089: What I see is Death

Moments after the filmmaker departed, Cruz stored Maricela’s 35 millimeter slides in a plastic container. There weren’t many of them. Most had come from the basement of Maricela’s father’s house, sent by her mother as her mother had no use for them.

They’d projected the slides up on the wall and each slide revealed one instance of a river and the bridge that spanned it, more precisely the railing of the bridge and a view of the river, such that each image captured an incremented moment in the crossing the bridge. If compiled into a flipbook, a viewer would be able to cross the bridge as an act of animation.

Even though it was obvious, the filmmaker kept asking Maricela but not Cruz what she saw in each image.

Maricela said, “I see death.”

After Cruz had put away the slides he found Maricela in the living room. She was reading through travel brochures: Spain, Mexico, Australia, the United States.

“I find it troubling that you saw death in the slides, death as a consideration of each image in juxtaposition,” Cruz said.

“It should come as no surprise,” Maricela said. “I’m in love with death. I don’t fear it. Death for me is a fascination.”

Cruz sat across from her. He said, “I remember as much from your father’s funeral when you snapped at anyone who cried or showed any evidence or unhappiness. Of course, we’re born, we live, and we die. We have millennia of proof of that narrative. But, Death. I don’t see how you could love it, my love, how you could not fear it. It’s an exasperating notion, Maricela. In those images, I saw a river, a bridge–these things mean passage, travel, movement toward a goal. To see death, is to make a joke of time.”

“On the contrary,” Maricela said. “First of all we need to understand that Death is an abstraction, even in medical terms, where death becomes the absence of quantity. The philosopher might claim that Death is a binary of Life. But this is incorrect, as Death for us is really an imprecise notion, an abstraction, an idea that is beyond the grasp of the living, as we can grasp the bridge and water that flows beneath it. If we range across time and societies, we find that the human fear of death has nothing to do with the moment after the heart ceases to beat but is really concerned with one, the method dying; two, the regrets one may have during life; three, fear for the those left behind; four, suffering and its meaning; five, fear of the truth; six, a disquieting and I would claim foolish jealousy of the dead, as we hate that even the dead would have knowledge of something denied us.”

“I follow your logic,” Cruz said, “but do you really dare apply such generalities? I have to admit I suffer all of those options you list.”

“It’s nothing to me, really,” Maricela said. She lay the pamphlets down. “Really, I don’t dismiss life and love as I long for the knowledge death. You see here our plans laid out on the table. Soon we might be in Barcelona. We might be in el Norte visiting Henry. Nevertheless, the great answer that is the moment after my heart ceases is simply too fascinating to dismiss. Think of it, Cruz, all our schemes of death, and how trivial they must be in the face of the size of the universe and the amazing things we’ve seen there through the lenses of telescopes and imagine the triviality of the human concept of a god or gods that might make such a universe where these wonders exist yet to think that such a being could harbor such a dull emotion as spite or jealousy or possess a threatening finger. Yes, my father passed last year, and we’ve just seen his slides, slides that he kept because he prized them and we wonder why these images of a bridge and the water and their juxtaposed motion were so important, so valuable to him. But, indeed, they are his motion, they are what he saw, but we don’t know what they meant to him, only what they mean to us. Yes, we have the universe in all its wonder and potential significance and yet we dismiss each other with such spontaneity, with such gross love of destruction, and we raise our apparatus in the face of the nebula and busy ourselves with establishing ownership of a thing none of us can even touch.”

She paused and said, “But, Cruz, consider, when we die maybe then we might touch it. Maybe then, just after the moment our hearts cease pumping, maybe then, with some practice mind you, we might be able to understand what we’ve seen by gaining that enormous distance death may supply us, depending of course on the realities of death. Maybe, maybe, maybe. Do you see?”

“I see,” Cruz said. “It’s an amazing thing to consider. Life indeed may be a fantastic trick. But what about now; what should we do now?”

Maricela picked up one of the travel pamphlets. “Australia,” she said. “Australia is it.”

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