Dear Anthony

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Sometimes I wonder if I have anything more to say, or if I've said it all.

There are worlds within me—worlds, I tell you—and it's like I've gone beyond any sort of recognizable frontier. Nothing matters, and everything.matters.desperately.

In one world, I have experienced great loss. The kind where you stand before another human being and offer up your deepest, most secret self. And with a trembling lip you whisper, do you still love me? And they look at you and the answer is no. It's a soft and slow deliberate resolution. No, I do not love you. They look at you, and maybe they are scared. Scared of what they don't know about you, but more so, what they don't know about themselves. And really, there is no one and nothing to blame. No one and nothing to forgive. So here you both are, caught in the tender.

::

In another world, I am so angry. I am angry at Anthony and I am angry at the culture of shame that doesn't allow me my own private grief. (We are never good enough, even in sadness, are we?) I am angry at myself, because why am I heartbroken when deaths of despair happen every moment in obscurity? Over 120 a day in America alone. Yet a celebrity dies and here I am, my body wracked with anguish. But what now? Say something, and you're suddenly a user: using high-profile tragedy for clickbait, for evangelizing, for gathering clicks, likes & shares, for skewering others for how they process shocking grief. You're making it all about you. Hogging the spotlight. But you don't get the luxury to be angry, says Instagram. Like a mean girl. Pushing me away. Especially not at him. He was in the dark. He was the one in pain. It was his story, not yours. 

 
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Anthony Bourdain

 

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.” 

1956—2018

 

Tribute after tribute rolls by from big-name-accounts and they get to say what they want; they get to be sanctimonious and talk about you and wrap it all up with a hotline and do their service to humanity. I haven't said much but I've cried real tears, salty and hot, and fumbled for words and felt helpless and stupid and lost. They don't know. They don't know how much I loved you.

Maybe I don't have words. Maybe words don't matter. Maybe that's ok. Maybe tastes and feelings and heartbeats are enough. I remember wanting to write again because of you. I listened to the cadence of your stories and wanted to be you somehow, only as me. I sighed and kissed my own lips over a luscious Malbec and traveled with you to Oman and Lebanon and Morocco. I prayed for your salvation and cried over how beautiful you were in twilight.

I wondered if anyone else saw you as I did: a poet and an artist. You wandered and you were loved. You tried to be godless, so desperately, and I never understood why. But I remember the blushing heat of rhythms and saffron and Jerusalem, and the breathtaking waters of Sicily and how honest you were—relentlessly. Your honesty brings forth mine. I am everything you despise: a vegetarian who is passionate about the things of God. I'm no willowy young flowerchild from Italy or France. I am grey-haired usually, and anonymous, and middle-America, and I'm angry at your arrogance. And I'm unbelievably sad. Do I even get to be sad? Is this some kind of stolen, guilty grief, like a cake eaten in secret I must repent of later? Is my compassion disqualified? Or my sorrow and sympathy for whatever darkness you succumbed to?

You are lost forever and I'm sad and mad. I don't know what comes next. So I watch you, moments of you that are collected on screens. I hover over written words that remain like a final, lingering exhale. I feel  helpless and voyeuristic. As if I'm hunting for signs, like how to go back in time, like how to stop you. Like how to keep you from yourself. Like how to bring you home.

But we both know I can't and now you are gone. You are never coming back. The day aches for you and a shadow is left in the shape of you. 

::

The moon is a thin crescent tonight.

Don't you want to disappear?
Don't you want to be born again?
Don't you want to start over everything?


hillary
Hillary McFarland