The scaffolding of our lives

by Mathangi Krishnamurthy

I have come to the beach to drown out the heartbreak and listlessness and senselessness of life in the moment. I look at these waves that swallow everything. Tishani Doshi writes in "What the Sea Brought In", of a laundry list of things suddenly seen:

"Brooms, brassieres, empty bottles

of booze. The tip of my brother's

missing forefinger. Bulbs, toothpaste


instruments for grooming. Chestnuts,

carcass of coconut, crows, crabs.

Three dying fish, four dead


Slippers of every stripe: rubber, leather,

Rexine, felt."

I stare at the sea, and draw my own list of things to send back. Twenty seven photographs, two concert ticket stubs, three new years' parties, two hundred and eight measures of gin and tonic, a body, three sets of new sheets, five coffee mugs, three wine glasses (one broken), a foot board, three dogs (one disappeared), a rash vest, a pack of cards, a seventh grade mark sheet, a polka dotted dress, my first résumé, a coffee machine, two home videos, one voice recording, too many words to count, fifty seven lines of control, five long weeks of silence. I am tired.

Like Aragorn, I look left, right, east, west, something, and at just the opportune moment, I espy fireworks, orange, fuschia, and dazzlingly green; I am momentarily light.

Perhaps, this is why that moment in "The Two Towers", when awash in golden light, Gandalf and the Rohirrim arrive in deus ex machina fashion is on my top ten list of movie-manipulated affects. When younger, I loved myself some death and glory. Now older, I look for hope and redemption.

Disney-pixars-coco-ht-mem-171117_4x3_992Perhaps, this is why I, like so many others, am deliciously compelled by Pixar's 2017 runaway hit, "Coco". A poignant ode to culture and family, I read the film in this moment, as also about loss. And the complex yearnings of both, those who lose and those who fear being lost. In other words, as media studies scholars might say, I like many others have re-mediated "Coco" to set alight my own world.

My family keeps sorrow down and under. We sulk and weep in corners, backs to each other, aware, complicit and unseeing. And we do not think about endings. Or death. And for days after watching "Coco", I asked questions. Does the possibility of our deaths animate our lives enough? Should we make a list of things we would want people to think about when we are gone? What are the fantastical powers of memory to re-animate and re-invigorate? Can we extend such remembrance and memory to more of us in the world? Can we re-sacralize dead bodies that come and go in moments of mass media consumption and upheaval? What does it mean to lose someone, some thing, any one, many ones, many things?

The world is full of strange forms of longing, available in familiar structures. Loss reappears again and again. You will lose your keys, you will lose your loves, and so as Elizabeth Bishop famously wrote, "The art of losing isn't hard to master…though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster."

Once, on February the 14th of 1997, I lost my wallet, when perched in a parking lot, on one of a series of motorbikes. In it were money, my driving license, a college identity card, and I don't remember, but perhaps my first credit card. I was devastated. But just as I let go of the possibility of ever recovering the paperwork of my life, the strangers that owned the bikes, called and found me and returned it all. I even imagined given the impossibility of this return, the certainty of a Valentine-destined love story in its wake. Alas, that did not happen. And then one other time, neighbors returned my lost cellphone. They weren't very nice about it, though. And countless other times, things did not come back, and I can only imagine, inhabited other worlds with equal purpose and presence. I remember a fair amount of loss.

But, memory is a strange balm. For it filters out the dirt, and the dust, and the pain, and the hurt, and renders life in softly lit silhouettes, ready and waiting to be mourned.

Jolted full circle thus, I return to the sea. The waves are strong, the light very little, and the sounds relentlessly of the moment. The water roars. We are surrounded by sand, and dogs, and young lovers, and neon lights, and fortune tellers. One offers to read my palm. I offer her money and ask that in return, she not.

IMG_20171125_112712__01A few last acts before I end up home. Groceries are bought after consulting carefully made lists. The helmet is put away in the scooter boot. I pull the scooter onto its stand and fetch the house keys from the labyrinth that is my bag.

I linger outside downstairs, and caress the dog. He looks depressed, and I worry for a few seconds until a vehicle noisily passes by. He growls at it mildly, but enough for me to know that we are here, in this moment, together.