Jane Is Dead

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

My friend Jane is dead. She had adrenal cancer, belatedly diagnosed—stupid doctor. Adrenal cancer really sucks. What cancer doesn’t? But the deadly cells that take over your adrenal glands and then gentrify every damn neighborhood in your body, one organ after another, they’re a bunch of snotty elitist bastards. I’d rather that someone else have had it, someone I don’t know.

OK, I’m a bitch, an honest bitch. And I love my friend Jane.

Loved her. Love her. Loved her. I guess.

At what point does a dead person enter into one’s past tense? Still, I smell my father walking around a corner and turn to hug the empty space before my heart. Still, I reach for the phone to share with him a newly discovered word, some clever inanity. Oh, not as frequently as I used to, but still—and he’s been dead since 1996.

Jane, she just died, so I figure I’ll be smelling her for a long time to come. I hope so. I hope.

I hope she didn’t know, know that she was actually dying, at that moment, that moment she had staved off with every iota of her will. And Jane’s will is formidable.

Was. Is. Was. I don’t know.

I do know Jane didn’t want to die. She wasn’t ready. She spurned her people’s tradition and protested death with the same passion she protested misogyny, inequity, racism, homophobia, idiocy. She was not inclined to speculate on an afterlife when she had a perfectly good life here and now. So Jane tried everything—and I mean every fucking thing. But money can’t buy you life. Or love. Or being remembered. Jane wanted that, all of it. And she deserves it.

Deserved it. Deserves it. Deserved it. Oh, damn.

My friend Jane adored the family and friends she loved to kvetch about, with the joy and humor and generosity of a—  Hmmm, is there a Yiddish word for a female mensch? Maybe it should be “Jane.” She’d have a good laugh over that.

Jane could laugh about anything. Eventually. She laughed when she dropped her bloomers and yanked up her bra to show off her new and improved body. She laughed when the old one found its way home. She laughed when our petite comrade in choice—in the roar of menopause—tried to go nose-to-nose with six feet of angry, male anti-abortion protester. She laughed when we shared sneeze-induced-pee-leakage stories. She laughed when her erotic fiction made me wet. She even managed to laugh darkly at the prospect of burying her HIV-positive daughter. She laughed bawls of relief when that fear took a hike. And she laughed when the cancer reduced her to the size she’d always wanted to be.

And now Jane is dead. Dead and gone. Or not gone. Who knows.

And I’m trying to laugh, trying to hear her laugh, trying to find some black humor that would have made her laugh.

I hang up on the Jane news, wander outside, maybe catch a glimpse of her essence in the sun glittered pool. There’s something—

But no, is it a salamander, a slim wee salamander—perished in the depths? I want to save it—screw it, that it’s probably too late. I grab the skimmer and scoop up its remains, to give it a proper burial, at least, and I contemplate the lifeless creature, up close, intimate, within smelling distance of its putrefying flesh. Then the little bugger wiggles a leg at me, and I jump as pee runs down my thigh.

No matter. I’m jubilant the salamander is alive. I’ve saved it! I’ve saved it even if it didn’t need saving, and I’ll give it a safe and accommodating home in one of the sodden potted palms, figure out what it eats, name it, name it Wendy, Jane’s middle name, Wendy the salamander.

I shake the now twitchy thing into the plant, squat down low, and stare at it, stare into dark, unblinking eyes — the eyes of those distracted by death, distracted by morphine cocktails.

A gush of sorrow chokes me. I sit down hard and cry.

Jane, she’d be laughing at the pee running down my leg. But she cannot be saved.

My friend Jane is dead. Long live Jane!

Love, K-B

For Jane, who would be remembered, hence the Jane Schnall Summer Camp Scholarship.

Published by Trivia: Voices of Feminism.