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By John Goldbach

Jessica sat on the couch in the TV’s blue glow, wearing a white bath towel, surrounded by darkness. She flipped through all the channels twice before settling on a documentary program about liposuction. The doctor pumped his arm back and forth as he aggres­sively vacuumed fat from his patient. The vacuum made a slurping sound as fat travelled through it. Jes­sica stared from her expressionless face. The doctor continued pumping, back and forth, and the vacu­um kept sucking up fat. Jessica felt the skin beneath her thighs and squeezed. She lifted her left arm and squeezed the skin beneath her bicep. She contin­ued flipping through the channels, then stopped on a program about weddings. On the screen, the bride stood in her mermaid-cut gown and tears formed in her eyes, which she wiped at wary of her long painted fingernails, as she talked about her dead grandmother and how she wished she were alive so she’d be able to share in this joyous occasion with her, her only granddaughter, who she always wanted to see get mar­ried, according to her, the granddaughter. Jessica sat enveloped in the blue light. The bride said, through tears, she’d dreamed of her dead grandmother the night Randall, her now-husband, proposed to her. They were in Cabo San Lucas and walking along the beach back to their hotel from Sammy Hagar’s bar, Cabo Wabo Cantina, where Sammy Hagar was in at­tendance that night, and he’d gotten up with the band and played “I Can’t Drive 55,” “Right Now,” and “When it’s Love.” He played some other songs, too, she said, but couldn’t remember which ones. Randall and she had had no idea Sammy Hagar was going to be there, let alone get up and play with the band, she said. She and Randall were pumped, she said, after drinking several shots of Hagar’s Cabo Wabo Añejo Tequila and watching the band, and while walking back to the ho­tel along the beach, Randall said, I know we’ve had our problems, but I want to marry you, and under the stars and the moon he got down on one knee in the sand and said, Will you marry me? At first, she said, she was shocked, but then she said she thought about the Van Halen song, the one Sammy Hagar sang, “When It’s Love,” and she said, somehow, as the tide rolled up the beach, then back into the dark ocean, she knew that he was the one. Anyway, that night, back in the room, after some celebratory champagne, she dreamed of her dead grandmother, who in the dream was wrapped in a white sheet. She said to her, she said, It’s always been my dream to see you get married, even when you were little, a baby even; I wanted to see you in your gown on your wedding day. The story took the bride a long time to tell, as she was periodically halted by tears. It was then revealed to the bride, from an off-camera voice, the documentary filmmaker’s, who was the bride’s cousin Grant, that before their grandmother, Nana, died, she’d enlisted his aid so as to film a wed­ding day message for her only female grandchild. The bride gasped, covering her mouth, and her eyes were wide open as long tears trailed down her cheeks. Her cousin, the documentarian, wheeled a TV and VCR into the frame. He stood beside the TV and the bride in his black tuxedo with a videotape in his hand. He turned on the TV to silent static and eased the tape into the VCR and the screen went black. He turned up the volume. A woman appeared on the screen in a white dress, her white hair in an up-do, a white tu­lip corsage on her wrist and an oxygen mask in her shaking hand. My dear, dear granddaughter, she be­gan. Today’s your wedding day, if you’re watching this tape. That is, provided your auteur cousin remembers and follows my instructions, which are, of course, that you’re not to view this till your wedding day, and if you’re not to marry, you’re never to see this. Where I am right now, who knows? Probably nowhere. Wher­ever that may be. Anyway, she coughed, enough about me. Today’s about you. It’s your special day, she said. She produced a white linen handkerchief and dabbed at her damp bleary eyes. The bride stood frozen, her hands to her mouth, her eyes opened wide, staring at the screen. Excuse me, her grandmother said. It’s hard to hold back the tears and you aren’t even married yet. Well you are. But not right this second, while I’m re­cording this message, with your cousin, the filmmak­er. My seconds. In my time. Anyway, you know what I mean. I just wanted to wish you well on this special day. I just wanted to remind you that I love you, and that I miss you if there’s a you to miss things with after death. Regardless, I miss you now, even though I’ll see you Sunday for dinner, provided I’m still among the quick on Sunday. I miss you when I think of my own death–when I contemplate my mortality–I miss you very much. Enjoy today–your wedding day–for the days pass before you know it you’re facing the end, though the end isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a thing beyond our comprehension, perhaps because comprehension doesn’t have a place there–that’s to say, nowhere. I don’t know. Though I feel with you now in my heart, or rather in the middle, she said, tap­ping at her sunken chest. I’m sad I can’t be there with you but I thought I’d leave you this message, anyway. Jessica shut the TV off and the room went black.

Excerpted from Selected Blackouts (Insomniac Press)

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