Why We Chose It: “It Takes Practice” by Salena Casha

This short nonfiction piece is about Selena Casha’s new relationship with death, because quarantine has enabled us to foster new ideas and ways of thinking. We see Casha try to find a better understanding of death and how to fully accept this inevitable reality. Life in isolation has forced us to live with ourselves in a way that we’ve never had to before. “It Takes Practice” is a perfect example of how we allow our thoughts to wander and explore. This new age of free-range thinking allows for all sorts of thoughts and ideas, as we see in Casha’s writing as she expands on the hypothetical of her death. Casha beautifully writes about her death, what it would be like, how it would affect the people around her, and she even reflects on current issues in our country’s social climate like white privilege and the death of Americans due to COVID-19. 

Casha imagines her husband’s life after she dies, and how he won’t be able to sing certain songs and how he will describe her to his second wife. Casha does not write out of jealousy or fear; she does not get overwhelmed by her emotions, but is rather more curious and observational in this new reality. She lets the fantasy play in her mind for a while until she jumps back into current time. As she talks about her current relationship with death, we follow her to understand her current mindset. “I had never felt the presence of death as such a certainty before, especially as a white person in her gentrified neighborhood where she’d never so much as shivered when a cop walked past.” In Casha’s new conversation about death, we see allusions to literature, conversations with friends, the effects of COVID and death by police brutality. 

“It Takes Practice” is told through stream of consciousness. Cashsa jumps from idea to idea, piecing together the story; she goes from writing about her death as a theme connected to other aspects in the world, to fantasizing and mapping how this reality would play out. Telling the story through stream of consciousness helps make the whole experience more realistic, especially since it plays well with the theme of contemplation, but it does not make the story confusing or messy. Casha pieces together a short will, listing which belongings would go to whom, and how much money would be given away. Then in the end of the story we circle back to the theme of repetition we first see in the title: Casha recalls how it has been something that she was always good at, but coming to terms with her death has not made it more comfortable. Like death, the fear of it is inevitable and constant.

Mia Dusenberry, Lead Art Editor and contributing editor in Creative Nonfiction

Read this essay in Issue 5 of Levitate Magazine, available on our website on May 25! And join us for our launch reading on YouTube at 7 pm Central on May 25.

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