I didn't know Jazz well enough for it to be my place to eulogise her, and talking about myself is all I know how to do. So you'll have to forgive me for not focusing on her memory here as much it deserves, I have a lot of disparate feelings to decompile.
A Clockwork Orange was my Hallowe'en costume of choice the day I met Jasmine. I was decked out in white like a droog, with a truly terrible homemade cardboard bowler hat. I was in Porters, reading an Empire magazine that was probably eventually going to buy in Tesco, to my left Jasmine and someone else (I think it was her friend Sarah) were reading Kiss or Kerrang or somesuch to my left, and they looked up at me, then huddled together and started giggling. Later on I saw them again just outside the shop, on Paul Street (or Rory Gallagher Place, whichever you prefer) and asked them what they were giggling at. Did I look funny, was I ridiculously good looking? No, they just thought my costume was cool. And her name was Jazz, and that's still my defining image of her, a tiny little manic pixy dream girl, giggling away at whatever caught her eye. Back when I was a little more sociable and spent more time hanging out in town, Jazz was one of my favourite people to come across; everything about her gave an aura that just made the air around her better to breathe. Her smile, her eyes, her voice, her laugh, even how short she was (tall women are scary).
Tonight I was a stage hand for a production of Frost/Nixon, which fortuitously needed me to dress all in black. On North Main Street I was stopped quite randomly by the director of the next show I'm in, A Clockwork Orange, and told me of a few unforseen cast shakeups, I nodded until the time came to keep walking, and passed on to South Main Street. Some guy I didn't really know but vauguely recognised was outside An Spailpín Fánach, he adressed me as "Hey, it's the violin guy!"
I haven't busked in months, but people who were in their teens in the mid-zeroes still call me that from time to time.
The girl beside him asked me for cigarettes, and dryly told me to go away when I told her I didn't have any.
And then he asked me if I knew Jazz.
I said yes. Truth be told she'd popped into my head during the week and I had been wondering what she'd been up to recently.
"Her funeral was today."
There is no good way to hear this kind of news.
"Are you serious?"
"Yeah, there's a party for her in the pub."
I hadn't seen Jazz in ages, maybe years. I couldn't remember that last time I saw her, or what I last said to her.
"She fell off a building."
It didn't make senese. The truth didn't make sense.
Some other guys I kind of know came out of the pub and greeted me. I tried to get more details, when, how, why? All I could get was that it happened a week ago.
I got an image in my head of a stone, then a face, then a stone, like those spinning cards with a bird on one side and a cage on the other.
I was trying to find whatever possible explaination there could be for what I was hearing, but there was none. I considered going in and drinking to her but I didn't have any money and I was hungry after being backstage all day. I went home, ate, put on black shoes and went straight back to the pub. I was thinking over an dover as I walked: If I hadn't passed this pub, on this night, I wouldn't have heard that Jasmine was dead. The news simply would not have reached my ears, no-one would have thought to tell me. She would be dead and I flat out would not have noticed.
When I came back I found James outside the pub, he didn't remember me in the slightest, but I didn't remember his name either, so it balances out. He managed to give me a few details on what had happened: from what I heard, she had been on the roof of her boyfriend's apartement when she fell. And that's all I got. I went to the upstairs area where the party was gathered, Large photos of her were on the walls. That hit hard, I was looking at her knowing that these pictures are all that exists of her now, all anyone will ever see, taunting me with girl I'll never again hug, whose laugh I'll never hear.
The party itself was what you'd expect from a shower of drunken back-clad cork teenagers, many of whom had little black hearts drawn under one of their eyes.
I looked around the crowd of youths I didn't recognise. Anna walked right up to me and said "Violin guy!" I hadn't seen her in years either.
Let me just stop for a moment and say that I'm not into the punk scene, or the goth scene, or the emo scene, or the metal scene. So if I try to poetically sum up the party like Ginsberg talking about the best minds of his generation it's going to sound half-hearted and artificial, because that is precisely what it would be. I've no idea which of the people Jazz loved the best (apart from Anna and Gracie, whom I always thought of synonymously with Jazz, an unbreakable troika) or what music she was most into these days, or what kind of beer she preferred, but I know she'd hate the summation of her wake to be bullshitted in banal purple prose by a guy who has no idea what he's talking about. The party looked like fun for those involved, but it wasn't my scene, and that's the extent of the cynical eye I'll pass over my generation in this particular text.
The most jarring thing about the assembled group drinking and dancing and crying is how many of the girls there looked like Jasmine, the short hair, the make-up, the black punk rock attire, the neon highlights, elements of her appearring on a dozen faces. I turned to Thomas and told him of a story I heard of my older brother, when he was at my grandmother's funeral. The one-year-old boy kept running to the church door to see who was arriving, each time a granny-shaped person walked in his face lit up for a moment, until it became apparent. None of them were her.
Normally at parties I do three things. I drink. And I dance. And I flirt. In this case I had no booze money, the music was a load techno-remix stuff that aren't my cup of tea when I'm in a good mood, let alone when I'm in morning. And as for the last one, no-one's yet informed me of the etiquette or the ethics of flirting at funerals, so I decided not to start experimenting with it here. Pretty as the teary-eyed masses were, something in my gut just whispered "perhaps not". So instead I sat. I sat and thought.
I only have two other memories of Jasmine, both brief.
The first is also on a halloween, Jazz was sat to the west wall or Rory Gallagher Place and I sat next to her. I can't remember if it was one year after we'd first met or two, but the important thing is how unhappy we both were. I remarked upon it to her, I asked her if she remembered the day we first met, and she did, and I asked her how the blazes had the two of us gone from sunshine personified to a pair of dour, moody balls of meh. She sighed. "It's this place" she said. I disagreed, but didn't say it. between then and now I once looked back on it and thought that she was wrong, that the sadness was in ourselves, and we'd hit a weakness and given into it. Looking back from a higher vantage point, I think perhaps it was the typical emoness of puberty.
I find these hormone-driven shifts in emotion to be especially odd, are your feelings purely the chemicals your body's producing or is it something else? Does your body simply "Imagine" that it's sad as you grow up? Or was Jazz right, and is Cork truly a somehow inherently depressing place? And if that's the case, how were we ever happy in the first place?
I don't have any answers, and I don't know if Jazz got sadder or happier after we lost contact.
The fact of the matter is I don't know if I'm happy or sad a lot of the time. Last time I cried was in fifth year when I got a mountain of punishment homework two nights in a row. Who I was then, and worried about the things I was, that broke me. That put me to tears and I couldn't stop crying for a class and a half. I've been looking back on that day a lot lately, because it seems so alien to me. I can't even imagine caring about something that much, to truly lose control, particularly in public, to be so completely snapped in two, even for a minute, let alone forty. I've been wondering if it'll ever happen to me again, that I'll get the chance to stop thinking, that one thing will just blindside so much that I'll break down in tears. I've looked forward to it, simply because it would prove that I can really feel at all, that I'm not simply going through the motions. It'll hurt if it happens, but I need that kind of pain. I've never cut myself, or had any kind of "I hurt myself to feel alive" phase. Physical pain is a very obvious cause-effect phenomenon. Emotional pain is far less quantifiable, and far less predictable, far less a+b=c. Where do tears come from? I don't know. Why can't I lose control? Perhaps because I'm too busy waiting for it.
Jazz's death has so far not made me lose control.
Thomas told me that he first heard she was dead six days ago, and that no matter how many people told him, he was still suspiscious that it might be an elaborate practical joke right up until he saw the body in the coffin. I thought of her in her coffin, and realised that by now she's already in the ground. I get no removal, no funeral, no last look at her, no goodbye. It was a twist in fate that I even got to see her friends gathered for her one last time. I looked at the pictures of her around me and couldn't get over the unfairness of it. Just barely eighteen, two and a half years younger than me. "If I'd seen the body," I thought, "If I had heard about it earlier, and if I had got the chance to walk into the church and see her beautiful face one last time, would that have done it? Would that have finally broken me?" But now I'll never know. It makes me feel cold and lifeless not to feel the kind of pain I feel like owe her.
Though she'd hate it to be put like that.
I worry about death far more than is healthy. I used to write copious anounts of blogs on the subject, waxing about the inevitability, the fact that everyone is eventually forgotten. I made a big deal in my mountains of pointless essays of the fact that if were to be unceremoniously offed by an unexpected car the news of my demise would not travel particularly far, and slowly too, and many people I've known would simply not notice that they never saw me again, or at least not find it particularly odd. Between then and now it's become far more the case than ever, as I've become less and less of a socialite, and more and more addicted to the blasted internet. I look back on all the people I've been friends with over the course of my life, and how many of them I simply lost contact with, or grew tired of, and how if either one of us were to swallowed up by monsters it would not impact the other a jot. A boy a went to school with with was electrocuted last year, and don't recall even looking him in the eye once.
Even before Jasmine died, who I was in the previous decade has been on my mind. One of my co-workers on Frost/Nixon is a girl I was thick as theives with circa '04, whom I now Ionly see via random encounter every couple of months. Since we were now in the same working environment I got my first chance in many years to properly talk to her and get some bearings on who she is. I found it a little worrying to think that if I had not volunteered to help out with this play I would not have had this chance, and it would be several months again before I even saw her, if indeed it happened at all.
And if she had died suddenly, if she'd slipped on ice, or gotten mugged on the street, or contracted some asymptomatic disease with knowing it, and just dropped dead out of nowhere, that would be it. I would never get the chance to find out who one of my best friends had grown up to be.
There is no plot to the story of my life, I do very little, my adventures are all self-contained little vignettes, with no obvious overarching relationships, characters appear and disappear. The only obvious unifier is the recurring symbolism. I first meet Jazz dressed all in white with black shoes, thinking about A Clockwork Orange, I learn Jazz is dead, dressed all black with white shoes, thinking of A Clockwork Orange. I spend almost a solid five years worrying that I'm going to die and no-one's going to notice, then one day someone like Jazz dies, and I almost don't notice.
If it had been me who'd died, how would Jasmine have found out? (I know I'm asking a lot of questions here, but that's all I have in my philosophical ramblings, I never seem to find any answers. Perhaps I should have just gone the whole hog and found a way to end every single sentence with a question mark) She would have heard about it eventually. "Did ya hear the violin guy died?" (I'm only slightly less famous than the harmonica player with the shrunken arm) She most certainly would have missed my funeral too. I envy her the fact that so many of her friends knew each other, and could throw one big party at a bar. Just about everyone I know is nomadic and bookish, and they're all divided into constantly shifting cells. There would be no Big Bash, there'd just be all my cousins having dinner at my parents' house. A lot of my closest friends wouldn't even have a wake to go to.
When I went up to Gracie to give my condolences, she looked startled to see me, like I was the last person she expected. Happy, but startled. Last time she talked to me I would have been at most nineteen, now I'm 21 with a full beard, getting Jesus jokes from everyone who sees me. I would love so much for Jasmine to have seen me like this. Just once, even if it was just bumping into her in the street a few weeks ago, just some last chance to see.
For all my pining, I have no illusions that Jazz and I would have re-found each other as close friends in years to come. The time we spent in each others' company was gone no matter what. Dead or otherwise, we were both metaphorical poetical ghosts in the other's life. Walking memories. I had to ask one of the other people what her second name had been.
It was Killmaier.
My only other memory of Jasmine is the briefest. Once again in Paul Street (The place used to be like a magnet to me) I was passing by and Jasmine was sat with some friends against the south wall, facing Tesco. I just stopped briefly, said nothing particularly important to people I didn't particularly know, and was then about to go on my way to play violin outside Waterstones as I always used to. Just as I was going to leave I saw Jazz make as if to get up, then seemed to think better of it. I stopped and asked her if she had been about to get up. She coyly saud "Why?" And I replied "Because I want a hug." And she fully got up to her full short height and walked over to me to give her typical warm embrace. I remmeber one of the guys sat there named Nick said something like "Aw look at his face" as I hugged her. I guess the face I was making was one where I was genuinely deeply smiling. Because hugging Jazz that day made me happier than I think any other hug I've ever received has.
One girl who was sat near me had caught my eye, and I knew that if the circumstances were different I would be vainly trying to chat her up. After an hour sat there thinking about death I finally turned to her and asked her her name. She said it was Yasmine. "Yasmine?" I reiterated. Then I thought for a moment that maybe she'd said something else like Yvonne, and I'd just been ridiculously insensitive by combining her name with that of the girl we were there to mourn. I asked again. Her name was indeed Yasmine.
"You look nice." she said "I like your beard."
There is concept among nerds called the "Suspiciously Similar Substitute." It's the kind of phenomenon where in, say, a sitcom, the next door neighbour character gets written out because the actors don't get along, and the very episode after the neighbour moves away, a new almost identically written chracter arrives to fill their void in the story.
At the funeral for a young woman named Jasmine, I meet a young woman named Yasmine. The cosmic comedy of it was a bit much was a bit much, and a decided that at midnight I had done all I could do to mourn jazz while watching a bunch of teenagers get pissed and emotional. I left it to fate to see if I ever see Yasmine again, and if she even remembers me when I do.
I told Thomas I'm heading home, got up, walked around bend of the staircase. I took one last survey of the pictures of Jasmine. "This is it" I thought. "And then we came to the end"
I went down the stairs to begin the walk home, almost a straight line south towards the full moon.
At the base of the stairs I randomly bumbed into one the actors I'd be working with in A Clockwork Orange.