I spent several days writing about a distressing event that recently happened to me. Happened to someone else, actually, with me in close proximity. I use the word “traumatic” sparingly. I’m not going to argue semantics, but it’s one of those words bandied about too freely these days. There are truly traumatic events—things involving death, abuse, severe injuries, and the like. But while what happened was scary and psychologically stabbing, everyone involved came out all right. I suppose it was partially traumatic, but nothing requiring psychological liniment and band-aids.
For the past week I kept returning to the piece, crafting it to recall every breath, sensation, and emotion. And it was pretty good. After several years of feeling barely able to word-craft worth a damn, it flowed. Flowing is a healthy activity for blood, water, and words.
But it occurred to me that this wasn’t entirely my story, and I wasn’t certain sharing it online was a good choice. I asked my wife what she thought, and after a moment she said, “No, don’t.” Occasionally, she’s overly cautious, but not this time.
Still, I had to finish it, I knew this, even though it’s destined for a file in the closet cabinet, along with my notebooks, journals, and never-sent letters. That stings a bit, because it’s one more bit of work that’ll do me no good now (soul-balming notwithstanding), and won’t last after I die. My kids might retain some of my work out of nostalgia for the old bastard, but otherwise one day my children’s children’s children will say, “What is this crap?” and heave it into the trash.
But jot it down I must.
What happened? I’ll tell you this much.
Someone dying and someone mimicking dying sent me into a double funk for the past week. Huzzah. Mr. Dan Kelly meet Mr. Death Mortis.
I think about dying a lot—not in a scared way. It just reoccurs to me that I’m mortal and will end. I don’t want to die. Confidentially, and this may surprise you, I hate the thought of it. Standard reactions, yes, but I’ve long developed a bland acceptance of what I can’t control. I’d like to fly unaided, but there’s all this damn gravity to contend with. I’d like to travel everywhere—literally EVERYWHERE—but money, time, space, and previous obligations won’t accommodate me. I’d prefer not to die, but…well, we’ve all been there. We all ARE there. You accept the limits and try to find a way to ameliorate the disappointments. Very well, airplanes and a few trips over the course of a lifetime it is.
But Death has no workaround. And when you’re face to face with it or it gives you a preview of the real thing, you discover the bastard is too stupid to make deals with you, or to give you a pleasant if temporary alternative. Death is neither fair nor unfair. It’s an unavoidable, dull-witted, bureaucratic lug doing its job that doesn’t even wonder why people are annoyed. Imagine a janitor wearing ear buds, listening to its music as it pushes past you to clean off your desk, even though you’re obviously still working or eating or otherwise occupied. Then it leaves without a word—but you know it’ll be back to swipe and discard whatever else you’d prefer it leave alone. Worse yet, it occurs to you that maybe you’re going in the wastebasket next time.
But you’ll get over it, because there’s no alternative. Which can be looked at as a comfort if only for its consistency and inevitability, I guess.