So What’s My Problem with Death, Anyway? (2/3)

Here we go, it didn’t take that long to break my vague promise of posting regularly every #GruesomeFriday. I’m one week late due to traveling and general laziness, but let’s agree there is always time to make up for such sins, shall we?

To remind you what this is about – welcome to the second digression within broader series of recollections digging into the history of my madness. The goal of these digressions is to dive beyond the first obvious stroke of the madness and fish for pieces of my life story that might provide some clues on why I became mad in the first place.

As you may know after reading through this blog, I’ve been a bit obsessed with death and dying, and I suspect some close encounters with the grim reaper might have contributed to that sorry state of my mind.

If you read the last post in these series, you know the pattern. That girl up in the picture is another friend of mine who is no more. Her name was Jana, though nearly everyone I know used to call her Apacka.

She was pretty special, generally speaking but also to me personally. Let me explain. If I ever had any need to cheat on my wonderful wife, I’d be hopelessly stupid not to do it with Apacka. Too bad (or rather good, as my wife would surely agree) there was never any spark of desire whatsoever between me and my dead friend. Many men and women considered Apacka sexy as hell and I’d never dare to disagree with them, yet she wasn’t really my type. I suspect she felt much the same about me, only stronger. I mean, I’m sure we’d enjoy having sex with each other, technically speaking, but that absolutely wasn’t the point of our relationship. And that’s saying a lot about how special that relationship was (because, let’s admit it, sex is seldom totally irrelevant whenever heterosexual men and women meet).

What was the thing we had about, then? Mutual respect and admiration comes first to mind. We did different things in life. I’m a scientist, by and large. She was a music journalist and an indie promoter. I drink beer. She was more into shots. I like dogs. She liked cats. We could go on and on with these oh-so-radical differences, but none of them matters. What really is important is that we each had clear goals in our lives, and we strove to achieve them in a rather bulldozer fashion.

The problem is that such people often tend to be perceived as annoying ambitious assholes by the rest of humanity. And that’s why such assholes simply have to stick together, otherwise they might easily end up feeling completely alone in the world. So I guess that’s why me and Apacka didn’t really have a choice as long as liking each other goes.

Other than that shared assholeness, it was great fun to be with Apacka. We didn’t meet that often, but that was fine. Whenever we did crash into each other, it was worth a thousand regular meetups of more reasonable people. There is only one time I remember her not talking excitedly or laughing madly until she passed out (which was a rare sight to behold as she never slept much in general). That amazing and slightly scary thing happened when we met at the Roadburn festival in Holland back in 2009. I viciously tricked Apacka into smoking a hash joint. We’re in Holland, I said, come on. You sure? she said. Yeah, that’s what everybody does here, it’s totally harmless, I rambled, while I somehow forgot to mention that the price I paid for that particular hash in a hidden connoisseur coffeeshop in Amsterdam would probably fetch an equal amount of other, ostensibly much stronger substances available from various shady individuals roaming the central streets of any bigger Dutch city. And that crazy price turned out to be a pretty accurate indication of the enormous mischief potential of the joint we shared.

Only after Apacka mysteriously disappeared for about three hours I remembered she’d had virtually zero experience with anything other than booze as long as intoxication goes. When she finally emerged back in the dubious reality of the dark and noisy depths of venue 013, she said she got propelled into some sort of a limbo realm between life and death by a Young Gods set.

I believed her. She could be very convincing. And I had been having an interesting time after that joint myself.

As scandalously entertaining as they are though, blurred cut-ups from ridiculous parties are not the best memories of Apacka (and that’s not only because it’s often difficult to remember anything at all from those events). What got really etched into my brain is a palimpsest of nights lit by orange city lights – the nights I spent at a place she was renting in Prague for a couple of years. It was on the top floor of a building by the Vltava river, right under the Vysehrad castle. The apartment had a big terrace with a garden swing that faced a marina in the bend of the river.

We somehow ended up on that swing whenever I visited her, whatever the weather. And from the seat of that rusty, creaking contraption covered in peeling green paint, we used to watch the sleeping city, and we talked and talked and talked. There were topics we kept rambling about in muddled-up loops (the swing time was rarely a completely sober time), but each of those nights we managed to discuss dozens of new exciting things we learned since the last time we’d met.

Music was a big theme, be it country or extreme metal or contemporary classical. I learned about half the musicians I know on that swing. There was a lot of crazy AI speculations, too (pour a few pints into me and I won’t stop until you silence me with a couple more). And the rest were half-educated ravings on stuff like post-apocalytpic videogames, sixties lesbian porn, interpretations of quantum physics, libertarian political philosophy and what not…

Did I mention we liked each other largely due to our shared weirdness? I guess you get the picture now. Enough of Apacka’s life now. The point of this post is that she’s dead.

You wonder how she died? In a stupid accident while she was coming down from the Kazbek mountain on July 30th, 2015. She fell into a glacier crevice and died before any help could arrive. Our mutual friend, another Jana, was with her. I heard from Jana that it was not exactly short, and far from easy, though I’ve never learned the details. The extreme experience of the last hours with Apacka was still too rough in Jana’s sore mind when we talked. So I’ve tried to imagine how it was instead, more than once, feeling I somehow owe it to both of them.

That kind of helped to let the whole thing sink in. I mean, I couldn’t believe Apacka was dead when my sister sent me a link to a brief news note. But then I read another, and another, all saying the same (Apacka was sort of an underground journalist celebrity in our country so her death quickly bubbled through the web). I pushed away from the laptop in the corner of our living room and started to cry silently. After a while, my son crawled to me from the hallway, laughing and so beautifully not giving shit about the sadness that was ripping my throat senselessly raw. When I took the baby in my arms, I stopped crying as if the life and pure happiness beating so hard in my son could somehow cancel out the death I’d just learned about. And yet I sometimes think I still feel the salty traces of those tears I never wiped away.

The conclusion to all this is even simpler and probably far cheesier than the last time. Contrary to my friend Mates, I’ve never felt any guilt or regret after Apacka died. I don’t think I “missed” anything with her due to my own fear, stupidity or ignorance. So far so good. But the way I see it now, there might have been one sneaky problem that was escaping my attention for quite a while.

For the first few months, I often felt rage whenever I thought about her death, a rage heaving and crashing like huge waves at the edge of a deep ocean of sadness. But who could I be angry at? God? I don’t believe in such nonsense. The nature then? Why? It was no nature’s fault, even if such an abstract thing could be blamed for anything at all. Was I angry with Apacka herself then? No. That would be the stupidest and meanest thing ever.

I briefly considered being angry at myself for being so angry, but that didn’t work either. So I stopped trying to figure it out and lived to the fullest, just as we all thought Apacka would have liked us to. Too bad I never really used this grim opportunity to stop for a while and think what does this living to the fullest really mean to me. But that’s already a topic to discuss later, after we will have covered one more premature death of someone I used to know.


The feature image is a compilation of two photos from Apacka’s archive. For the original source of the image, see here.

3 thoughts on “So What’s My Problem with Death, Anyway? (2/3)

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