I don’t know much. That’s what college was supposed to fix. I read big books with big words, Susan Sontag, Karl Marx, Arendt, Foucalt, Nietzche, Sartre. Each flip of the page was a hand on my shoulder, twisting me in a new direction. I graduated dizzy and confused, uncertain what anything was, whether anything was real. Ask me what I read for my senior thesis and watch my eyes dim and fog. They only taught me to question the world, and they provided no answers.
I don’t know how to write a will either. I thought that would come later. But throw a baby in a pool and it will learn to swim; give a twenty-something a diagnosis and she will draft a will.
I didn’t know where to start, so I’ll begin by listing all that I do know.
- My net worth is $1,111.
- Naomi will find this exciting. 1,111 = 11:11, the numbers angels bombard you with when they want to send a message.
- My eyes are brown. Naomi’s are too, lighter than mine, honey-colored.
- I was born in June. My mother is Beth, my father is Michael.
I stop writing. The certain facts have been exhausted. From here on, things become subjective.
- I was in love with Naomi (?)
- Naomi was in love with me (?)
- My friends will miss me dearly when I’m gone (?)
I’m stressed on their behalf already. They won’t know how deeply to grieve. We’re college buddies, people you reminisce with about blowing smoke from a dorm window. My death will make our relationship prematurely serious.
Naomi too. At least she now gets to say “my dead ex.” Those words will sound so mysterious tumbling from her purple lips.
That’s one more thing to add to the certainties list:
- I loved kissing Naomi’s purple lips.
Things are distributed in wills, I know that much. Belongings must be tallied, inheritances decided. I own:
- A box of heavy, rat-chewed books left in storage lockers for too many summers.
- A collection of butterflies pinned behind glass.
- An old typewriter, with half-finished manuscripts crumpled in its carrying case.
- A bag of old makeup, already used by someone else’s older sister.
Everything else can be thrown away. The makeup too -- it’s a sad artifact, dusty eyeshadows, cracked lipsticks, tubes of dried mascara. After my education made me stupider, I decided I would become hot. I never considered it an option before, and I had no formal training, no one to teach me. I wanted to be an effortless and beautiful woman, someone who would fluttered through life like a butterfly, no thoughts, no purpose but to delight babies and couples observant enough. But I don’t know makeup.
Naomi offered to do it for me. It felt humiliating. I should have been already beautiful for her.
In the gap between our break-up and my diagnosis, I learned. I stepped into the spring sunshine with my sunglasses coquettishly poised on the tip of my nose, the frames dipped low to broadcast my eyeliner, the gold dusting my eyelids. I walked with my back erect, fresh coffee in a paper cup, car keys swinging from my hand, a fishtail-swish in my hips. I was young, I was beautiful, I finally knew it, knew how to use it, live it, be it. I no longer hunched over books, no longer a rigid intellectual but a wild, breathing, breeding animal.
It seems unfair. I just figured out how to weave the fabric of it all to my liking, but the loom had been snatched, broken, burned.
And those unfinished manuscripts, what to do with them? My friends had been polite, said there was potential. It was too late to finish, to revise, to carve anything of quality from those chunks of words. I tell myself I didn’t live long enough to write anything profound anyways.
I told Naomi it was like catching butterflies. They look nice pinned under glass, but it’s not the same. But if you don’t pin them under glass, they die alone in the fields, decompose into nothing.
Naomi didn’t get it. What are the butterflies?
Life. And the act of pinning is me writing.
Naomi didn’t like metaphors. She had no need for them. She was a million butterflies herself. I tried to catch them, like a desperate contestant on reality TV snatching flying dollar bills in a windy booth.
Maybe that’s where I went wrong. Butterflies should fly free, make quick circles with other butterflies. Maybe. I don’t know. I only got to fall in love once.
I was the one to break up. She didn’t love me enough. It felt like no one did. With her, it hurt especially. She was so big, so bright, so beautiful, exploding every which way all the time, every which direction but mine. I wanted to hold her in the palm of my hand. But it was only right to let her flutter on through the reeds, the sun-dappled trees, bright and glistening in the spring sun.
I wish I wrote about her more. It was an honor to be here, alive at the same time as her. As all of them, my friends, my parents, my professors, classmates, the people who smiled at me on the street. I wish there was a record of it all, all the little interactions, the tiny connections like pinpricks of light in a vast, dark universe. I know it’s not mutual, but I will miss them all dearly.
But while I’m still here, there’s business to attend to. I decide to divide everything like this:
- Books will go to my mother Beth, and my father Michael. They bought me those books in the first place. They wanted me to be smart, and it’ll make them happy, seeing how underlined, dogeared, bookmarked every copy was.
- My friends will get my old manuscripts. They’ve already seen them, they know how good they are, or aren’t. They’ll know what to do, what to release, what to keep private, what to highlight
- Naomi will get the pinned butterfly collection. I know she won’t be too happy about it. She won’t understand. But I need her to have it.
I don’t even have snively grandchildren to cause a fuss dividing the money. But who would fight over $1,111 anyways? Maybe I’ll make a one-time donation somewhere important, just so someone reads my name and smiles in gratitude.
Writing a will isn’t hard, really. I know that much.