Thursday, February 21, 2013

Eric Krupnik Death Mask and Portrait

Eric seemed to touch and change everyone he met whithin his all too short life. He certainly had his hand in changing me. For the tale of his last days on planet earth and how this cast came to be after his passing, click HERE
There we were, Eric and I. For the very last time I would spend with this dear, dear friend. I stoked his cheek and kissed his forehead and told him that this would be beautiful. I told him it wouldn’t take very long and that I promised not to fuck it up. I knelt down beside his box to unpack the kit and started to cry out loud. My heart was pounding like a Koto drum. I could feel the stress spreading across my chest and shoulders. I could feel the tension traveling down my arms and tingle in my finger tips. My eyes were swelling shut as tears were splashing onto the inside of my glasses. I could feel the weight and motion of those tears dangling from the bottom edges of my lenses and see the splintered light and reflections dancing within them but, I didn’t skip a beat or loose my rhythm. I was determined to run this as if it were just another casting, to not let the torrent of tears and tidal waves of emotion stand in the way of professionalism or methodology. I rose from the unpacked kit, took off my glasses to shake the tears from them, wiped my eyes on my forearm and, went to get a pail of water. When I returned I stood over Eric and noticed that there was dried mucus around his nose and mouth. At first I was dismayed that the hospital would let him be delivered in such a state but, quickly realized that hospitals only do what they have to and that preparing a body is somebody else’s business. I cleaned him up while explaining to him what I was doing and what the steps of the process would be as if he were alive and could hear me. Then I shut his eyes. They closed so easily. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and to my amazement, when shut, they seamed to rise in the corners just like his smile. As his closed eyes smiled back at me, I marveled at how a fluke of geometry can mirror the essence of ones soul. I asked his permission to turn his head because I couldn’t get to his left ear in his current position and could almost hear him say “Mike, my good friend, my head is in your hands.” I reached into the box and placed my hands on either side of his head. With the heels of my hands at his jaw, my thumbs on his cheek bones, his ears between my fore and middle fingers and my pinky and ring fingers at the sides of his neck, I tried to move his head but it didn’t budge. This was my first encounter with rigamortice since elementary school biology. A fetal pig’s leg as it turns out is considerably less resistant than the head and neck of a human being. I said “Eric, man, your not making this any easier for me are you?” He said “come on you mighty beast, give it a little horse power” I took deep breath and applied lateral force incrementally. My arms were starting to shake. I didn’t know if I could do it. I broke out in a soaking sweat and felt waves of nausea and tears sweep over me. I was twisted with the gut wrenching fear that I was going to break his neck. My head swam backward to a time when I broke a mans nose in a fight and could feel the bones crackle and collapse beneath my knuckles. I could taste vomit in the back of my throat as tears began spilling from my eyes, landing on his chest and soaking into his faded hospital gown. I had visions of his vertebra shattering. I had visions of his head coming off in my hands. I was a fraction of a second away from giving up and then I heard him say “Come on you big pussy cat, we’re almost there. You can do it Mike. I’m not going to break. You’re the man.” I gulped another deep breath, applied more force and suddenly his head was free and moved with the silken smoothness of a well greased ball bearing. I was drenched as if I had just run a marathon and my knees were seriously weak. I may have fallen over if I weren’t hanging on so tightly to his head. I straightened myself up and breathed for the first time in what felt like ages. I could hear him say “That wasn’t so bad was it?” I replied in a very loving tone “Eric, fuck you.” I laughed out loud and he just kept on smiling that beautiful smile of his. The hardest part was over. I untied his string necklaces and placed then on his chest. I rolled a towel in a plastic bag and placed it behind his head to act as a catch or, dam. I mixed the alginate and started the mold. It seemed as if I were done in no time. I cleaned up my mess and I cleaned up Eric and put his necklaces back on him. I placed the mold, packed in wet paper towel, back into the same plastic bag that I had brought the kit in. With my hand on his chest, above his still heart, I gave him a last kiss and bid him his final farewell knowing I was the last person to ever spend time with him. I zipped closed the bag and shut the cardboard box and let my self out of the building as if I had never been there. As I hit the street the air felt crisp and welcoming in my lungs. The first taxi I hailed stopped for me and I was back on St. Marks before I knew it. With the mold of Eric’s head still in the bag beneath my arm, I entered Dojo’s to have a drink with Bette and Peppy and who ever else was still there from the memorial. I had a few drinks but, barely spoke of what had just transpired. I said my goodnights and made my way home. I walked in through my door and found that my sister Alisa had left hot soup on my stove and a box of Kleenex on my coffee table waiting for me, a lovely gesture of comfort and condolence. Contrary to my exhausted state, I only found sleep in fleeting winks. This had been as tough and trying a day as ever I had known.

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