This is a post I never imagined I’d be writing and I hope to Arceus that as few of you as possible are experiencing or have experienced the emotions fuelling this post. Moreover, if you know of anyone—or even think that somebody—might be feeling trapped in the void of failure or whatever, please reach out to them. Let us try to be a more perceptive people of society regarding others’ states of well-being, given that, by and large, it is societal structure that criminally never prepares us for failure and coping and surviving with it. In doing so, their malaise becomes our own. This is just one man talking about his own experiences, and I realise that there are a multitude of reasons behind how people feel that may be unaffected by external support, but I have failed multiple times and drastically so, thought that it was the end, and discovered that it wasn’t. Life can be better than before, and fulfilling, even given the more circuitous paths not prescribed by the whims of the “norm”. Please help each other and try to find even a modicum of hope.
Indeed, it might be unwise for me to writing publically at such a time—possibly even selfish and disrespectful—, but I feel some incessant need to channel emotion through a vector, and given that Pokémon helped me live in the past, I am going to try and use it to contemplate death. I don’t expect this post to be particularly insightful nor cohesive, because these are experiences I fortunately have never had to deal with quite so directly and so haven’t much perspective on, but if this post illuminates anything for anyone, then it might have been worth sharing. On that slight hope, I continue on.
The tale of Lavender Town is probably the most simply affecting story Pokémon has ever offered. Even when Black and White (and the sequels) question the ENTIRE ETHOS of Pokémon, it is still Lavender Town that resonates most deeply. The Pokémon series is replete with a diverse set of individual stories, but all of these are inferred. The player connects the fragments to creative the narrative as indeed we do in life—how often did we have to write our autobiography at school, for example, or how often do we look at the chain of effect in our own lives?
With Lavender Town, Pokémon confronts death as directly as it has confronted anything. It is also the first time something in the original games is addressed quite so concretely, and is probably partly while the story has endured in the gaming world. The death of Marowak at hands of Team Rocket in maternal defence is a deeply resonant one, and while the circumstances of death may be different from the one I am processing at the moment, there are a few things that currently stand out as pertinent. No, actually, processing is the wrong word. It suggests storage and eventual detachment. I will probably be lingering on this moment, to greater or lesser degree depending on the day, for the rest of my life.
Lingering might be a good starting point actually, though it’s not where I intended to begin. The ghost of Marowak lingers, until peace is found. That last part is possibly not true—I will never actually know the truth of the torment nor the potential peace found—but the lingering is certainly the sense that I have. There is a “ghost” that has manifested in my mind and will not be dislodged. Like I said, it might fade or become more opaque, but it is there. Now that I’ve repeated myself several times, I should probably go on.
Although really, even in the game, there is a persistence that seems more true to life currently, namely in the Lavender Town theme. I think that the FireRed and LeafGreen recording actually undid its potency, because the simple melody and its unchanging overall nature elicits and reflects melancholy and lament: the higher-pitched four note motif and the lament being the fuller notes introduced later. I am no musician, and so these expressions are inartful, but I hope I am being understood. The emotions I’ve attributed may seem wrong, and that the ordering might be reversed. After all, melancholy is notable for its mildness, such that it subtly ensnares you in its throes, and slips between the folds of the mind. These higher notes are small jolts initially, but soon become truly background music, present and eternal, not accentuating itself, nor being forgotten. It is then the deeper notes that reflect the grief and more engrossing emotions.
What interests me is how the music has changed in Gold and Silver. Those same melancholy notes, by virtue of being what I believe is an octave higher and a six bar, twenty-four-note motif instead, become sweeter sounding, and in combination with newer, more changing melody, sound almost joyful. The lament is replaced. I really hope one of these days I will find some semblance of such a transition.
Marowak died protecting Cubone. I am not going to remove the agency involved in suicide, or foolishly proclaim that my influence may have singlehandedly stopped my cousin, because that is reductive of his evident trauma and sense of self, but there is definite feeling of failure to protect him, in part because it is a realisation of my deepest fears of loss, and because he was a special to me, right from that first hospital visit and seeing him lying in the cot. I once failed to prevent a cat from scratching him when we were in the garden when he was two and I was four, but I was able to console him and lead him back home. I only wish I could have tried to do the same again.
Cubone is the Lonely Pokémon. According to his Yellow Pokédex entry, “he wears the skull of its deceased mother. Its cries echo inside the skull and come out as a sad melody”. I know well how lonely life can make us feel. The echoing of thoughts and sense of entrapment are doing my head in, so one can only speculate the tortures going on in his. But like the Cubone’s skull, those thoughts and their causes are part of us. It isn’t a fight against those thoughts and one’s “real self”, as those things inform how were are, from our sadness to our sense of humour. The struggle is more accepting that we are as we are, and then trying to work with our foibles and deeper flaws. I bemoan the fact that I didn’t tell him that, if only because it might have slightly changed circumstances.
“Cubone pines for the mother it will never see again. Seeing a likeness of its mother in the full moon, it cries. The stains on the skull the Pokémon wears are made by the tears it sheds.” The moon tonight is mercifully out of view at present, but I pine for my cousin. I will see him once more, but the tears have stained my memories.
I will never again hear his violin, nor see his magic tricks, nor play Monopoly, nor play Pokémon with him again, outside of my memories, which are now pellicles of the time we shared.
I have lost one of my little Cubones; please try to earnestly ensure that you do not lose any of your own.
I will always love you R.
Thank you to my friends at Anitay for their support, but particularly Morie, Exile, Gespenst, and Unimplied. Today has passed by far more tolerably thanks to you four.