Art / Essay / Grief / Lovers / Photography / Sadness / Susan Sontag / Uncategorized

On Sadness

Nude Woman and Grief by x1klima CEMETERIE, Engesohde, Hannover, Germany,Sony a7R, Sonar FE 55mm F1.8 ZA. Flickr. Creative Commons License. 
  1. The cab arrived shortly after 10:30 PM.
  2. I’ve never seen an airport so desolate. The security checkpoint does not open until midnight. I sit on my duffel bag, knees questioning the ceiling; for a moment I consider what is happening, what have I done. Suddenly, hundreds of people are walking by, shoes clacking, squeaking. A black man walks by, turns and asks me if I’m okay. I say yes. He says, are you sure. I say yes again. No  one speaks to me after that.
  3. Susan Sontag asks, “What does it mean to protest suffering, as distinct from acknowledging it?” She considers Christian martyrs and art. I consider my friend and lover: where does his suffering rest in the history of art? How can I be so cruel as not to understand his personal image of sadness?
  4. If I look at the call record on my phone I can identify the moment my overwhelming selfishness revealed itself. I am jealous of a woman I have never met. He grieves deeply and I am a cunt.
  5. Before irrationality there is no decision-making.


Thomas Eakins Carrying a Woman, 1885. Scan from art book. Click on link for permission information.

6. Grief is injurious, inflicting pain and suffering. I do not understand the facility of loss outside my own experience. How an unseeable place within the body and mind is overwhelmed by what he calls “indescribable sadness.” I am leaning against the woodblock island when he says these words aloud, when his eyes pool and at once I think I understand. I want to hold him but I can’t move. A few days later I realize I know nothing.

7. “The practice of representing atrocious suffering as something to be deplored, and, if possible, stopped, enters the history of images with a specific subject: the sufferings endured by a civilian population at the hands of a victorious army on the rampage.” What if that army is one? What if I am the army? How can I stop myself from doing more damage?

8. In the 14th century sadness meant “Dignity, importance.” I wonder how this term evolved from self-respect to sorrow.

9.  The morning after textual combat I call my doctor. The week before, I doubled the pills and then took only one followed by two days of none. Then I request a therapist. I need to figure out why I do what I do. I read Kubler-Ross, try to gain understanding on his sadness.

10. “Trying to control the uncontrollable ultimately becomes a living hell, and grief has a way of amplifying everything and making people slaves to their own behavior.”

11. I have no sense of control. He is right about many things.

12. I love kissing him. I like our sex. My right breast is bruised with finger marks and I am pleased. Sometimes this is all I want because I don’t know how to be. I do yard work, cook, wash dishes, fold his laundry. He takes nothing for granted. He is sweet. I do these things because I don’t know how else to help him and doing something is better than nothing at all. And then I vandalize. Leave and say mean things. I invent a safe word and this is the one thing I know is unnecessary because I triggered the firing pin. I am scared. I think I am powerful but I am weak.

13. I repeatedly apologize. I know the damage is done. I cannot take back what I did or said. I make every attempt to connect, and push him further away. I fear writing this will make things worse. I am so sorry. I don’t understand why I do what I do. I will try to be a better person, give you the respect you deserve. Respect your sadness. “Is there an antidote to the perennial seductiveness of war? And is this a question a woman is more likely to ask than a man? (Probably yes.)”

Works Cited

Kubler-Ross, Elizabeth MD & David Kessler. On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. NY: Scribner, 2005. Print.

“sadness, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2016. Web. 9 February 2017.

Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. NY: Picador, 2003. Print.


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