For Mary Helen Lynch (12.1.47-1.27.2011) “Real art has the capacity to make us nervous.”–Susan Sontag
Inspired by Robin Lowey’s moving essay about the late great Lynnly Labovitz, together with Vicki Randle’s piece about so charming and alarming a “warrior woman” as Lynnly clearly was, I determined to honor Mary and bear witness to her most beautiful of souls.
I have no family tree. None whatsoever or at least none that I know of. In fact, I haven’t the slightest comprehension of consanguinity, let alone the accepted social mandate of consanguine unity, despite that nearly every culture I’m familiar with places so bafflingly high a premium on “blood relations.” Long before my adoptive parental units rejected me for the unforgivable crime of—gasp!—Lesbianism I’d already begun to assemble my own Family of Friends instinctively and I have loved this newly improved flexible Family fiercely, gratefully, and as unconditionally as I can. On the down side, however, I still have some particularly recalcitrant abandonment issues and I do not handle loss well, if at all. It may even be fair to call myself a “human barnacle.” By the time I’ve even come close to “letting go” of a loved one she or he bears bloody gauges and I’ve collected enough genetic material beneath my manicured nails to have my lost beloved cloned several times over. I find it nearly impossible to “Let Go and Let God.” I know nothing about the former and have never believed in the latter. With the exception of Chaos Theory, the only recognizable higher power consistently far greater than myself that I know of is the non-comforting entity called “Murphy’s Law,” and I sure as heck am not about to pray to it! I’ve been a confirmed atheist for most of my life, and open about it, too. A recent mini-conversion experience, however, compels me to consider that I may in fact be, but only at the worst of times by definition, a “foxhole agnostic” instead. And so I dedicate the above shards of sarcasm to Mary Lynch, my “BFF” and “partner in crime” for over 30 years, since our carefree student days in New Haven. To Mary, who always laughed at my jokes, the more irreverent and darker the better, which she returned in kind. What manner of “crime,” one might ask? Iconoclasm, of course, with generous dollops of Anarchy. I do not exaggerate when I say that Mary was the most brilliant visual artist I’ve ever known and she was utterly fearless in her creativity.
She was also deeply troubled, over-medicated, and she tended to disappear for months at a time. I actually joined Facebook solely because of Mary, after searching for her for over a year, but I chanced a glance and there she was! And as if only a week had passed by we continued where we’d left off without missing a beat. Because that’s what REAL SISTERS do. The ones we CHOOSE! I should also add that my beloved Mary, the last of the true Hipsters, my sister in all but blood, was also an atheist, like so many other “recovering Catholics” I’ve known.
The wondrous marvels of Science, we agreed, were more than miraculous enough for us. She was, however, drawn to the Buddhist “Dharma of Compassion,” but only because it does not require one to believe in any type of Deity per se, and she truly was the kindest and most empathetic person I have ever known. Her other friends and I have been keeping her FB page alive and I urge you to view it and her startlingly avant garde art work, which defies description, except to say that she effortlessly embodied André Breton’s Surrealist pronouncement that “Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all!” And even that does not do her justice. Listen to Jane Olivor’s transcendent cover of Don McLean’s “Vincent” and I promise that you will find Mary there.
Mary Lynch is gone now. We were never lovers, despite the suspicions of her girlfriends. And despite an age difference of a dozen years we were practically twins, nearly symbiotic at times, and I never once thought of her as an “elder,” although I respected her as much as I loved her, by which I mean very deeply. We began and finished each other’s sentences, blurted out the exact bright ideas, jokes, quotes, or comments simultaneously, shared identical lunatic inspirations even from afar, and often picked up the phone to call one another excitedly only to find the other already on the line. We quarreled amiably about which of us was the greater genius (she was) and therefore more socially inept and immature (I am.) We often spent months on end dancing like mosh pit maniacs in my double-darkroom rental on 17th Street, grooving to the dulcet tones of THE VIOLENT FEMMES, LOU REED, PATTI SMITH, and THE RAMONES, all the while discussing lofty topics like Schopenhauer, Existentialism, GSpot orgasms, Rimbaud, the Holocaust, Beat Poets, Deconstructionism, Bugs Bunny in Drag, Mimetic Crises, and “how the f*ck does one pronounce it anyway, CLIToris or cliTORIS?,” among others. We were very serious artists indeed. And we laughed like a pack of rabid hyenae.
I won’t dwell on Mary’s death and for good reason, too. Not only because I miss her every day and she aches like a phantom limb, but because I hold myself responsible, at least in part, for her death. Because I failed to heed the warning signs. Because I was somehow rendered colorblind in the face of Red Flags whipping about more alarmingly than any semaphore signals from a desperate vessel lost at sea. Because I watched with horror as her pallor turned cyanotic while I cradled her in my arms, irresponsive to the CPR I administered. Because the paramedics botched her intubation and revived her only that she might linger in unspeakable suffering for just a while longer. Because I dream of her often and wake up screaming.
Because, because, because.
And am I not my sister’s keeper?
Not a very good one, clearly.
An unwitting Cain.