This is a way too long and wordy piece I wrote about
Andy's death and some of the events that followed.
I wrote it in 2005. This month being the anniversary
I thought I would break the ice and hope to get some
great stories to archive here. Hopefully some less
.....We make small gestures when larger meanings leave us. Three days after he died, I stopped wearing the ring. It was the evening of the memorial at the Paramount Theater. Kelly's house was filled with weeping and confused loved ones. It was the first of many events resonated with the lingering expression of sympathy and regret. There was finally nothing left to do, and yet I stood in the center of the room, holding the glass box with his hair in it... as if waiting for a sign.
I looked at the lake the next morning and thought about how meeting him and my decision to stay here years ago had changed my life. I thought about what I should have done differently, and then the shock that it was too late settled in. The ring went on and off again. Perhaps the gesture to remove it would make real what so far had eluded me. What I didn't know was that it would take me years to know what it would mean to lose someone, and in that time, I would slowly self-destruct.
Mourning is like being in labor. It defies description. It's nothing like what you expect it to be. Your friends' attempts to comfort you are fruitless. It confirms your worst fear of how alone you really are in this world, and in the end gives bloody birth to a new life.
He died on a close and breathless night. Those closest to him were the most surprised. Except me. I often felt that it was some sort of karma for me to lose him... and his destiny to die young. By the time the death rattle had begun and the impossible became real to all, I could only hope that it would be over soon.
A few days after the memorial, a friend caught me looking in the mirror. I guess I was trying to see if my face reflected the blasted terrain within. "Well, I guess you're the wicked widow of Seattle now," he said. Was my anger showing through already? Apparently so. Andrew's dad's words at the memorial... drunken words..."Xana, thank you for keeping him alive all those years; I'm sorry we didn't understand. I'm sorry we didn't listen to you."
We don't make much room for death in our culture. It's something that tends to happen offstage. In his case, not having "our own" customs and rituals made his service somewhat of a disaster and a confusing event for some. Of course death from drugs or alcohol is something that's almost common and expected in the music business. If that person is immortalized through death your wounds aren't expected to be as deep. "He was a junkie," they'd say.... "What did you expect, for him to live forever?" You're considered "lucky" to have had that time with them.
You could say I was in denial. You could say I was in shock. More than anything, though, I was terrified. If his name was mentioned in my presence they'd study me to see if the tears were welling up in my eyes. Maybe my control comforted some and gave them the comfort they needed to go on, but it also disturbed some of my friends.
That's when I started to avoid them all. I started drinking and going out a lot, and I usually found I was more comfortable around men, so that's who I spent all my time with... but I would feel lonely in a way I never had before.
I became a recluse also. I'd watch old movies, mostly about lost love and death, trying to find out how I was supposed to act and feel. I began to envy the way Victorians mourned. The widows, strong like stately ships, bearing down the wind, as black as crows, veiled and swathed, eyes sad and far away-beautifully sad... their costumes a stark announcement to the world... expect nothing of me.
....Their grief only advertised by their appearance.
Mine seemed to be known to all. Especially in Seattle. Strangers asking intrusive questions, absurd rumors and accusations. It followed me everywhere I went, and although I rarely brought it up, it seemed to surface eventually. And the songs. Our relationship spilled out and picked apart, for all to hear and analyze, for his writing was prophetic.... The final message to me: I loved you, more than my own life.... I loved you, but not enough to stop.
The emotional landscape against which I knew myself was blown away. I lived in an exploded world. I became a social ornament to admire and desire. If all the attention drew me closer to my own sins , I was only slightly aware of it... and even less worried about the consequences. In fact, I was curious and ultimately careless... and now I was doing heroin, so my feelings were completely numbed. My only awareness was that my presence was 'loved' by those who anticipated getting a piece of me even if it was just for one hot minute.
I became an expert at living in the past and at telling the story of his life and death without feeling or showing any emotion, and eventually I started believing that being his fiancee was what made me important.
I also lived in a shrine of our belongings. I wore his clothes, slept with his hair ( it still smelled like him) read his lyrics and letters he'd written me, over and over. I always knew he thought he'd overdose and die young.... Now I realized that he knew it. Of course there were cries for help. But I seemed to be alone in my fears, because I was the one he shared those fears with. Some situations I wished I had handled differently. I made it hard for him to be totally honest about the drugs. Not using with him was never enough, and I was often upset with what I considered a simple lack of willpower. I'd give him money, and then get mad at him for using it for drugs.
So I lived like a good tenant in the life that we had, and with all the artifacts in place, I could almost convince myself that he wasn't really dead... (in every dream I had, he was still alive, just missing) ...especially when I was high. Sometimes I'd talk to him, and sometimes he'd even talk back.
There were also hidden fears, and there were conscious fears. Scared to kill myself, but not scared to die. Scared to be alone, but also scarred to let anyone get close to me. I had always, amidst the chaos, still felt that he'd saved me from a life of repression or a life with more problems, like the life I would of had if I'd stayed in New Mexico as a teen. My uncle's drinking and drugging was even worse, and my fathers controlling ways were emotionally abusive. I realized that the addict I became in Seattle is the same addict I would have become anywhere I was. I was now terrified that the young woman I had been before I met him, the self-destructive reckless girl way hidden away, would come retching forward and take control.
I'd often compared my life to a movie, and saw myself as many characters, relating to the wild at heart, out of control and broken hearted ones empathizing with the underdogs and the lost. I started to re-create myself into what I thought the world wanted: a toy. A lovable, touchable, obedient, happy toy. Heroin made it easy to compromise my morals and values, and the money made it possible to stay high. "Aren't you scared to die?" some would ask. No. In fact I sometimes wanted to and even tried to overdose. I definitely wasn't trying to find peace in life. I didn't think it was possible. I just couldn't let go of the past. Maybe part of me wanted to suffer... and when I did, so would anyone around me, as well as dealing with my emotional train wrecks. Being sure to sabotage any potentially long-lasting relationships, I made sure I didn't stay in one place too long. And they were usually warned not to fall in love. Creeping in was a pitiful neediness. Naked and exposed to the world, I made no efforts to hide my indiscretions or my crimes. Now exposed to criminal activities, I joined the rest of the lost ones in the world.
Is there no place on earth for me? Will I ever love again? Probably not, I guessed. But, I thought, maybe I can soothe myself with the touch of another; for to fall in love with someone was unthinkable, but making love love to someone was as necessary as it was unimaginable... for desire had not the good grace to die with him.
And so eventually I just did it. In the course of a day whose unruly rhythm surprised me. A cold wintry day, a movie with an old friend, a couple of drinks, and then I leaned into a kiss and felt as if I were stumbling off a cliff. Making love to someone that I cared about for the time again, left me frightened at how ravenous I was. Death and desire goad each other with an added weight of guilty feelings. Exhilarated by my vampire-like thirst, lust and the need to feel wanted now ran my life, yet I did not know what to do with it. A walking catastrophe of contradictory emotions. Veering from bleeding to bulletproof in a heartbeat, avid for passion, yet adamantly self protective and secretive... both amazon and orphan. I was angry with myself for still wanting love and everything that went with it, when I knew that I couldn't love back, even though I'd say it all the time. It was an embarrassment...
a barnacle....something I should have outgrown.
a barnacle....something I should have outgrown.
I had always loved the power of sexuality. The way it affirmed your presence on this earth. It had been all I knew when I was young; how dangerous it seemed now that I was young no longer.
It seemed I had waded into a river, a tremendous passage, and couldn't turn back... one that called into question nearly everything I thought I knew about myself. I did not yet know how to be in the world on my own and it seemed I was now stripped of the only armor I knew.
I was frightened, angry, and keenly sad... and how much of it was mourning and how much of it was this new indignity, I could not say. Lost, and in transition between widow and call girl, where sexuality plays a very different role.
After some wreckless years in Hollywood, I made several attempts to move back to Seattle, but I was so ashamed of what I'd become, I'd always leave before anyone even knew I'd been there. And my brief stays there were lonesome. I'd stay in hotels alone. I was still so fragile and easily affected by little things. I looked at the young women sauntering down the streets of downtown... their carefully made-up faces and provocative clothing.... I pictured myself ten years before. I saw couples entwined on benches sharing long kisses in what I felt were 'our spots.' And now I was alone. But who was I? And who was this woman who was was now so tightly latched to the world of men? And when it passed, what would it mean to be finally getting old? To become invisible to men. Would I even Iive to see the day? Did I want to? Not like this, I told myself.
More friends died from drugs. And like myself, others started and now couldn't stop. Occasionally I'd make mental notes of "the fallen ones," figuring I'd join them eventually. I invoked on those strange days with amused detachment, not recognizing myself in the mirror, and not caring. There were moments when anger stronger than I'd ever known would sweep through me, and with that came self-pity... for the game of pursuit and pleasure was a dangerous one. And I never cared who I hurt along the way.
Finally, I wanted it to end. I wanted to not want anyone anymore. Desire was treacherous, I decided. It had nothing to do with the real me anymore. When I found myself attracted to someone, I was dismayed to find out how recklessly I could cast off any possibility of the experience being bad or damaging to my spirit and sanity, or acknowledging any guilt on my part.
I thought about the theater of desire, the way it sometimes felt that if you didn't sleep with them, you would die. I was addicted to the drama of that. It was the hook that had snared me. That was the problem, desire was a drug. To be in its thrall was intoxicating, but it also made me deeply uncomfortable. I hated the way it could be so distracting, so out of control, and yet I loved the fever, the creativity it sparked, the colors in which it drenched everything... the music and writing it would inspire, and the excitement in which it imbued every act and thought, especially when it was confused with love. On dreary days, I could not imagine who I was if I was not desirable. But what nourished me was also destroying me. It had to end, and finally it did.
I visit all those old favorite places, but I give them new memories. I walk through the streets and parks alone at night... (my death wish still lingers a little) ...I've always had it. I inherited it with my long legs and leanness, from my father's side, I believe. I still carry anger toward Andy for leaving me alone and forcing me to grow up, for not writing more touching Xana ballads (5 is hardly enough), and for abandoning his friends and music for drugs.
I also underestimated the the power of being an outlaw... the one that surfaced when I had no idea what my place in this world was.
I tried to love someone to death, to drink and drug myself to death, and to fuck the world to death... now I don't even drink coffee... so my chances of fatality are probably far fewer.
Grief does not go away, but it changes. I think that it becomes a solid thing by which you measure time and distance traveled by ones own private wheels of emotion.
Sometimes I catch sight of the space needle, which was always a guardian angel of mine, because it stood "watching over us" next to our old apartment. Now It stands sentinel to my solitude and I feel a familiar piercing when I see it, but it's a pain I can live with, not one to mask with drugs or deny its right to exist.
So, to him, I will not say goodbye, but I think an old friend put it best when he said "Say Hello to Heaven"
C 2005 Xana Lafuente