On the news the other night, I saw a story about a San Diego police officer who was fatally shot while sitting in his patrol car—no warning, no provocation, no explicable reason (other than his chosen profession I suppose). Just a random drive-by. One moment, sans holes; the next, profuse perforation. Normally, this sort of news story would be confined to San Diego, but a “touching last act” catapulted it to national attention. Moments before being gunned down, Officer Jeremy Henwood bought cookies for a 13 year-old-boy who was missing ten cents. He then asked the kid what he wanted to be when he grew up (an NBA player), and encouraged him to work hard to achieve his dreams.
Last acts are defining moments in a person’s life, the moment when you decide to let the women and children board the life raft first or instead you shove that bitch out the way. The moment you tell your family you love them or you try and drag Bruce Willis’s wife down with you before falling off a skyscraper. The news anchor described the police officer’s last moments as speaking to the “character of a fallen hero.” If last moments always speak to a person’s character, this concerns me because 99% of the time, if I were to die in the next instant, I would not be proud of how it reflected on my life as a whole.
“In his last moments before his sudden brain aneurism, Brad Pike posted a YouTube video of two drunken roller skaters to Facebook. His mother said, ‘It really speaks to his character, how he chose to spend his last moments. He truly loved to watch people fall down and hurt themselves.’ At the very moment of his death, one of his Facebook friends commented on the video, ‘LOL that is some crazy sheeeeeeeeit.’ Back to you in the studio, Martha.”
See, that’s no good at all. My ghost would be watching TV, saying, “Well, I mean, yeah, I did post that video, but that moment doesn’t sum up my whole life. That’s just not true.” But it kind of would, and so my ghost would haunt the shit out of everyone, a swollen black blob of self-loathing sweeping across the country, popping up in people’s bedrooms like the old lady from Insidious.
One night, while staying in Galveston for Spring Break, one of my friends stumbled over to my bed, pulled down his pants, and began peeing directly onto my face.
“Stop it! Stop what you’re doing! It’s unacceptable!”
“I can’t stop,” he said. “I have to finish.”
Because of a back injury, I couldn’t even move out of the way, could only lay there and absorb the spray in quiet resignation, disappointed that the events of my life had led me sequentially to this moment. He wasn’t even drunk; he was sleepwalking (or perhaps, I suspect, purposefully and maliciously inflicting his pee on my clean pale visage). In any case, I lay there in pee soaked sheets whining for a long time, and even now, I occasionally hear, “Remember that time you got peed on. You are a person who gets peed on. That is who you are.”
Now imagine if, in my horror, I had rolled out of bed onto a garden spike facing point-up—maybe one of my friends had been gardening for whatever reason earlier that day. Oh God, my last defining moment would be getting peed on. The whole rest of my life would be seen under the pall of that final event, my life as the boring lead up to the hilarious punch line. Family members and friends would dissect their memories of me, searching for the pattern of moments that matched up with that last one, like the way people read David Foster Wallace in light of his suicide.
“Remember when Brad was seven years old, and Brandon came up behind him and dumped a bucket of water on his head for no reason? And then there was that time in high school when Julie put tampons in his chocolate milk, also for no reason.”
“Yeah, that was his life right up to the very end, always getting pissed on.”
Another time, while sitting in Big Mike’s Coffee, I squeezed off what I thought was a small quiet fart, but turned out to be a torrent of liquid shit. I calmly stood up, waddled over to the bathroom, and cleaned myself up without anyone knowing what had happened. What if at that moment, a stray bullet zipped through the window and planted itself in my neo cortex just as I was about to go lock myself in the restroom for an hour?
“In local news, 23-year-old Brad Pike—author of such classic internet essays as ‘Huff Your Own Poop’ and ‘The Sun is a Fat Yellow Asshole’—was fatally shot in the head after pooping his pants in a coffee shop. It’s unknown at this time whether he was shot for pooping his pants or if it’s an entirely unrelated incident, but crime scene investigators have determined conclusively that the defecation occurred prior to the shooting.”
I’m not a person who poops his pants all the time. It’s the rarest of occurrences for me. But if I had died immediately following that moment, whenever people brought up Brad Pike, they would say, “Oh yeah, he’s the guy who pooped his pants.” Nothing else! All personality, achievements, hopes, dreams—all of it overshadowed by the huge monolithic fact: he pooped his pants. The name Brad Pike would be synonymous with pants pooping.
Those would be the worst moments I could die, but even all the others, the remaining 99.99% of my life spent engaging in regular everyday behavior—there’s so few I’d be comfortable picking out as a “defining last moment” like the kind Officer Henwood achieved. So much of my time is spent looking at YouTube videos, eating snack cakes, and writing about pants pooping for the internet. Of course, I do other moderately productive things like painting, reading, and running, but it seems like an astounding portion of my time is spent on Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Blogger, Twitter, and so on. This is when you know you need to make a major life change.