double exposure: (n.) the repeated exposure of a photographic plate or film to light, often producing ghost images.Oxford Languages
Taken in our living room in Downey, from her archive of photos, chronologically ordered and in shoeboxes in my closet, the photo shows two angles from the same point of view, different figures, differents planes.
I’ve got Donna Summer twinkling through my phones, a baseball bat joint hanging from my lips as I write this. Of these, I am certain she would have approved only of one. Forty-one years ago today would be the last time I saw her, pushed down the middle aisle of our church in a mahogany box. The grown-ups were always telling me my mother would always watch over me, but at eight years old, it sounded like bullshit to me.
I’d spend my twenties with a stainless steel Zippo in my pocket, a little green shamrock in the middle, “Lucky” written in capital letters, in an arch above it. A token, then, of the more than five, less than ten times I’d already gotten away, pulled over for expired tags & a pile of unpaid tickets, let go with only a warning. THAT luck would eventually run out, of course. But, take heart, dear reader, there would be more.
There were all of the times I drove high or drunk, yet somehow, always arriving home safely. A miracle, really, that I never hurt myself or anyone else. There were all of the times I got high, delightfully shprungled on cocktails of drugs after raving all night, always passed out, but never stopped breathing.
The most welcome surprise, years ago, back in L.A., of two thousand dollars dropped into my checking account. Of course I fucking kept it, expecting eventually I’d get that call or that negative balance. Neither of those things ended up coming. Or just on the edge, right on the edge when lo and behold there’s a seventeen grand settlement I wasn’t expecting.
Or just leaving that name change workshop at the Oakland LGBTQ Center, into sheets of rain pouring out of the sky, and there pulls up the last bus on the other side of the street. Look both ways and make a mad dash trying to catch it, when out of the sheets skids a car, the glare of the headlights enveloping me as I freeze there, stopping just about a foot short of me. I would have been killed if I had been hit. But I wasn’t. It hit me as I sat in my seat, suddenly overcome, weeping and laughing, I felt so fucking alive.
I am not sharing these things with you to boast. There’s really nothing to boast about. I only am stating events as they happened. What always amazes me, though I’m the first to admit that I am not good at math, you know, granted. But, like, I feel like I have a very elementary grasp of statistics. And I can’t help but ask, like, what are the chances?
Just a few days ago, on a walk with my pup. She’d spooked and backed herself into the street, just into the gutter as a car pulled over, fucking Uber dropping someone off. I swooped her up in my arms just in time.
I said to her as we walked away, trying to calm myself down, offhandedly and without even thinking,
“The Universe kept us safe again. Your grandmother kept us safe, Mouse.”
And then a flood in my mind of all of the things I just wrote about, and some that I didn’t, along with the realization that she’s been closer to me than I thought. Closer than speaking to me in the books that I read. Not all. But often I’ll come upon her motherly wisdom in other people’s words, the perfect thing, just what I need to hear, at the moment I need it.
I think of her now, not as an angel with wings or a Casper the Ghost, but as part of the Universe, a double exposure made so with her last breath.