Cover Photo: The Weight of A Death by Sara Habein

The Weight of A Death

The weight of a death is assessed by its aftershocks. 

Walking through Hastings weeks before its closing was walking through a graveyard of youth. The discount bins that used to be about unknown pleasures were now a sea of apologies. Here, take what you can. Let our affairs be settled. We gave you notice.

After school, idle Sundays, Friday nights, report card rewards: We came here.

Book browsing, 49 cent rentals, cassettes into CDs into used bins into …. Are there t-shirts here now? Special order from the clerk that new Oasis single. B-side treasures. May we one day hear “D’yer Wanna Be a Spaceman?”

David Bowie turned my bi heart inside out and patched it whole. I bought Low on cassette clearance for 25 cents and played it in my ’88 Volvo sedan named after Sid Vicious, for its rumble.

For its cantankerous nature.

For its secret moneyed genesis.

I bought Chris Cornell’s first solo album. Euphoria Mourning, indeed.

The weight of a death.

My father, spending too much money on folk albums, on books about Antarctic expeditions. We could talk him into a little something extra, for us.

The last email my dad ever sent me was about a site he’d discovered called squirrelmusic. We were to watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus soon. We used to rent the VHS movies and sketch compilations, and now we had the DVD set. Ordered from the internet.

Ah, the internet. Did we not yet know this was the end?

11 years between deaths, there are aftershocks. I walked through Hastings. Why am I crying?

Why am I crying?

Sometimes, death announces its schedule. Sometimes, it arrives on a cold evening, at midnight. Sometimes, it is a phone call and a wail, and sometimes it is a press release. This is it. We’re done.

A heart doesn’t know its shape until it has a void to fill.

All these people with carts fill of discounted merchandise, picking over the detritus of another retail death knell, gleeful at 70% off and talking of Christmas and dissatisfaction when they thought there would be more of one item or another. Buzzards.

I circle around the store like a mother panther. Protective. Anxious. Snarling at the thought of one more fond memory snatched away. I have lost so much in eleven years. My father, my health, and now… I am exhausted and staring at empty shelves with price tags.

It’s not even the same building anymore. They moved locations, tried new things, added a café. The place we spent so many afternoons and evenings browsing is now a Dollar Tree. Sometimes, in the wrapping paper aisle, I remember there used to be magazines. The floor still creaks in the same way.

Move buildings, move houses, create a family, lose your family, try something new. Persist.

Sometimes it doesn’t work.

Hastings was a thread.

How does it feel to hoard art that makes your heart whole? Difficult.

Author of INFINITE DISPOSABLE. Co-founder Electric City Creative. Other work at Persephone Magazine, Word Riot, Little Fiction, Pajiba, The Rumpus + more. Twitter: @sshabein