Sunday, August 14, 2005

Note to David — Author's Note to Letters to David: An Elegiac Mass In the Form of A Train

from Journal Entry — April 25, 1984

Today, goddamned David Kennedy drank himself to death. After holing up in a Palm Beach hotel suite he was found on the floor of his room between two king-sized waterbeds.

Two beds! It rang through my ears like a mantra. Two beds. $250 a day he paid for that room & most of the time he stayed in the downstairs bar. Cops couldn't find evidence of any hard drugs, only the vodkas and grapefruit juice the bellhops said he drank steadily from 8 in the morning until 12 at night every day.

I picked the paper off the kitchen table which is mostly littered with my books from the night before: Prescott's Conquest of Mexico & Conquest of Peru, The Fall by Albert Camus, an aesthetics anthology, Portrait of the Artist As A Young Dog by the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, A Handbook of Style, The MLA Guidelines for submitting papers, Nathaniel West's Day of the Locust, Marcuse's One Dimensional Man. I start reading the accompanying articles about the trials & tribulations of life as a Kennedy as I pick up my, by now, lukewarm coffee and head back to the room, over-stepping the fish-hooked shards of glass from a broken lightbulb.

"When he was only 12 years old, young David stayed up in his hotel room late at night and watched his father on television. A family friend found him seated in front of the set switching the channels to the different news broadcasts to watch the tape play over and over. The friend recalled that there were no tears, only a look of stunned horror."

"The day before, on a family outing, the senator had saved David's life when the boy was being swept away in an undertow."

I remember the day Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I remember it better than when the President was shot. I felt it more. I was in the seventh grade, and that was the first year I was ever truly aware of politics or the wars of the world. That was the day the next door neighbor poisoned my pet cat to keep it off her lawn. I remember the sweet smell, like bitter almonds some say but to me it smelled like she was was vomiting rock candy. When I found her I could tell by the way she looked at me that it was too late to save her. I didn't even bother to call anyone. Just held her stiff, wretching body & I remember I didn't cry. I felt solid, smooth, like ice but dry, warm. I remember the sun that June morning. It burned the hairs on my arms & I remember how strange the heat felt, like needles of radiation entering in through the pores in my skin. It was numbing me. I held her on the ground. She was too convulsive to hold in my arms and I tried to tell her that. The ants around us were swarming as if excited by the smell of her cooling flesh. I stopped watching her die and smashed ants. Sick. They were so many frantic kamikazis. I wondered if it was a sin. So much minute life snuffed out could leave a blotch on my soul like murder.

I put the paper down and go to the desk by the window. Under it is a cardboard box where I keep a lot of old stuff. In case there's ever a fire, I plan to heave it out & then jump out after it. I don't even have to look for the diary. I know exactly where it is. I reach in between the notebooks and pull it out. I turn the leaves to the page as I lie back in my bed. "June 2, 1968. Today, Robert Kennedy was shot! Kitty died."

That was the day I learned the word: apocalyptic.

~ L.D. Cervantes


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