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I was still in his bed naked

The lead piece of fiction is "Cold Pastoral." Marina recasts herself as Claire.

Claire is a UVM student from Austin, Texas; she rooms with Charlotte but Claire does not use her own bed very much.

It's March of Claire's Senior year. The morning after she has made love to him, she's home and gets the news that Brian has suddenly died of a misdiagnosed congenital aneurysm:

"...I felt a strange but recognizable hole that grew just behind my lungs. There was a person whose eyes and neck and penis I had kissed the night before and this person no longer existed..."

At an earlier episode of fucking, "Brian and I had slept late and when his parents arrived at his house at eleven o'clock, I was still in his bed naked. I got dressed quickly... and was invited by default" to go out with them for brunch.

"We laughed about it later. 'Good thing you weren't some one-night stand.' He bit at my ear."

Brian has an ex-fwb Lauren, ex- since the previous June. The President of the University of Vermont stops by, offering condolences and announcing a memorial vigil for Brian, with candles, to be held on campus. It draws "five to six hundred", in rotten winter weather, as Burlington almost always has. Claire is invited to speak because Brian has coupled them to his parents, all the kids also think they hook up regularly.

The backstory wrinkle is that Claire finds deceased Brian's journal, it's clear that he emo has not let Lauren go at all. Right into his last days of life. Brian journals, privately:

" 'Lauren was hotter --- or at least had a better body (more in shape). And the sex was better. It's probably because Claire's so clearly insecure when she's naked and...'"

"I went into the bathroom and threw up. ... I never felt so vacant in my life, punched, like someone had taken a wrench and shoved it into my stomach and twisted it around..."

The most powerful part of the story comes at the end, when Marina/Claire goes right out to party the same night, after the candlelight vigil is over. She meets this guy Marshall, from her Russian Lit class: "Marshall was handsome. Smart. And suddenly, more than anything I'd ever wanted in my life, I wanted him to love me... he asked if I wanted to go back to his apartment with him. I did. I'd never wanted anything more."

"But as I watched him smile back at me and zip his coat, I saw everything in the world build up and then everything in the world fall down again."

She ends her story here, and soon everything in Marina's own world is indeed going to fall down again: five days after graduating from Yale, Class of 2012, she's killed when her car flips --- killed mainly because she's riding shotgun and not wearing her seatbelt. Her irl boyfriend, the driver, who is, survives easily.

Why all this resonates vividly with me is that I grew up in Burlington, Vermont, the home of UVM's main campus since 1791; studied there as a Senior as well; and much later worked as an ESL tutor at the Fletcher Allen Health Center, this gigantic regional medical complex that grew to absorb, among other hospitals, the one I had been born in years earlier --- it was on the UVM campus then, and it's there right now. And, just like Marina/Claire, I've been at that very spot in the center of the campus green, which is a ceremonial fountain, opposite Waterman where memorials are held, one of the tributes was for a UVM student who had been abducted and raped and murdered, they found her body thrown down into the treetops from a gorge bridge in the countryside... she had been walking up the hill at night, up Main Street back to campus, when she disappeared.

(Everybody does that, it's a short way back to the dorms, well-lighted, well-traveled, etc., etc...)

I also lived twenty years in Texas, 16 in Claire's hometown of Austin, worked in theatre with grads of the University of Texas at Austin, and one time designed the lighting for a ballet in what is now re-named Bass Concert Hall for the Performing Arts on campus... this Equity Class-A theatre, 3008 seats, its equipment is state-of-the-art enough so it can host touring Broadway shows, the UK Royal Ballet, Royal Shakespeare Company, little dealies like that...

And of course I relate to the deaths also: Brian's and Claire's. And I have been most profoundly affected by the irl death of a student whose academic projects I had been assisting with at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA... a continent away from Yale. Kiota had been a FreshWoman at the same time Marina had been.

And as overview to all that, I vividly am hearing my own clock ticking down, I'm on a parallel mortal track also: cancer, also congenital: to borrow from Neil Young, Rust never Sleeps (and Cancer Never Sleeps either... nor do those who host its tumors, not very much sleep at all.)

Marina's book is awesome, and I don't say that just because she is dead, but because she is good.

She certainly has survived with us, here in her creative work. You'll enjoy her.

(this entry is a draft, book cover photo to be added on 11 May.)


kiota too late for the stars
Moonfire Marion Bridge / Brad

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