Some Times You’ve Thought About Death
Presented in chronological order…
Your brother resolves a dispute with brute force. You clench your tiny fist of rage and promise to get him back when it’s your turn to be the older sibling. Later, your mother very patiently explains that every year you have a birthday, he’ll have one too. He will die, you gradually conclude, precisely twenty-eight months before you do. And, more importantly, he’ll never have to take a turn being the young one. You feel horribly betrayed by your mom’s lesson, not because of how time works, but because you’re certain she should have lied to you. An adult’s job, so far as you understand it, is to delude kids into believing that things are always fair.
While flipping through a picture book about Martin Luther King, Jr., you come to the somewhat aspirational realization that all of the people you’ve studied in History class were murdered.
A documentary you’re watching features an engraving of condemned souls crying out in agony while the voiceover explains they’d never accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. The image is grotesque, but what scares you the most is the prospect of forever. You feel a great deal of love and affection for the carefully arranged idols in the next room. Not to mention the fun — the clanking of coins dropped into the hundi, racing your brother around the Navagraha, the comic books detailing Hanuman’s feats of strength. Since your god offers nothing approaching this threat of an eternity spent burning in vengeful hellfire, you momentarily consider something of a hedge. But conversion seems like a logistical nightmare. Plus, you’ve realized this isn’t a documentary at all, but a Christianity infomercial of sorts, and that hardly seems dignified.
Hanging over the edge of the kitchen counter while your mom does the dishes, you declare that it must be interesting to have a baby, because it must be interesting to love someone more than you love yourself. What you really mean to say is that you want to experience, on some primal level, a willingness to die for someone who you have no reasonable expectation would do the same for you. But you don’t say that part, because you’re really far too young to talk about such things without freaking people out a little.
You learn that the Mayan Apocalypse will occur in December of 2012. You do some math and are terrified to discover you’ll be alive for the end of the world. You do a little more math and are relieved to discover you’ll be twenty-four and will have experienced everything life has to offer by then.
During a debate about Hemingway’s diary entries being published against his wishes, you refuse to accept that a dead person has a right to privacy, successfully convincing both a classroom of your peers and your Lit teacher that you are an enormous asshole.
The next week, you argue in the same class that posthumous organ donation should be mandatory. Everyone seems to be on the same page. You are confused.
Your freshman dormmate invites you to join his “Never Going to Die” Facebook group. You enthusiastically accept.
Sophomore year, you are spotted in a slave Jasmine costume at your Disney-themed birthday party, holding a half-empty bottle of champagne and screaming “two decades down, one to go!”
One of your highly-esteemed English professors claims that death is a necessary motivator, because infinite time offers limitless possibility and squashes all sense of urgency. You think that, too often, successful people forget what it’s like to be hungry.
While Skyping with a friend you joke about your mutually grim prospects when it comes to eternal damnation. You interrupt a long period of silence with a timid “But wouldn’t it be horrible if there really were a Hell?” He nods, reassures you that there isn’t, and seems vaguely concerned that his reassurance was necessary.
Dad rhetorically asks who would ever want to live to be one hundred, prompting a fierce endorsement from Mom. You are struck by what a good match your parents are, in ways it had never even occurred to you to think about.
You call your best friend weeping as you consider the daunting prospect of never attaining your ruthlessly constructed notions of success. What you really mean to say is that if this is really all there is, every unfairness that prevents you from achieving your dreams and the increasing likelihood that you won’t just matter so much more. But you don’t say that part, because you’re really far too young to talk about such things without freaking people out a little.
You accidentally watch Never Let Me Go in the throes of your existential crisis. Thanks, ambiguous trailer.
The Mayan Apocalypse comes and goes. You think that maybe you have experienced everything life has to offer, you just don’t know it because pop culture has tricked you into thinking life has more to offer than it actually does. Like how it took you a few times to realize you had, in fact, had an orgasm because really? That was it?
During a Netflix binge on Cheers, a jealous Sam asks why, if Diane’s favorite painter is such a great artist, he isn’t dead yet. Your laughter has no nervous undertones. Progress.
A very good friend reveals himself to not be a very good person. You decide that the basis of sustained human relationships is to, at any given moment, think less about the ways people are failing you than the various ways that you might be failing them. You wonder if maybe that’s what life is like? You just try not to be a dick, appreciate it for what it is, and do your very best not to think about what it isn’t.
You see ex-friend at a party and pointedly ignore him. The fuck do you know? You’re twenty-four.
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The time I recognized my human privilege in the face of a mind controlled Stone Giant whose people had been enslaved for 1,000 years.
My hands were numb but I pushed the shortcut to my mom’s cell phone. No service at 30,000 feet. “Call me ASAP,” I wrote, and pushed send. Delivery Failure.
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When I was a kid, I dreamed of my mid-20s. Seriously, you remember those awkward moments of junior high, high school, and even college when you just thought, “Goddamnit, I wish I were a real adult,” right?