Mimesis, [Hol]low Spots

by Charlotte E. Wilde

I have never been one for goodbyes; movement of this sort, whether from state to state or death to life, has always left me helplessly incapacitated or simply paralyzed with terror.

It strikes me as significant that we no longer have the same rapport with death that we once did. The end of the 19th century saw a shift as we gradually began to view death as something unnatural. Now a body is whisked away immediately only to be reintroduced to the grieving family days later in a state of mock-up— painted life-like and adorned in Sunday’s best— seen for the briefest of moments during which they whisper a distant goodbye. Historically, we took care of our dead loved-ones ourselves, we looked death square in the eye for days as we mourned in its presence until we finally laid our feelings in the ground. Memento Mori, or post-mortem photographs, were paramount— portraits that functioned as the concrete proof of an absence, a mode of forced acceptance. The likeness of a family member captured in death took the place of their presence in life. In this way, the image of death functioned as a substitut for death itself, initiating the process of reconciliation between a subconscious loss and the conscious one, so beginning the process of mourning, of melancholia.

Today, all that remains of this process is absence, vacancy. I find that I fare no better with physical losses than I do with mental or moral ones. The void that exists in this is not dissimilar to what one feels at losing a tooth. You run your tongue around the hole in your mouth where wisdom once stood to find raw edges, the soft and slightly salty taste of congealed blood, and above all the throbbing ache of something missing. I feel this lack as though a piece of me was removed from my presence before I truly had the opportunity to come to terms with its departure. It is not the void itself but rather the surprise of transmutation that spurs a desire for exploration, a need to re-familiarize myself with my own body in light of this absence manifested in emptiness.

Despite my paralysis I feel the dearth, or rather the want of you, acutely. I trace the jagged edges of the location you no longer occupy in hopes that my conscious might leak into my subconscious and force a reconciliation. Instead of moving on, forward and away from the past, the result is a deepening feeling of empty that tends towards a building frenzy.

I blame my panic partly on the fact that I have no photographs of us together that might have functioned as a physical manifestation of your absence, no Memento Mori and thus no way to anchor my brain to your disappearance. My mourning is suspended; it hovers disbelieving as I lie motionless, eyes closed, hands clasped. I’m no longer imagining you next to me but concentrating on tracing the edges of the now unoccupied space in my mind, wondering how long I will have to force myself to still before it heals, scabs, scars. Though I’m wracked with thoughts on how those little empty sockets could be all that’s left of us, all that will remain in the future, I am strangely thankful for their presence—absentia.

No, I have never been one for goodbyes, I suppose they always seem too cruel, too violently sudden, like the loss of wisdom and the imposition of forced immobility. I am incapacitated by the impossibility of our necessary reduction, our disintegration until all that remains is the sorrow of an absence, manifested not in tangible things but merely in irreconcilable lack.

Not that I ever thought you were something I was meant to keep. In truth, at least when confronted with absence or death solace can be found in the eternal presence of self. Some paltry comfort can be gleaned from no longer having to read between any lines but your own, a rejection of scripts that rang brassy and hollow like funeral bells.