I used to do this thing where I’d think about killing myself and I would imagine how everyone I knew would be better, that I would be missed but easily forgotten by all but my immediate family. It took so many years, but now when I think that way I’m able to imagine people being affected, sometimes seriously so, and besides it being really interesting to fantasize about the impact I could have and the ripples I could send through other peoples’ lives, it’s also just so damn reassuring. As if I’m a normal, entire person, who is cared for by and involved in the lives of others.
Not even a month ago, I was excited for the warmer months ahead and the activities they would bring. The various weekend festivals throughout the city that I would attend and enjoy like a normal person and be around groups of strangers without freaking out. Now it’s May and Art-A-Whirl is in full swing and the neighborhood is swarming with all these young thin beautiful people milling about between studios are bars while all I can manage is watch them pass by from the safety of my apartment.
I take it as a sign of my advancing age that I’m growing more interested in my wife’s portions of the bookshelves than my own. She has all the real books; Mine seem limited to sci-fi, comics, pop sociology, and whatever dark contemporary lit-fic novels that got made into movies over the past ten years.
I remain unsure, though, of whether I’m trying to experience something of more substance, or merely act in a way that I, for whatever reason, believe that I’m supposed to act. Reading the grown-up books and drinking scotch because I’m too old for vodka.
I’m not afraid of dying until my car spins out on the highway.
My first brush with death, I was 11. My grandfather had a stroke after a surgery. He was supposed to be okay, and then he wasn’t. The loss felt like a black hole in my chest.
The next didn’t come until I was in my 20s. My dog had to be put down. I held him in my arms as he finally stopped breathing, bawling my eyes out the entire time. I think that may have even made my dad cry a little—not the event so much as my reaction to it.
Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time around death. Dead people, dying people. I’ve seen how it comes over a person, the agonal breathing, the look that goes from scared to blank. Most of all, I’ve seen the futility in trying to fight it.
I’m not afraid of dying because life is where all the bad shit happens.
i am the sea
my embrace will keep you afloat
or drown you just the same
(it’s dark down there but you’ll have lots of company)
a familiar sight, but truth is kept submerged
shapeless, but for the boundaries provided for me
still, but never idle
warm and welcoming and full of sharks