16 August 2012

dear mark

DSC00924at a dance party.

DSC02287  in austin.

DSC03043at double dave’s. with the rest of the art school kids.

DSC03195at your openings. you know, because you were on the road to becoming an art star.

DSC04659  in my closest. with my thrifting finds. and then we’d break out in giggles.

IMG_0441  in our apartment. well, chelsea’s. and how everyone thought we suddenly were into surfing. yeah, that apartment.

DSC02305anywhere. it didn’t matter what state or country.

mark – these are some of the places where we should have met again after graduation put us on our separate paths.

thouston06but not here. anywhere but here.

thouston07not in front of this slab of granite.

thouston11not in front of your etched name.

thouston08   i don’t know what tense to use in this letter. past or present? our friendship is? our friendship was? you might have left but the friendship is still there. i know you? i knew you? you might be gone but i still know mark. i loved you? i love you? oh, i could never put that in the past tense.

the pronouns are a bit more difficult. you never personally told me, and i’m only finding out through the internet. but it seems there is no question that you identify more as she or they. so i will respect you. and i will use the pronoun you wanted everyone to use.

thouston09 oh mark, i’m so sorry. so sorry this took so long to write. to acknowledge. to accept. will you let me explain?

you decided to leave while i was living in my malian bubble. no internet, no email, no connection beyond the text messages from my fellow peace corps buddies in mali.

you died on march 12th. the malian military threw a coup on march 21st. i didn’t find out about you until march 24st when i had internet access again.

and – something was wrong with me. i didn’t cry for you. i didn’t react. no panic attacks came. i called everyone, i skyped, i talked, i made contact with our closest friends, i did all the things one should do when grieving – except the emotions for mourning you were missing.

where did they go?

thouston10and now, five months later, i understand.

three reasons.

1. i was in the middle of reading dune by frank herbert. and there is a character (duncan idaho) that is continually brought back to life and reborn at the push of a button. because of that, i had no concept of death. you were going to come back in my fantasy world. i wouldn’t accept the words suicide or death – i was convinced that those things didn’t happen in my life. i’m sorry.

2. i couldn’t handle mali and mark at the same time. i had to get over leaving mali first. i don’t believe i could’ve functioned as a human being if i had to grieve you both at the same time. so i completely shut you out as i focused on moving on from mali in france. i’m sorry.

3. i never got to meet you in chicago. i never got to know the mark you became. just like there is american cathy and french cathy, there is texas mark and chicago mark. how could i mourn a part of you i didn’t know? so the last few months, trust me, every blog post by one of your chicago friends, every article by a fan written online, i have read their words. i have done google searches on your name for any snippets about you. i have dug up anything and everything related to mark aguhar. since you’re not there, i’m learning about chicago mark thanks to the internet.

then i needed to go to chicago. i needed to see parts of the city that you loved so much that were part of who you became. thanks to your brother, i had a whole list of places to visit you loved. i wanted to meet your friends too, but i didn’t know how to contact them. perhaps another day. i only had to imagine you were with me. i should have visited chicago sooner when you were still there. i’m sorry.

[for any friends who didn’t make it up to chicago, mark’s chicago friends put up a show for her at UIC. my visit is here and the official exhibition site is here.]

thouston12   i hope you forgive me.

thouston13   i brought you a present though.

thouston14peaches! huge peaches. lots of peaches. don’t think i’ve forgotten how i would come home to suddenly find twenty peaches rolling around on the table as you waited for them to ripen.

and when they were ripe – we ate them. we ate so many peaches. we had so many peach tarts until all that was left in the apartment were peach pits.

thouston15 so enjoy them.

thouston16 well, one peach. for you and christine to share. i wanted to leave them all for you, but then realized that rotting peaches on your tombstone wouldn’t be so nice. and nobody would enjoy them. i knew you’d be angry if i wasted good peaches like that. so i just gave them to your parents. i hope they enjoy them as much as i know you would have.

but before i end this letter, i want you to meet someone.

thouston17 remember this pattern? on a certain chair? yep, it is indeed kelly’s chair. that chair is now in her house.

and while you left this world, someone else came in to fill in part of the spot you left.

thouston18  josephine.

thouston19 death, birth, life - such a delicate balance. i’m still trying to figure it out.

thouston20  josephine is a bit unlucky in that she’ll never meet you. and you’re a but unlucky as well as you’ll never meet josephine.

but then, josephine is going to grow up with you nearby. kelly has some of your drawings around the house. and i am sure kelly will pass on your spirit, your stories, your laughs, your memories to little josephine. so i take that back about josephine being unlucky, she’s super lucky because she’s one degree away from you.

thouston21 kelly made me tostadas for lunch! it’s too bad you weren’t there to eat with us.

i miss you mark.

lots of love, and i do mean lots,

cathy xx

PS: just because you are gone doesn’t mean i am backing down from our rice vs. bread argument. i’m still determined to bake a loaf that will make you realize that bread, indeed, is, has been, and will always be, the tastier carb.

PPS: all the issues you are passionate about – LGBT rights, gender queer, femme, fat, self-love, etc. – i promise to support it all. its just, right now, i need to say goodbye to you before i can tackle all the things you stood for.

PPPS: i am a bit mad that i didn’t have a chance to tell you my brownie story. or my camping story. mark, i had three years of good stuff to talk to you about. but its okay, we’ll meet again somewhere, some day, and we’ll catch up then. love you!


visit to the dragon is the frame

dragon is the frame

mark aguhar

blogging for brown gurls / calloutqueen

uic mfa portfolio

(for mark)

mark aguhar’s critical flippancy

forest park westheimer funeral home

international suicide prevention


Kelly Rae said...

I love this post so much. Thank You for writing it. I weeped so much reading about the peaches and Josephine. I still have many of the pits from that summer after we all graduated. <3 <3 <3

teruko nimura said...

Dear Kathy,
Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I had been chatting online with Kelly when we found out about Mark together...and she let me stay with her so that I could go to Mark's services with her in Houston. At the time Josephine was still in Kelly's tummy, and I can't tell you how comforted I was by the life she was incubating. Holding onto to the idea that one of my best friends was casting a line into the future with her little girl was the only way for me to cope with the confusion and tragedy of Mark's loss. As an avid chronicler of beautiful people and things I am certain Mark will continue through Kelly's telling of her to her Josephine. Glad you have returned safely from abroad. Much love to you. -Teruko

donna said...

not sure if i even belong writing on something so personal....i see your journey through the grief.....a personal path that each person has to travel alone....let it touch your heart and sting....the only way it will heal.....i too have been dealing in the past week with the word suicide, and have many times before in my life....no answers here....just understanding

cathy said...

Kelly - i hope josephine will love peaches as much as mark and us did

teruko - so happy to hear from you. thank you. i hope all is going well with you and can't run into the day i run into you again in austin - or houston - or who knows where!

donna - thank you so much. as personal as it may be, the reasons shouldn't be buried. putting everything out in the open, talking about it, letting everybody know, i find, is the best way to deal with difficult times. thanks again.