Wednesday, July 27, 2016

First Wave

Now Playing: Low Roar - I'll Keep Coming

The other night, I fell asleep to the sound of the 45 minutes suicide cassette tape recorded by the Peoples Temple in Jonestown.

I didn't mean to fall asleep to it. But I couldn't sleep at all. I was starting to get sick--stuffy nose and constant coughing--and it kept me up. The white noise of my fan wasn't helping and I didn't want absolute silence, so I decided to put something on in the background.

Earlier Ren had linked me to the Museum of Death in Hollywood. She told me about it knowing I'd love to visit, and whilst reading the info page, I remember thinking it was very strange that they had the Heaven's Gate cult recruitment video up on display but there's no mention of the Jonestown death tape. Both of those are easily accessible, I think, but the latter is much more well-known. Why play one over the other?

As I started to think about Jonestown again, I realized I actually didn't know all that much about it--just some basic facts. I searched and bookmarked a documentary to check out later. Whilst I was having trouble falling asleep, I put it on. Because it was on YouTube, as soon as it was over, the death tape video started on the autoplay. I came in and out of sleep to it, listening to Jim Jones ramble on and on about "revolutionary suicide." Listening to the few who tried to speak up against him but were swiftly silenced. Listening to children crying and screaming as they were forced to drink the poison.

Not long before, my brother shared a secret with me, hesitantly, partially. He said so little--more alluded to the details than confirmed or denied anything--that I didn't have a way to respond. He didn't want to talk about it and it wasn't right to push him. In an effort to shut my mouth and leave him be, I left the room, huddled beneath my blankets, and watched Cannibal Holocaust. Because I'd never seen it in full. It didn't take my mind off what my brother had told me, but it helped keep me quiet.

I don't get when or where this obsession with the macabre bloomed. I'm tempted to say it's always been a part of who I am.

There's a version of me that lingers at the edges of my mind. In the sense that I think of her in blips, though she's always there--the girl I was at the age of eight. Afraid of the dark, prone to crying at ghost stories and scary moments in movies, raised on the paranoid belief that walking through the streets of Quito was inherently dangerous and that at any given point, someone, somewhere, could and would hurt her if given the chance. I remember that she was also the girl who begged to listen to those ghost stories. Who was fascinated that first time Dad spoke about El Monstruo de Los Andes. Who believed in demons and angels and spirits wholeheartedly, but who didn't understand death because--even some time after her grandmother passed away--it never felt like a real concept.

To be fair, it still doesn't. It's too far away. Hasn't touched me, hasn't even passed by me.

I have memories of my grandmother, including the last time I saw her. In her house, at the doorway, saying goodbye to her children and grandchildren before she left for the hospital. I have a memory of the aftermath of her death: the adults sitting on all sides of her dining room table. Hands clasped, shaking, silent cries, worry lines carved across their faces. And the children running around, asking for bread because we were hungry, uncaring and unconcerned for why we'd all come to meet there. I learned years later the reason for that meeting--my aunts, uncles, and parents needed to discuss my grandmother's passing and what it meant for the entire family--but in the moment, it didn't make any sense. I didn't know she died. If they told me, I think I brushed it aside, not even capable of understanding it in theory.

When my grandmother died, I was too young to comprehend it. It couldn't affect me. Since then, every death I've come across--classmates, family members, acquaintances--has felt very distant, two or three or five degrees removed from where I am.

It seems like a lot of people develop a healthy fascination with morbid subject matters because it helps them accept the reality of death and tragedy. Helps them embrace the fleeting nature of life and all its joys and pains. Can't say whether or not it's the same with me. If I'm trying to understand something that hasn't yet been able to reach me. Or if this is my way of preparing.

I don't think I've become desensitized to tragedy. You always hear from critics of our modern age that easy access to graphic violence--whether fictional or non--has made my entire generation apathetic and detached. I disagree. At least on a personal scale.

I don't read about Amy Lynn Bradley's disappearance or look at photographs of Jack the Ripper's victims and come out numb. It all frightens me more than you think and I'm not trying to get over that fear. I let it linger, feeding it again and again with more stories, and tapes, and documentations.

It's not apathy I'm trying to induce. Or caution as I previously thought. But I can't say it's acceptance either. I don't want to resign myself to these tragedies, to just accept that horror as an unavoidable part of humanity.

I gather these stories and these images--and lock them away in little memory boxes--and sometimes I wonder what they're leading up to. If they're leading up to anything at all.

(And if you want to go to the Museum of Death with me, go ahead and ask. I'll hold your hand through it. Or maybe I'll need you to hold mine. Start to finish).

No comments:

Post a Comment

"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.