- I asked Liza to call the only person I - we could think of that might be able to capture the essence all that is the Ethyl - who was really needing her moment - and a person who would be capable of snapping an image of me with my mouth shut and my eyes open - as well as a person who would 'get' that these photos were never really to be seen by anyone - but that they would be a way for us - Myrtle, Ethyl and I to bond. After all we had been hanging - quite literally out together since I was in grade 7. So aside from being playful and quick lensed this person also has to able to manage the exceeding eccentric . However and most importantly, we all needed to be in safe company and company who would be emotionally capable of shooting a potential dead person.
The choice was painfully obvious. - The one the only Suzi.
When I called my tongue freaked out. " Err III me... boobie.. - trying to explain myself and what I wanted was awkward. Trying to explain Ethyl and what she was just weird so I stopped sucking air into my cheeks and handed the phone to Liza. " Can you come over and take some photos of Kelly before she has her mastectomy?"
Why didn't I think of that. Just ask. Be simple. Why does my brain and mouth have to add 3000 extra extreme words? Why can't I just have a still silent thought?
Because silence as you may have noted scares me. It fills rooms with a noxious gas of doubt and fabrication. It floats across faces dusting them with vacant ideas and coats eyes with dullness. Minds wander off to grocery lists or worse yet trot back through time and begin to 'write' histories that never quite happened -- Words prevent that. They ensnare the senses and bewitch the mind to thinking something is actually happening. ( Thank you Snape) And hey keep me present. They keep time moving.
Photos then as you can imagine are terrifying to me. Moments you cannot control. Time you cannot move. A perspective no longer yours - a common experience - made silently and deeply personal. Framed by words few will ever hear.
Thank god we had wine. And sunlight.
Suzi arrived the next day with enough gear to work for Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. She asked me to find a funky pair of beaten up old jeans and to go barefoot. Yes and lose the t-shirt. Funky? um. I went looking. The only jeans I could find that had some depth to them were the ones I used to wear when I was painting. I say painting but it was really processing. 78 canvases worth of grief - A dear friend of both mine and Suzi's had taken his life some years ago - his funeral was the first night I had met Suzi - so these jeans seemed fitting. Except they did not.
Cancer was eating me alive. I wandered around the corner to present myself and the jeans - even with a belt they hit the floor. So did LIza's jaw. It seems losing weight when not trying is like missing your hair growing -one day you just have a pony tail. I poured a glass of wine and retreated to find a pair of jeans that fit. I could hear them crying. Not only did I feel sick I officially looked sick. And I had triggered Suzi. She too lost her Mom to cancer. I had no idea how I was going to push through this. Wandering around my home topless - and yet shrouded in emotions I - I - I -
I have never felt so vulnerable. Scared or safe all in one moment. Which apparently makes for awesome photographs. At first I was all stiff and posy like. Sears mannequin 101. Then instead of looking down - or at Liza or at the camera - or out the window - or clutching my wine glass in front of my chest - I looked over at Gracie my beloved Great Dane who was curled up on the corner of the white couch just watching. My face softened with love. The first creature I ever chose to love. I melted - not Las Vegas style but in a ways I have never felt. My hands fell open. I had no bones. My skin felt connected to my blood. I lay down with her and she put her paw out and her head down on my feet. She sighed and I cried. That I think was the best shot. In a week our lives and my body would be forever changed. Would I die before her like my mother before me? Would she be as lost as I was with out the touch of my Mom and the sound of her voice? Would a photograph console her the way this experience of being whole one last time was consoling me?
I looked up. Suzi was done. Her camera silently at her side. I rose and put on the only proper lady bra I had. Suzi wiped her tears and I mine. Then she manically jumped in front of me and clicked massive rapid close ups of my double e cleavage. Brilliant. I went crimson - snapped back into my painful self conscious self - I grabbed my t-shirt used a few un lady like words and we roared with laughter.
Ethyl had had her moment. The girls had one last cuddly close up. I came to grips that I am not alone in this journey -love is everywhere if you can stop to feel it - and I also realized that silence - just being in that moment - even if that moment could be forever - is worth taking off your clown nose, your ego, and your shirt.
The Bra I am still out on.