by Andrew F. Sullivan
We will gather beneath the overpasses crisscrossing the land like hand-sewn stiches poking out of the flesh. They do not dissolve. We will call upon our friends from motel swimming pools and convenience store parking lots to gather with us in one final act of communion. We will dress ourselves in bed sheets and wash clothes and the kind of paper towels you can reuse if you wring them out after soaking up a spill. We will wear them as stained robes because all robes are stained. You drag them across the ground when you walk. You collect what waste remains behind you—you gather up your past inside those putrid folds.
We will talk about intestines, about circling toward an end none of us can see or name. We will talk about the great and final flush at the bottom of the sea, where all our plastic goes to rot or whatever the opposite of rot is. We will talk about the stations of the cross and whether or not we should capitalize the phrase "stations of the cross" when we write it out on the underbelly of one of those sagging overpasses, one of those bridges to everywhere, one of those four-laned skyways just waiting to collapse. We will ask who brought something to eat because we will all be drinking and nothing makes you hungrier than a sense of lack. Pissing is all about absence, one of us will say and no one will disagree. Pissing is all about what you leave out.
We will come here because we want a song that makes some sense. We want to know what happened to Jack Nance in that parking lot back in '96, back before the world was supposed to melt. We are waiting for our seas to dry up, waiting for all our rivers to choke on the detritus and the dying fish and the mammals trapped in the mud. We can feel the sun baking the sweat on our skin as it has continued to shine for the last five years. We have plucked the dead from their perches in tenements and endless condo towers. All the air-conditioning was for naught. Their bodies line trenches on the outskirts of cities. They dry up under all those rays like kindling and the fires burn with the stench of unwashed hair, the stench of unclean hands, smoke rising from wide, empty sockets picked clean by featherless, blistered birds. Their necks are red as ours.
Jack Nance had his ashes thrown into the ocean. He was no prophet, no sage. He died in the middle of the night alone. He died with some bleeding inside his brain, a leaky line finally gushing out into the dark. He died with blood soaking the inside of his skull. They scattered pieces of him into the Pacific, back when the Pacific was a deep and surging ocean, the kind that contains worlds and species beyond our understanding. Now it is blackened along its edges, it is filled with cars and the old corpses of whales and smaller fish. And we all know that whales are not fish, that thumbs are not fingers, that actors are not people. We all know these things, but we still want to believe we can raise something from those ashes. We can raise something unknown.
Jack Nance was on a plane over Oregon when his wife killed herself. He was flying through the air, clinging to a dream of saving her from the rope or the knife or the electric current. She was found by the police department before his plane touched the tarmac, found with a cable around her neck in their bedroom, found without a note or a reason because you can't record a lifetime of despair on paper. You can only find that stitched in wrinkles under the eyes, in stretch marks laced across the belly, in the pitted cheeks and receding hairlines of those closer to the bottom, of those asking for a reprieve with whatever household appliance is handy. Jack Nance lived in a world of giants and log ladies and murders. He lived in Twin Peaks. Part of his heart said he should have seen this coming. Another, quieter part said this was meant to be. Like a baby mewling in its crib while the sky rains ash around us all, Jack Nance knew some things just happened. The world does not believe in a word like consent.
As the sun scrapes any sign of life from this earth, we will gather on this night to perform our rituals. We will sprinkle the ground with the last of the holy water we have plundered from abandoned churches and passing papists. We will upend our stomachs onto the ground, to lay our needs plainly out on the parched earth. We will curse the sun and ask for the failing waves to wash up all the ashes whole, all those lost to sea by deeper currents, hungry storms or human hands. We will find the pieces and reassemble all our ancestors and arch criminals, sorting out their pieces into piles we can use. We will raise them like corporeal flags toward the future before this newly heated earth allows us to expire. Jack Nance will rise above them all, his hair tousled by the sea, his nails grown long and ragged. He will open his mouth and we will find his teeth a newer, deeper shade of yellow. We will try to name it after our peeling wallpaper, but all our titles will be found wanting. Jack Nance will rise from all these remains, naked and unbound.
He will tell us it was all for naught. He will tell us what we want to hear.
Jack Nance will tell us the dream is real. And we will thank him with our voices.