Joy to the world ~ I have a new release out today. Iron and Bone, my first novel since 2015's Sweet. It has all the elements I love. Virgins, hellhounds, slaves breaking their chains, and true love. I'm proud of this novel. It might not be the most amazing thing I've ever written (I say this about every single thing I've ever written), but I'm happy with the end result. And I hope readers are, too.
But I just can't get excited. Maybe because the last time I posted on this blog about Iron and Bone, it was seven in the morning on April twenty-seventh. Twelve hours later, I sat on my living room loveseat (which is stained with rat piss and sangria and waiting to go in the dumpster as soon as a replacement arrives), putting the finishing touches on the manuscript and uploading the final version to Kindle. This was about ten minutes after I got off the phone with Hospice care. My mother hadn't spoken in coherent words all day, for the first time ever. She wasn't eating or drinking. That was ok, because even though I had to work the next morning, hospice had promised to send a nurse over to check on her. Except now she was moaning, wouldn't stop, and didn't seem to know when I was standing beside her talking to her. So I called her nurse to say hey, she's in pain, should I be giving her something? The nurse said I should give her morphone, because honey, you shouldn't have to listen to that all night. I thanked her and hung up, thinking, honey, I lived in the Bronx and I can listen to anything all night, I don't want my fucking mother to be lying there in pain unable to tell me she's in fucking pain. Before I hung up, the nurse said, it sounds like she's "transitioning" and the end will probably come in 24-48 hours.
So nothing was changing immediately, my mom didn't know if I was in the room or not, and I still had to work the next morning. Might as well finish up the manuscript, pretend I couldn't hear the moaning, and get shit done. Because I AM NOT good with sick people. Give me a sick rat, I'll cup in my hands and kiss its head and feed it pureed sweet potato until the end comes. Give me back my dead dog, and I'll stroke her soft golden ears until she goes cold. But a human is hot yet clammy, prone to strings of saliva and gurgling noises and unsettling changes in the color of skin. I'm a germaphobe, afraid only of human germs.
My mother died two hours later. I was in the room, holding her hand. Afraid to touch her anywhere else. Wanting desperately to do something and not knowing what, afraid to get to close, afraid to be there at all.
Have you seen the 2004 Dawn of the Dead? There's an obese woman who dies on screen. Her skin changes color; she looks gelatinous and see-through and wrong. This is what dead actually looks like. It looks like your mother changing color in front of you. Like labored breaths that catch and hold, and you wait wait wait for the next breath, and it comes, and then you wait wait wait for the next breath, and finally it comes, and the pauses get longer, and finally the next breath doesn't come. And by that time the color is all shadow and wax.
And when it's finally over and you're waiting for the nurses and the funeral home, all you can think is that you didn't do enough. I didn't do enough to make this easy on her. It's not a stupid thing to think, just the truth. I am not good with sick people. Dying people. I want to have done so much better for her, supported her through this. But if you sent me back in time, I would do just as bad a job, always afraid to get to close.
Time passes, faster than you might think. There are things I can't bring myself to do. Like watch the last few episodes in the first season of Queer as Folk. Which I started watching to encourage my mother to go to bed on those nights when she seemed intent on staying awake forever. The plan backfired. She got interested and started looking forward to each episode. She didn't like Brian Kinney. I was waiting for that last episode where Brain shows up at Justin's prom to see if she changed her mind. She said he'd never stay with Justin. I looked forward to proving her wrong.
But I've managed to clear out her room, throw away boxes and boxes of the useless kitsch she collected over 64 years. And discovered that it's too hard to throw away some items, even if I hate them. Because she loved them, and suddenly that seems to mean something.
So now Iron and Bone is out. And I'm glad it's out, glad the writing of it is over. But I can't seem to bring myself to get excited about it, or to get nervous about how people will like it. Maybe they'll hate it and it'll get horrible reviews if any. But really in my head it's always a doomed book. Far too connected to anticipated death and waiting for that very last breath to stop.