“Denise’s courage to end her own pain, freed you up emotionally to do the things that God has in store for you to do.”
-- Reverend Julie Strope in conversation with Deneen Ansley the last night that Denise Ansley’s body existed on this earth.
“What does it feel like?” someone once asked me, “when you want to kill yourself?
When you are wanting to die, I mean, what process goes through your mind? What are you thinking?”
Well, it feels like pain. Like unbelievable emotional pain. Like a cup filled up with water, a balloon pressed to fullness of bursting with air. The water is going to spill over. The heart within the chest is going to split and fly in every direction. Red bloody, messy flesh stuff is going to coat everything. It’s too much to contain. There is no appropriate container - least of all a fleshy one. It’s too much to bear. It is death.
That’s what it feels like.
“A cowardly thing to do,” you say.
“A selfish act.”
You tell me, how many of us, if told to take a loaded gun, put it to our throats and pull the trigger, would be able to accomplish that act?
What if, in our heart of hearts, we believed that the act would make better the lives of many that we knew?
What if we truly knew that those who loved us would be better off without us? Safer, more secure?
Could you do it? You tell me? Would you?
“Here, Baby,” she used to say, presenting her head to me. “Rub my head until you put me to sleep.
“Ooohh! That feels so good! You’re giving me chill-bumpers!” She’d cackle and smile and do that little half-lick of her lips thing. Her deep brown eyes always bore into mine.
Here I now sit, rubbing the hair on the top of your cold head that feels no tingling. Skin that can no longer feel the chill. Eyes that are closed and can’t see.
You are dead.
Kissing your cold and unresponsive face reminds me of kissing it so many times when you were down. In bed for days sometimes, curled into a warm, comforting ball of humanity - and I would come in and straighten your covers, gaze on your unconscious face. Lean over to kiss you gently on the forehead, the nose - at times, even your eyes - and you would not wake up. Even to lightly lay my hand upon your face. I would grok you. Feed you and feed from you. With you it was an even exchange. An act of balance. We were yin and yang.
My sweet, sweet love. Will we still, one day, make Universes together?
This is the face that I love. It’s the face that has brought me comfort on so many cold and otherwise lonely nights.
I know that profile like I know the profile of my own hand.
My fingertips know the little dip and bumps in the oft broken nose.
The knuckles of your fingers and toes are memorized and familiar to my own fingertips as I caress you and remember….
Those lips so often kissed….
Those hands so often held,
Those eyes whose tears I have so often dried -
And would have done again - if given opportunity.
Again, and again and again….
“How many times would you have rescued her?” I was asked.
As often as it takes.
My life, my heart, my soul was yours.
Is yours still
As I cry out and beg your spirit not to leave me, though you’ve chosen to leave yourself.
Your face so perfect that you needed no makeup. Your look of peace so absolute that my dear friend, your embalmer, was not called upon to alter your expression.
Though you wear a half-smile, this is not a joke.
Your hands wanted to be at your side, he said.
“No girlie sweet crossing of hands demurely across the chest,” I thought.
Perhaps you needed to be able to come out punching if the mood struck!
I take pictures and thank you for allowing it. I’m indebted to you for the fact that you didn’t actually blow away your face - as you’d threatened to do. I’ve held that face, caressed it. Even in death, your skin has a wonderful and unusual tone. Your right breast, on the side with your “opened-by-the-bullet-neck”, is hard to the touch - the nipple erect and at attention.
The tissue of the left breast is still soft and pliable, still sporting the tattooed nickname of your first love: “Wen” for “Wendy”. You’ve born the scar of Wendy’s heartbreak and betrayal ever since. This, you say, is your reminder that she was not what she appeared to be.
You were what you appeared to be. Some of your actions may have been hidden to me, but your heart never was. Your Aquarius band around your right arm still holds its color. It’s a water sign, like my own: Cancer.
You purposely had it placed high enough that you could cover it with a sleeve while working - so as to appear mere professional.
My hands still want to trace your creamy hips and my mouth has the memory of taking you inside it as I’ve held those hips like handles, joining you in one of the many ways that we became one flesh. I can still hear the small sounds that escape you with your orgasms - the hot, wet breath of you against my neck as you molded and thrust into my own innermost self.
My fingertips trace that familiar line of dark hair that trails to your pubis, and your hair is all sticky with glue as my friend tried to plug those incisions left by the brave folks trying to save a braver you, who was too determined to die.
I gently trod across your labia, the darker, inner lips pouting out so dry and cold where my hands had before found such warmth and life. I take a bit of your hair there - to join it with your other hair in a locket - knowing full well that you are the sexual counterpart to me. You are my balance and there will never be another person with whom I fall through the stars.
Not like with you.
The universe will never fall away from me again and leave me floating, bodiless -
But - Oh! Never mind!
It has done!
You are gone.
My universe gone away and I am free floating - falling in despair and begging your spirit -
“Please, don’t leave me. If you can please stay a little while! Don’t forget me in your new existence! Don’t get so busy that you can’t let me need you anymore. I NEED YOU! Stay a little while!”
I can see the sun. I can see my grandbaby’s face. I can see the beauty of the trees, the brightness of the colors in the world.
Your eyes no longer open.
Your eyes no longer open.
Your eyes no longer see.
I lend you my eyes for the rest of my life.
I’ll let you see thru me.
The birds outside are sweetly singing. Can you hear them? Use my faulty ears, my love… or is your universe now so magnificent that my experiences, my bodily senses are like mere child’s play to you in your new form?
All through the night I awaken in my chairs fashioned into my own crude couch beside your casket.
I awaken, twice, when I glance over & see your familiar profile on my left.
- The wrong side, but still there and familiar. For a second, I can almost believe that you are alive, in our bed, sleeping peacefully.
What a gift this is to spend one more night with you! I want to hold you! Lay my head upon your chest.
I want to build a glass case and keep you in it so that I might look at you forever. I tell you so.
“Denise! Just get up! Just get the fuck up out of this casket and come home! Just come home!”
I don’t ever want to wash these fingers that have touched your skin for the last time.
I don’t ever want to wash these lips that last connected with your physical body.
Now, I watch the extreme heat alter the atmosphere around the chimney as you go up in smoke. There is the ripple of “mist-that-was-you” dipping into the atmosphere.
The smell of the embalming fluid still pervades my nostrils - co-mingling with the residue of ash-that-was-you. I burned your profile into my brain - looking over at you all through the night.
We open the cremation chamber to check your progress. Your skull is outlined in ash - still beautiful - until the rake pulls your hips forward onto the throat air, collapsing the little pile that was your face.
You are gone.