There’s something about the smell of the place that clings to my skin. Perhaps it’s a disinfectant or the lotion she rubs on her skin. Possibly a mix of them both. Either way, it has become the scent of her dying and it won’t let me sleep. As soon as I am home, I step into the shower to rinse it off, knowing that I am sluicing her touch from my body as well and uncertain if it should feel like a betrayal.

Her name isn’t one I mention here. We’re unrelated by DNA. Until recently, for almost a decade, I only saw her on Jewish holidays. The entire story is more complicated, a byzantine web of different familial relationships, but the truth remains, and it all boils down to this one simple fact: My mother is dying.

She has severe young onset Parkinson’s and she is not going to improve. She is not going to rally. She is not going to be saved by a miracle, a drug, or by therapy. It is a degenerative disease of the central nervous system that currently does not have a known cause or cure and kills her brain cells in certain types of pathways, destroying her body from the inside. Her symptoms are typical and so is the progress of the disease. The medication they have her on at the care home help, but they are gradually becoming ineffective. Other than her body failing, her symptoms include memory loss, inability to focus or stay present, mild paranoia, depression, and slight dementia. There is no recovery. Nothing about this will get better. It will not “be okay”. Her failure is inevitable.

I try to visit at least once a week. I try to always bring some kind of treat. (Otherwise, the chances are high that she might not eat that day). I bring flowers and movies on a memory stick. I bring printed out pictures of her loved ones that I tape to the wall where she can see them from her bed. I offer her my service in any way I can. I joke that she has won a life-time supply of chocolate, now that the end of her life is close enough that I can finally afford to guarantee such a magnificent promise.

We lie in her bed together and she snuggles up to my body the way I used to press into hers when I was five. Her body has wasted away so much that she barely has any substance at all, so there are no problems fitting both of us in her hospital style bed. She is so fragile, it is hard to believe. I could probably carry her a mile in my arms. Instead I support her shaking limbs and brush shea butter onto her skin with my fingers and try not to count her vertebrae. I love her so, so much.

She has other daughters, but I am special in that I am a bridge, the physical avatar and “child” of her relationship with my godmother, her best friend of over 30 years. My visits ground her as very little does. And I touch her constantly. I can’t not. Even when I sit on the floor at her feet, we twine ankles, we perpetually hold hands.

We discuss everything. About when I was a child, about when she was a child, our loves, our relationships, our disasters, but also activism, feminism, poetry, technology, sociology, history, literature, religion, psychology, education, and nanotech. When she is present, she is clear, intelligent, and sharp. Her life has been endlessly inspiring, one of bravery and protests and marches and academia and marathons and that spark still exists sometimes as light in her eyes. The end of her life, she says, is the one adventure she knows she will get right.

Yet she is one of the only people alive who has known my life. She is one of the very few human beings on the planet that I know actually loves me. And she is about to die. I got the phone-call from the care home today. It is going to be very, very soon.

There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground. Visiting her is one of them, even as it breaks me. Even as I cry every time I leave. Even as I still don’t know how to say goodbye.

like heroin amber dust

There are flower petals flying past much how I’ve always imagined lightning-bugs must be. Bright fluttering pieces of colour added into the air over the street like a surreal yet expected light pink snow.

I’ve never seen a lightning-bug, except on television. I’ve always wanted to see them. They sound magical. When I was a child, I carried a particular episode of the Twilight Zone with me, just because it had them in it. They were something a vampire showed a boy before he died. Black and white, a little bit grainy. Those were my lightning bugs, my tiny bits of flying fire, almost pure static showing through some sound-stage reality.

Originally uploaded by * jo_anna *.

The sparks from the first highway torch I ever lit reminded me of that show. They way the red flared and sputtered, all the sparks flying up harmlessly to bat my fingers. Moths, I thought, No. Lightning bugs. Bright chemicals with soft wings. Later, when I began being lucky enough to work in fireworks, it was like my peaon to all those lost moments of my childhood. How I never saw a lightning bug, how I never broke a window, how I still don’t know how to play marbles. Lighting the torch was my victory over all those things. My mirror movement to a hundred people before me, touching contact to contact, connecting the charge. All of my work going up in a blaze of glory. It’s a silly phrase, blaze of glory, but that was it exactly. The light shooting into the sky, the exultation I found in myself watching it, knowing that I had created this, that my hands were responsible.

The last show I worked was Illuminaires, Vancouver’s lantern Festival of Lights. Thousands of people slowly turning around a lake, carrying waxed dragons and paper nuns and all the towers of Moscow above their heads, the water reflecting all the fire and muted colours into a faint vision of another world. It was supposed to be my first success in the struggle against my difficulties. Life had been hard, a stress test that I was rapidly failing. Friends had been dying like teenage drunken drivers, family had been absent, lovers untouchable.

Instead I lit the match, took my place by the sand and explosions, and cried at the foot of my spectacular display. Exciting as it was, when I turned away to examine the thick sea of faces crushed together at the edge of our orange barriers, there was not one face that I knew, not one person to share my moment with. I had painted the sky with pyrotechnics, brought heaven like the seventeenth century. This was my passion play, this intense exhibition, and there was no one to give it to. I could only see the empty excitement of strangers glaring into the light. Eyes that never once dropped to meet mine, eyes that didn’t conceive how I had worked that day, blistered my fingers twisting wire, slivered my palms on the trestles, eyes that didn’t know my name.

That night was when I finally shivered apart. That was the last and final thing, being unable to reach out and touch another face, even in such an incredible place. I lost myself after that. I wasn’t anymore than the sum of my fragile parts, more a mirrored reflection of myself split into delicate pieces. I stopped sleeping, I forgot how to eat. Between my experiences and the inside of my head was such an incredible distance that it seemed ineradicable. My hands would never stop shaking and I would fall down in the street in fugues of missing time.

Now is recovery. Flower petals above the street.

To everyone present last night, thank you.

which as is east?

Scientists in Australia’s tropical north are collecting blood from crocodiles in the hope of developing a powerful antibiotic for humans, after tests showed that the reptile’s immune system kills the HIV virus.

Putting the crunch of a piece of metal against my skull, I wake up. The people are gone, there have been no voices or music for hours. I breathe, thinking I don’t like silence. My clothes are tangled in the bed, and I put my glasses on to see. The sky is a dull blue, obscured from a cutting edge by a pretence of clouds. I work this evening, and for some reason I want to say I’m sorry. A general apology to the world for existing, like if I were to talk, my voice would quaver with a thick underlying bass note.

New Orleans is finally getting rescued, what’s left of it. Estimates say the city will have to be abandoned for at least nine months. (Of course, bloody Halliburton gets the rebuild contract, bastards.) People are still shooting, people are still dying and standing knee high in corpses, (they refused to let people leave the Dome), and there’s barely anywhere to put the survivors, but a start has been made, hopeful clans of organized humans are coming to light, fundraisers are getting properly underway, and the Red Cross is finally being let in, no thanks to the White House. (The presidential being what stood in the way of almost all rescue operations that were stalling.)

My mother rang yesterday, left a message. When I gave her a call back, my brother Cale picked up. “I got my lip pierced.” He’s all of fifteen, really the age for this sort of thing, I figure. I told him that just that day I’d been discussing how unattractive they are, and from there we degenerated into an arguement about who spits and who swallows. “I’ll bet you deep throat”, he said, and I replied, “Course I do, brat, I’m a good girlfriend. Not like you.” “I do too! Oh, wait. Fuck. You caught me. You suck, Jhayne.” “Yes dear, put mum on the phone” His girlfriend was listening on his end and kept dissolving into laughing fits. “You’re sick Cale.” “But my sister says she doesn’t swallow! It’s a crime!”

My best quote, “Oh come on mum, it sounds bad that I’m working in a sex shop, I’m best friends with my cheating ex, and I’m taking up with someone with a cokewhore sister, but it’s not. I’m the most stable I’ve been in a long time.”

I may not attend Korean Movie Night this evening. It depends. Are you planning on going?