Dennis O’Neil: In The Great State of Bardo
Here we are again, in a bardo state. (Note: “Bardo,” as all you Tibetan Buddhists know – and among our readers, you are legion – refers to an intermediate state, as between one life and the next. I’ll use it to mean any state between a current important thing and the important thing one is anticipating. I don’t know what the Dalai Lama thinks about this, but I hope he approves.)
Where was I? Oh yeah, between the end of summer and the beginning of fall. For me, this year, it seems to be a time of nostalgia. Today, for example, is the anniversary of the day, 25 years ago, that I met a woman who had been, 30 years earlier, a girl to whom I’d given, as a birthday present, a subscription to Mad Magazine. Unknown to me, she had maintained that subscription all those years and so, learning that I’d become a comic book writer might not have been deeply surprising to her, (Maybe slightly surprising? I mean, does anyone really become a comic book writer?) I’d forgotten the gift subscription and what I find interesting about it is that back then, in my late teens, I still had some tenuous connection to comics. Before the girl-turned-woman gave me a reminder, I thought I’d abandoned comics much earlier, before I shut a figurative door with the cold breath of an individual I shall call Sister Henrietta still chilling the nape of my neck.
Then, off to school plays and speech contests and the misery men know as military high school and girls…one girl in particular. There was an annual bardo, that occurred just about now, when the frolicsome summer days were expiring and school loomed and you couldn’t help but wonder what lay between you and Christmas. (Note: the days weren’t always that frolicsome because, there was work to be done, my family being one of modest means sustained by a neighborhood grocery store and I’d better get out of this parenthesis before I begin ranting about how the kids of today don’t know how good they got it…and, work or no, we did manage some fun, and even a bit of goofiness.)
Okay, now imagine a montage of uniformed service and slum living and empty highways and empty rooms and empty bottles and Manhattan office buildings and hospital wards and protests and anything else you’d care to imagine and end your montage with me meeting the girl-turned woman in the vestibule of a church, both of us a ripe middle age, accompanied by our grown children, walking between the pews to the altar to speak vows I’d typed on file cards – not great vows, but they did the job. That was August 19, 1988.
Let me tell you, August 18 was for me one hell of a bardo.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: Martin Pasko
FRIDAY MORNING: Martha Thomases