I wonder what will happen to my body when I die. Who will care and where will I be? I miss him so much.
I’m not fearful as I think these things. I feel peace and an urgency that is mixed with excitement.
I finish pouring him into the marble and stare at it. Then, in the hard, black plastic case he was in previously, I see a metal tag with his Crematory number: 4802. I place that on top of the ashes and place the marble lid atop. I notice I have his ashes on the top of my right hand. I take my hand and brush it over my left forearm. This feels morbid and organic.
I smile again and know he would be happy to be in such a regal container.
All the while, the story of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale is tumbling into my ears and I can’t believe how apropos it feels. The story is about a man and his so-called friends who are tricked over and over and over again into believing that something is beautiful, wonderful and stylish when it doesn’t even exist. Because of the fear of being culturally irrelevant, a man walks into public naked because he would rather be popular than truthful. It’s not until a child in the audience whispers “But he hasn’t got anything on” that everyone realizes they have traded common sense for the fleeting fashionable opinion.
I carry the urn into our bedroom and place it facing the window. I make a conscious note that he is not in the urn. He is a healthy and joyous soul beyond this place. But I still draw comfort from his dust.
My friend was a man with very little means and often lived on the streets. But he was like the child in the audience whispering, and sometimes yelling, common sense when everyone else was caught up in a rat race. He was unafraid to say the hard things to me and to everyone around him. He had nothing to lose by telling the truth.
This scares and inspires me. So I make an Evernote list of all the countries I’ve visited and the ones I still want to visit. I include states I’ve never visited. I write the areas in which I’m potentially telling lies because I’m afraid. I write that I have been stunted a bit. Part of me seemed to die with my friend, but today he is whispering again like that brave child. He says, “Don’t take no wooden nickels” and he says “Life isn’t about you.” Lastly he says, “Don’t lie, girl.”