A Gypsy’s Book of Revelation

Les roulottes, campement de bohémiens
aux environs d’Arles
, 1888
(Oil on canvas, 45 × 51 cm)
BY Vincent Van Gogh
Musée d’Orsay

I love this moment.

My children start to unwind from their torpor; they engage in small talks across the room. This is recess. They enjoy the intermission. I am not entirely gone yet, and they have some time to kill. A facetious spirit drifts among them, and they wonder whether it is mine — a simple non-talking me who decided to linger with them a little while longer. I just had to press pause and they’re free.

I can tell because they do things without thinking, things a bit unthinkable next to my dead body. Fonso picks his nose and rolls on the coarse texture between his thumbs; Sara kisses her girlfriend on the mouth; Zolfina twists Emilian’s hair around her long fingers. Even the Gadjo makes his fingers crack and checks his nails. Alfredo puts a friendly hand on the MC’s shoulder, who’s about to pass out.

I love this moment.

Two technicians materialize out of nowhere, and they start working on the curtain.

Unnumbered Picture: They’ve fixed it. Two undertakers start sliding me into the hole. The MC puts on music, something classical. Taaa-taa-di-daah. Taaa-taa-di-daah. It is holy music, if holy is the adjective for full of holes. It trickles out of four speakers hidden in the ceiling. The music pours out of a machine, it is recorded and served cold; unmistakably dead like me.

At first, none of them seem to notice. It is so completely off. I have this weird feeling in my center that my children are dead too, that all of my people are dead. We’re all zombies walking the surface of the earth, capable of stomaching dead music for our dead; perhaps we’ve been dead all along, we’ve just lived in the pretense of life. That’s a new perspective. A perspective I hate as much as the notes regurgitated from Hell’s studios into this room. I am already halfway into the furnace; one more push and they’ll close the rickety screen on me.

Then Fonso’s accordion takes over, and the road is in the room, not just a few yards of it that you’d believe is all that could fit in the crematorium: the whole entire thing — all the road our people ever traveled.

Alfredo is the first to move. He goes to the MC and murmurs something into his ear. I’ve never seen Alfredo murmur anything to anyone. Whatever it was, his new buddy the MC makes the holy music stop.

They also make me stop on my orbit to the boiler; the undertakers stop; everything stops. No one beeps. They’re all in waiting. Me too.

The first note from Emilian’s violin hits us like a banderilla, and something inside us is starting to bleed. Yelena’s haunted voice gushes straight out of her core and pours salt on our wound. Later, Zolfina’s banjo tries to mend us from them both with a few stringy tricks, and she prevails for a few measures. Then Fonso’s accordion takes over, and the road is in the room, not just a few yards of it that you’d believe is all that could fit in the crematorium: the whole entire thing — all the road our people ever traveled. The room is cut deep in the middle, and we are all falling. My children’s music is sliding forever, and they push me onto the burner because it is time. I am burning in a room full of noises that capsize into one another.

The Gadjo is crying.

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