DEAD YOUNG DIPTYCH by Conor Gabriel Traux


The moment you step into the waxed air you're

thrown by the mixed smells of flowers and

formaldehyde. This place is foreign to you:

you've never been to a funeral before. Not

here, anyway.

The foyer is a sea of scattered sorrow, and you

buoy amongst anonymous faces, unable to find

anyone you know. Adrift, you defer to finding

a seat in the chapel where you await the

service. The room is blisteringly silent, aside

from the teenaged chapel staff who shuffle

between empty rows, sneakers scuffing and


Up front, the minister is getting organized for

his remarks despite you knowing the deceased

wasn't religious. Is there more? A question for

another day, perhaps.

In the quietude of the room you can hear

someone creep into the seat behind yours.

Sitting paralyzed, you hear a pew bend when

they creak forward to whisper in your ear,

"Died old, that's for sure. Almost ninety."

You whisper in hushed agreement. Ninety

seems so short, yet so impossibly long.

Your interlocutor leans in again and you feel

their breath on your neck. "Too bad they died

so long ago," they say. "It's awful when that

happens. When they die young, having lived

a long life."

There's a beat, and you turn slowly to face the

speaker, but they're gone. Ahead of you, the

chapel doors have opened, and mourners begin

to fill the vacant rows.

Sitting alone in silence, the smell overwhelms



I found cracks of meaning and purpose

wherever I went; in line at the Bodega, or

flowering out of the smokestack that

pheromoned the first avenue with the smell of


There was beauty and perspective in the urban

miasma that made me feel small, in a good

way. Freed, even.

Of course, I tried the classical avenues first: I

went to church and spoke to a virgin as

honestly as I'd be truthful to myself, and I

Ayahuasca'd my sins from the pits of my soul

like the smokestack on first. At one juncture I

even saw an astrologist, who said my air sign

would make it hard for me to find consistency

in relationships, inside and out.

Of all those people in all that time, the most

insight I ever got was from a pseudo-psychic

on Avenue A who charged me $50 for a five

minute palm-reading.

All she told me, index traversing the etches of

my skin, was that I'd die young, having lived a

long life. It scared the shit out of me, the

everyday having faded into my periphery.

It's important, vital even, to find beauty in the

trenches, through the shit. To find presence

and permanence in ephemerality. You get so

caught up in who you've been and who you'll

be that you never really get to live as either —

as yourself.

Maybe most people don't want to live, at least

the lives they have.

I didn't. And then, I did.

I hope one day you do too.