Dead and Dying on the Bayou
Things don’t happen how they are supposed to, but this time Uncle Bob made sure to die.
These are tales of mud and death in America. These are tales of love and forgetting in Arkansas. Here is the tale about the time Uncle Bob made sure to die; during a family movie night, he locked himself in the bathroom, slit his wrists, then overdosed on his prescription pills, which he removed the labels from so no medic could help him. I don’t know how much time had passed until the rest of them realized that he was gone for way too long. The medics said he died in the ambulance, but my aunt, a nurse, knew that when she found him, he had already been dead. This is a tale about when it rains in Arkansas, when the ground softens, when the water rises, and when it doesn’t stop.
My uncle was someone I barely knew. I feel quite disconnected from him, as a matter of fact, because I had only met him when I was seven years old, at his marriage with my Aunt Linda. I don’t even remember what he looks like, but I’m sure he was a good man, because Aunt Linda decided that he was worthy of spending her entire life with, despite her past. Uncle Bob had resembled a sort of second chance for my aunt; after she overcame a divorce from an abusive relationship, and an incident of rape during her adolescence, she found the right guy. He was sweet and funny; someone a person like her needed in her life. Sometimes I wonder: Would she have married him if she knew all of it would end like this?
A disgusting, stereotypical hayseed culture that is lassoed somewhere between the midwest and south swamps my family. They are polite, but behind their manners is tied a web of ignorance and fear. I have come to despise it, as one should. I’ve never been an admirer of guns, quite the opposite actually. I’m queer, they’re not. I’m agnostic, they’re fundamentalist Christians. Yet it is my gradual unlearning of these reactionary convictions I had been taught as a child that makes me feel like a liquid among a group of solids. I always feel afraid at family gatherings; afraid that something about my queerness will accidentally slip from my mouth, afraid that I might uncontrollably express my leftist views at the dinner table, afraid of how my family might react. I change my phone wallpapers from beautiful men to the basic screen of a greenish haze. I am conscious of whoever is around me when I scroll through social media.I shouldn’t have to fear my family, but I do. The only way I feel connected to the majority of my family is through blood and obligation. I feel like there is nothing I can do to change these things.
The Louisiana Purchase State Park is located in Monroe County, Arkansas. In the park is a boardwalk, and at the end of the boardwalk is a tall granite marker, with a commemoration of the date that US engineers surveyed its land. I believe it is no coincidence that that giant stone also resembles a tombstone.