Just Like Suicide pt. 16

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Battle of Gettysburgdetail 100
Mery Lynn McCorkle, detail of Battle of Gettysburg, 2015.

For your summer reading pleasure, BURNAWAY brings you Just Like Suicide, a novel by artist Mery Lynn McCorkle, set in the Los Angeles art world. She writes from experience, having lived for years in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, when it still was the art frontier, and then LA; she now resides in Rome, Georgia. She describes the book as “a compendium of interlocking tales cataloguing self demolition and success in the Los Angeles art scene, from the point of view of artists, dealers and family members.”
We’ll post sequential chapters from McCorkle’s book every Wednesday and Friday over the summer (and on Monday’s beginning in August!). Or click here to buy the book now.


Thirty One
 
Misery likes company, Miss Tillie used to say. It seldom travels alone.
For the first few months after Dennis died, Maggie worried that Odessa was next. Depression can kill as surely as cancer does.
Maggie would drive over mornings in her old Volvo and do her level best to get Odessa up and moving. Every day she would find Odessa sitting in the living room in her pajamas staring at the row of photographs of Dennis, the urn with his ashes, her coffee cup still full.
For Maggie to stay indoors surrounded by books days on end was normal. But Odessa was a super social being. For her to stay alone so much meant something was seriously out of whack, so Maggie kept coming up with activities to get her out and about. She had to admit that she didn’t do it just for Odessa. It helped her shake off her own anguish over losing him too. So Maggie was the one who pushed her to reopen the gallery by demanding a paying job as her assistant, who got Odessa involved in a reading group, who insisted that as a new grandmother she simply had to visit the new baby as soon as she could after the funeral. All of these were things Odessa said she wanted to do. Maggie just made sure they happened.
At least she tried.
Hell is paved with good intentions, Grandma Beulah used to say, so keep your nose out of other people’s business. No good deed goes unpunished.
After Dennis’ cancer was detected, Maggie tried hard to find a cheerful subject to focus on. The soon to be born baby was an obvious choice. Maggie decided to refer to the new addition to the family as The Blue Baby, Tibby for short. The strategy worked. Both Odessa and Dennis always chuckled when they heard the nickname, or maybe it was just the way Maggie said it, using her fingers to indicate quotation marks. On Jack’s first trip back after Dennis’ chemo, Maggie took a call for him from a pregnant Tiffani and rather than make her wait in silence, she chatted with her to fill time until he was able to get to the phone. “I hear from Jack that Tibby likes to kick.” Tiffani had zero sense of humor about anything baby and huffily announced they hadn’t decided on a name yet. Maggie had to explain it was an abbreviation. So when the baby girl actually got named Azure, Maggie felt kind of guilty about implanting the suggestion of blue as a name. Azure is not a real name. Still it could have been worse. Like Lazuli, Sapphire, Cerulean, or Opal. Yeah, Indigo would have been much worse. Well, everyone was giving babies odd names these days. At least this one was pronounceable.
The next backfire was the trip to Belgium. It took some work to get Odessa to agree to fly so far away so shortly after Dennis’s death. But once Odessa decided to do so, she perked up and seemed excited about seeing the baby and Jack. Then, less than a week before her scheduled departure, Tiffani informed them that she, her mother and Azure were going to be at an ashram in the Netherlands for silent meditation that entire week. They wanted Odessa to tag along. Odessa told them she’d reschedule the trip. She wanted to see the baby but she also wanted to see Jack.
Any mother should sympathize with that. Tiffani, though, really expected her to fly all the way over to Europe to join them for a week of silence. “It will be such a cleansing experience for you. You need a spiritual awakening to help you through your sadness. I insist that you join us.” Tiffani was pretty peeved with Odessa when she declined again. “You need to be open to new experiences. You need to embrace the now.” Odessa at an ashram was hard to imagine. Odessa being silent for an entire week, impossible.