:: Article

Fig Meant #2

By Kimberly Nichols.

“I bought a ticket to the world…”

My friend is dying and I am painting.

I went to his house today at eleven a.m. and had a cocktail while he fidgeted up and down on his bed trying to get comfortable, and told me stories, like he always has about different interactions in his 65 years of life where he has dealt with the perverse desires of his soul only to come face to face with objection or persecution. As he went up and down, his fingers poised over the motor of his hospice bed, tucked conveniently into a small room of the house that he shares with his 80-year-old partner, he rolled assignments for me off of his still deep throated and elegant tongue.

“Find the place in your life Kimberly, the place where you started to disappear,” he said.

“I know this place already,” I retorted, feeling like I had already been there and done that.

“I know you know this place,” he said, sliding back down flat so that his spine would be prone enough not to pinch the cancer that crawled up each level of bone. “The question is what are you going to do with it for your future?”

He had been a psychologist in his early years, a revolutionary one in fact, yet for the past twenty had succumbed to the passion of being a writer.

I told him I wanted to do a farewell ritual for him. So one night when I was taking his partner out to dinner and a play (the man so desperately needed to get out his caretaker role temporarily to have some fun), I brought over—to their small and art-filled condo, a feather, some sesame oil, some candles, and a small black ceramic bowl.

As I rubbed the feather over him, bowl of water poised on the floor in the center of the room, and rubbed oil over his pulse points, he breathed in so deep that I saw his belly deflate in and then puff up like a balloon over and over until the candles burned low and we were done.

I think of what he said about my future. I think of all the people who have died or are dying in my life at the moment. Both cultural icons, close friends, and then the dim memories of those who still sift up occasionally from the dust of grief on the soul’s floor: grandfather’s, an ex-girlfriend, two fathers, the grandmother who taught me to blend oil paints and cause a ruckus of color and figurative cotton duck impressions in Polaroid moments of the present. I reflect upon how all of their deaths have affected me through the character traits engraved upon me through their fleeting lives. Time is fleeing and when John Hughes dies, I recall the teenage angst that he so acutely captured through his movies—one more source of time capsule in my life where something stained and then moved on, only to be appreciated now in absentia.

Looking back down that long road of memories I stumble upon the dedication and disciplined devotion to forgetting pain; the wiles of the daily life that overtake us in order to distract us; the disappearing act that sneaks up on us preparing us for the total loss of ego pre-passing; the numbing frost that overtakes our bones spurring us to accept or settle into what we’ve become and I realize I don’t want to forget anymore. I want to jump into the fire regardless of the burn and stoke the fire of life while living it.

“With a thrill in my head and a pill on my tongue…”

The dance is re-begun.


Kimberly Nichols is a writer/artist living in the California desert. Her column Diary of a Californicator was a long-running 3:AM original and she’s the author of a book of literary fiction titled Mad Anatomy. She writes on art/politics/culture for publications around the world, is consistently at work on her perpetual conceptual art project Hundred Proof Bordello and dances every chance she gets.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, August 25th, 2009.