Nothing is too ugly for this world. I think, rather, it is us pretending not to see.
My father tells me a story, about my grandfather’s funeral, and how an uncle approached him and asked if he had seen the casket yet. I am two, maybe three, on some stranger’s lap probably beside my brother, who is even younger. Or, maybe I am not there at all. Probably, I’m not. I like to pretend I am, though. In that sad room with all those sad people, sitting on a knee in a black dress someone playing with my curls.
This uncle pulls a comb out from his breast pocket, tells my father that there’s nothing worse than a bad hairdo on a dead man. I like to pretend he gives a wink (probably he doesn’t) as he walks up to the casket, brandishing the comb.
Even the wounds inside my grandfather’s chest are not too ugly for this world. That sounds complicated, but it isn’t.
I wonder if this uncle straightens out his tie, pats his chest and says, “You had a good run, Dan. Look at all these people here who loved you.” Probably, he doesn’t. But he might have. It’s what I would have said.
All of us pretending not to see. Or, wanting to see, and then pretending after that we didn’t.
I once heard a homeless person say that the money helps and all but goddamn I’d take just a smile instead of a white knuckled grip upon a steering wheel. Face staring straight ahead, afraid of looking into suffering—thinking it’s too ugly for this world.
When I cry in front of someone, I apologize. This seems sad to me—not the crying but the feeling sorry for it. When other people cry in front of me I like to start crying with them. That way we can look at all the ugly things together. That’s poetry.
But I pretend not to see a lot of things. A piece of trash on the ground, or the way my mother closes the front door. The luxury of those of us who are not quite hurting like the rest.
It’s hard to see things. It hurts a little more. It opens us up to vulnerabilities our hearts struggle to even begin to comprehend. It’s the choice that comes with being human.
But nothing is too ugly for this world. The mere fact that it exists is testament to that.
See it. See me. I promise to see you.