by Lacy Heinz
My friend Jim is dead.
He left a suicide note via social media. A declaration of loneliness. A manic paranoid haze. The police knocked down the door to get to his body.
I remember him best in a green felt cloak. Eating kimchi and rolling dice. Bearded. Smiling. The perfect druid of yore, leather pouch at his side. A large man’s waddle, hiking up the jeans that were always at war with his midsection. Black boots. Combat style, reminiscent of his days in the military.
A story about Jim. He watched south Asian women dance for coins. They bent low and received them with their vaginas. Then pushed them out again, slick on the table.
Another story. Every other Sunday he practiced earth magic, but not in the forest. Around a black laminate table in a basement. Fought scrap paper battles. Spoke in tongues. Talked sparingly, fondly about playing the game during his years of active service.
Another. He had a Chinese SKS semi-automatic rifle. And other weapons. The police would not do a welfare check until a number of days had passed, though he had posted his intention to die. The door was bolted shut.
He was ten years older than most of us.
Jim lived in high fantasy, taking his druidry out into the world. Enacting complicated scenarios in fields aflame with creative anachronism. His core was an embodiment of that concept: he felt he did not belong in the period to which he was born. Playing games as large as life to escape demons never named in my presence.
I walked in the cemetery a week before I heard of his death. Looking for crows. I found them, the bone pickers, circling around on messenger wings. And in their wake, a military funeral, the casket flag-covered, five soldiers at attention, shifting their weapons to words I could not hear from my vantage. I kept my distance, pushing my sleeping four year old in his stroller. I knew those guns would fire soon.
I thanked each veteran grave I passed. I talk to the dead often. And wonder who is thinking of them or if they are thought of. They drift from us, the dead, no matter how we hold them. No longer reminding us of their physical presence, we do our dishes, wash our clothes, pay our bills, distracted by our everyday. By life being lived. Perhaps that is why I am attracted to cemeteries. The tangible reminders — the heavy headstones, a place to pile rocks, plant spring flowers, to meditate on the what ifs.
I am also drawn to cremation, to my bones as dust.
But will it be enough someday to be a pile of ash, tossed into the creek to blend with the silt, dusted up along the bank by the tails of spawning salmon. Those determined fish unknowing that they are touching the remains of my bones. My children no longer visiting the creek, having moved to their own places. Would they see me in every body of water? Beneath every tree?
Perhaps they would feel a stone more keenly, the weight of it bearing down in their minds, the common ritual of remembrance. Demanding attention. A body buried intact.
In grieving Jim, I grieve my future self that will follow him below. And the selves that existed with him around that table, playing roles. A dexterous elf thief. A sensitive minotaur. Warrior goddess in leather pants. Wizard with noisy raven familiar. Orcs. Gnomes. Eating chips and drinking soda. Otherworldly magic in a time of worldly strife. Dying romance, college tests, distant parental relations, dissatisfaction at work, everyone juggling their own minutiae in a fog of growth. Thoroughly human.
Those people are all gone now. But Jim is dead, slain in the field of his own loneliness. And this is the song of the Valkyrie. He is claimed.
We all burn as he crosses to Valhalla.
Lacy Heinz opted for a career in law, but found her creative home in writing. Career on hiatus, Lacy spends her free moments wrestling two small children, guzzling coffee, writing poetry and plugging away at a fantasy-adventure novel focused on deconstructing the gender binary. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, with her family and is a proud daughter of a US Army Reserve Colonel (ret.). Her personal essays have been featured in the University of Oregon’s Harvest collection and Yakima Playdate magazine.