rollercoasters in winter
Life is a rollercoaster and I'm getting nauseous.
I'm tired of the twists and the turns, the loops and the lurches, the soaring heights and the sudden drops. I'm weary of the unexpected, of surprises lurking behind blind curves, of unknown destinations hiding behind hills and mountains. The tracks are only straightforward in the mirror of hindsight; my past exists only to haunt me and taunt me with visions of unreachable futures.
There was a time when I felt more in control, more like a driver than a passenger, more like an engineer of my own destiny than an artist sketching the wreck of my life as it sinks in flames. I lived enthusiastically, throwing my hands up to the wind and howling with delight as my body was flung left, right, up, down, and side to side. I enjoyed the thrill of the unknown, and each new dawn brought novel promises of laughter and wonder. Mornings were times for motivation and creativity, nights were times for merriment and festivities. My friends rode beside me on the rollercoaster, and the sky was always full of cheering voices and joyful screams.
But more recently, I've begun to feel like a wild animal. The rollercoaster is a ride of survival, of breathing, eating, sleeping, fighting, and engaging in primal acts of desire. My life feels as though it's been stripped to the bones by mourning rain and bitter winds; time has scratched the colors off the cart and erased the theme from this ride. All that remains now is a rusting track of metal in the sky, supported only by brittle towers that threaten to snap each time I pass overhead.
The difference between living and surviving seems to relate to what it means to be a human. What differentiates us from other animals? Are the philosophers right when they claim that our reason and rationality sets us apart? Or are the poets and artists correct when they capture our emotions in vibrant hues and lyrical words? I think I am inclined toward the latter. Living implies some sort of additional flourishing, some amplification of existence, some enhancement of life. Surviving is bitter and determined, reminiscent of a history of humanity covered in bloodshed and fire.
When I live, I am full. My chest teems with emotions and I have no trouble finding beauty in the world. I am creative and caring and motivated and driven and brave and I seize the day, I seize my fate. I draw and write and sing, and I feel happy and proud of myself, and I feel as though I am enough and as though I am worthy of love. I laugh often, filling my time with friendly faces and interactions. Even when I sit alone, I am not lonely, because I am alive and I am grateful to be alive. I am aware of the sheer improbability of life and the extraordinary combination of factors that aligned perfectly to allow for me to exist. I exist for something, my life means something, there is more to my experience than I could ever know. I know that I have time to achieve everything I want to achieve, and I know that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. I am not afraid of the future, because the unknown means new adventures, new opportunities, new versions of myself. I am content. To live is to bask in the warmth of summer; the trees are ripe with fruit and wildflowers are blooming in the mountains.
Survival is my winter. All the leaves of autumn have fallen, orange turning to brown turning to rot. All the honey-dipped memories of summer are faint whispers of an unimaginable past, all the fresh flowers from spring have long since atrophied away into dust. Snow covers everything, a blanket of blinding white silence and solitude. The trees are bare and everything is much clearer, much sharper. My goals have narrowed into one: survive. I put one foot in front of the other, eyes fixed on the horizon, knowing that a brighter future lies ahead, but this knowledge does not transform the present and I am still left wandering alone in an icy and barren landscape.
I am in a period of survival, but I know this season will pass and I will live again. I know I'll relish the warmth of golden sunlight and praise the distant twinkling of faraway stars. I know that the rollercoaster will be redecorated, renewed, and I know my friends will sit beside me again, laughing, yelling, loving.
But for now, I sit alone.
ode to the woman’s restroom on the ground floor of the psychology building
In terms of ideal places to cry, the women's restroom on the ground floor of the psychology building was truly unparalleled.
Now, it's not that the restroom was particularly nice. One of the stalls was always out of order, the paper towel dispensers often got stuck, the doors creaked, the walls were a disconcerting off-white, and the building itself resembled a poorly-kept hospital. If you wanted a more beautiful place to cry, you'd try the gardens. If you wanted a more secluded place to cry, you'd try your room. If you wanted a quieter place to cry, you'd try the upper floors of the library. You won't find beauty or perfection in the women's restroom on the ground floor of the psychology building.
But that's what I liked. The imperfection matched my emotion, the ugliness mirrored the feelings inside. The women's restroom offered a refuge for me to relate to the building, for me to release my emotions before they suffocated me. I cannot count the number of times I sat in that restroom, biting down on my fist while silently sobbing, expelling tears of frustration, stress, anxiety, sadness, and despair. I sought respite between the dull green walls of the restroom stalls, I shattered my porcelain heart and glued it back together before opening the door and pretending to be okay. There was a certain comfort in knowing the restroom would be there for me, in knowing there was a place where I could cry without judgment.
There were moments of happiness and peace within that restroom, but I rarely visited the women's restroom on the ground floor of the psychology building if I was feeling good. It was when I was sad, when the floor was giving out from under me, when a dark tidal wave was crashing down on me, when shadows were obscuring my senses and I was sinking into the quicksand of despair, when my throat was wrapped with barbed wire and my stomach was full of writhing snakes, when I felt the beginnings of a torrential outpouring of emotion in the form of salty-sweet tears, when the pull of gravity became unbearable and it took every ounce of willpower to remain standing, when I felt the call of the void—that was when I visited the women's restroom on the ground floor of the psychology building.
I haven't been back to the psychology building for a long time, and it's been even longer since I visited the women's restroom on the ground floor. Sometimes, I wonder if they've changed it—if they fixed the toilet that was always out of order, if they repainted the walls, if they made it spotless. I hope not, and there's a certain comfort in the knowledge that fixing one of the less-used bathrooms in the psychology building is likely not at the top of anyone's priority list. It's silly, really, but I will be eternally grateful for the emotional sanctuary of the women's restroom on the ground floor of the psychology building.
I am what you make of me. An array of colors on a white canvas, a few black lines sketching out a human, or maybe an animal, or maybe a mountain, a mixture of different mediums. Oil, pastel, watercolor—the artist who made me created an impure mutation, something fractured. I'm detailed enough to have a unique personality, to add something to this museum, to be worthy of my spot on the wall, but I'm vague enough for every observer to project their own psyche onto my abstract smile (or is it a frown?). I mirror your thoughts, your emotions, your beliefs; I contain whatever meaning you contribute.
I am neither a book nor a poem, but I'm the type of creative invention that English teachers love. They find some meaning inside me and assign their students the job of artistic archeologist, telling them to uncover the message I carry, to discern the painter's motives in creating me. I am always interested in hearing what meaning they assign me, in hearing what messages people find hidden within my strokes of paint and pastel.
I am beautiful in my own, strange way. My colors are vibrant and bold, my lines are confident, my oil paints and pastels and watercolors all join to create something novel. There are enough elements on my canvas for anyone to find something to appreciate in me, and there are enough elements on my canvas for anyone to find something to critique in me. You can love me or hate me—who am I to judge? I exist for your perception.
I contain layers of colors, and sometimes a brush of yellow is actually a mask that hides the blue underneath. There are hidden hues that only I know about, hidden hues that are buried deep beneath more joyful, more vibrant shades. I am a compilation of mistakes and experimentation, and I sometimes wonder whether I belong on display in a museum or tucked away in a dusty attic. I ask myself if I deserve to be here, and I remind myself that that decision is not mine to make. My worth is bestowed upon me by observers.
I don't know how long I've been in this museum. I've seen other paintings come and go, and I wonder when it'll be my turn to retire, my turn to sit in the dark. There's something about that idea that frightens me—how will I know who I am if there's no one around to perceive me, to give me meaning? For art, meaning is typically seen as given. Or rather, meaning is seen as a given. It is taken as a given that art contains meaning. But for me, meaning is given. Meaning is given to me by observers.
Sometimes, artists inform their creations what their meaning is. They tell their paintings what meaning lies within them, they explain what the paintings represent, why they exist. I was never told why I exist. No famed artist whispered to me my purpose, no renowned painter passed along their intentions in bringing me into existence. I don't remember my creator very well, and I wonder if my creator remembers me. If I were an artist with a painting in a museum, I think I would feel proud. I wonder if my creator feels proud. Or, perhaps my creator is dead. Maybe their creation lives on, proudly hanging from the wall in a museum, while they lie buried six feet underground. Maybe the artist dies and withers away while their art persists and survives.
Please come visit me, please find meaning in my abstract appearance. Give me a reason for existence, just for a little, just for a moment.
lost in translation
Loneliness is pernicious, a creeping sensation of discomfort, a casual reminder that you don't belong. It sweeps over you like a wave, crashing down on your confidence and your comfort. Friends fade into acquaintances fade into strangers, and your relationship with yourself atrophies away until you can't stand to look yourself in the mirror, can't stand to meet your own eyes.
Loneliness is being misunderstood—no one quite understands you, quite gets you. You are tired of translating your reality into a language others can understand. There's no interpreter to help you spin your truths into foreign words, and you have to figure out how to fit the mold that others have made for you all on your own. You are both teacher and student of pretending to be something you are not, someone alien. You contort yourself to match the mold, the template, and then maybe people will like you a little more. But they don't like you, they don't know you, and you feel alone, you feel lonely.
Loneliness is a physical twisting in your stomach, a physical weight in your chest pulling you down to the ground. It's a knife embedded in your stomach, and unfortunately you never learned first aid. It's feeling unwanted, feeling like a burden, feeling like you add something that others do not want. You are unnecessary, non-essential.
Humans are social creatures, wired for connection with other humans, and loneliness is a rat gnawing on the circuitry of social interaction. It chews through wires and opens emotional floodgates, and your heart yearns for a friend, a partner, anyone. Your heart yearns for someone who can understand you, for someone who speaks your language. Your heart yearns for someone who hasn't made a mold for you, for someone who accepts you as you are, who loves you as you are. Your heart yearns for laughter and community, your heart yearns to belong. Your heart is yearning and you are crying, and it doesn't matter whether you're in Times Square or some remote wilderness, because your loneliness engulfs you internally, your loneliness pays no heed to your surroundings.
Loneliness is not objective, it's something subjective, something personal. It's something that hides within you, it's the monster under your childhood bed that only you could see. It's a bitter enemy to human flourishing, it's a cruel specter that haunts you everywhere you go. It wraps its claws around your neck, suffocating you with inescapable sadness, with profound misery. It sinks its teeth into your skin and feeds off your insecurity, your doubts and fears. It rots you from the inside out, it kills your authenticity, your originality.
You try to reach out to others, but your pleas for help must have gotten lost in translation, because your hands are grasping at empty air. There's no one there to catch you during a trust fall exercise, and you tumble down to the ground, the air knocked out of you, the weight of loneliness dragging you down, down, down. Your heart is growing weary of yearning for something more, something better. You know there are two possible endings to the story—the happy one, where you find that person who speaks your language, where you find that acceptance, that love, that appreciation, that connection, and your loneliness dissipates to make room for happiness; or the other one, the one where your loneliness grows so expansive that it chokes you from the inside, and it fills your veins with a dark, oozing sadness, and your heart would prefer to stop beating than to live in loneliness.
You cross your fingers and hope that better endings lie ahead.
ends and beginnings
At the end of life, that's where you'll find it. After your heart stops and your breathing ceases, after your blood stops flowing and your body stills, that's where you'll find it. It is an end and a beginning—an end to everything you've ever known, and a beginning of everything you've never known.
After your vision goes dark, you'll know you're on the correct path. You're in a tunnel, a dark tunnel, full of warm shadows and velvet opacity. You'll spend some time in this tunnel, alone with yourself, alone surrounded by dark nothingness. You'll realize you were never afraid of the dark, you were afraid of what nightmares stalked beyond your vision. You were never afraid of the night, you were afraid of the creatures that used darkness for their advantage, cloaking themselves in shadow until the very last moment, until you were nothing more than a bloody morsel. You were never afraid of the shadows, you were afraid of what they might contain. And these shadows contain nothing but themselves; these shadows are pure darkness. You'll find comfort in that darkness, in that tunnel. You'll find a greater sense of peace than you ever knew on earth.
Then, after you've found that sense of peace, that pure comfort, that total rest, you'll see a light appear at the end of the tunnel. It calls to you, it beckons you, and you'll find yourself moving toward it. You'll pass through the darkness, slowly, without haste. The shadows part ahead of you, and you thank them for their gift of peace.
As you draw closer to the end of the tunnel, the light grows more brilliant. It's the softest light you've ever known, yet also the most radiant. It has none of the harshness of days on earth, none of the sun's unforgiving scrutiny. It is soft, and promises acceptance. It is radiant, and promises love.
You'll step out of the tunnel into a beautiful meadow, and you'll feel at home. Clear mountains and blue lakes, vibrant forests and white beaches. Do you remember the fantastic lands you dreamed of when you were younger? Do you remember the magical places you wanted to visit? You've made it. You've made it. You can smell the ocean and the wildflowers. The air is clean and fresh, and when you inhale with a new set of lungs, you'll feel more refreshed than you ever have before.
Waiting for you in the meadow stands someone familiar, someone who crossed through the tunnel many years ago. The last time you saw them, they were gaunt, frail, lost. They did not remember you, they did not remember themselves. They faded slowly, painfully, until they said farewell. And now, they stand before you, healthy and happy and full of joy. They will welcome you to this beautiful new world, and you will feel true ease, true contentment. You'll realize that everything is okay, that everything was always okay and will always be okay. They'll take your hand and guide you forward, laughing and smiling all the way, to meet all those you lost before. You'll be at home in a wonderful new world, a world where you'll never feel this terrible pain again.
And that's what happens. Not so bad, right? There's nothing to be afraid of, I promise. We all pass through the tunnel eventually, crossing over into new and different lands. You and I will meet again; we'll reunite in that beautiful meadow, and we'll embrace under an endless blue sky in a better world.
Goodbye, for now. Say hello to the other side for me, will you?
Consequences of high-speed passivity
Outside the train window, I see life swiftly passing by.
I didn't mean to board this train and I certainly didn't plan to sit down. Or, at least, this was supposed to be a momentary pause, this was supposed to be a little break to relax and recharge before taking to the trail again, but suddenly I'm here, a passenger, passively sitting and passively watching and passively waiting.
The future is approaching very quickly and I am frightened. This train goes so fast, so fast—maybe I should've walked? Maybe I should've taken the scenic route. My passion for efficiency has a dark side, after all, and that dark side is choking the life out of me with every passing day. I mean, I like it rough, but Jesus Christ, this is overkill. I'd say my safe-word if only I remembered it.
My memory has been getting worse and worse and I wonder if the train is to blame. Am I missing the trees for the forest? I'm going so fast and I can't see everything, I can't hear everything; I'm scribbling furiously in my little notepad, but my hands ache and I can't keep up with the speed of the train. I make errors when I write, errors in my perception—misunderstandings, misjudgments, mistakes—and I don't have enough time to fix them so they stand, they sit, they linger on in my memory. I am left with a skewed image of the past, but aren't we all? Some people have photographic memory, but the rest of us make do with messy portraits of emotion and cluttered journal entries in stained notebooks. Subjectivity is the norm.
The train is traveling so fast and I sometimes think about getting off. I don't even remember when I got on—all I know is that I boarded the train a long time ago, somewhere between childhood and adolescence. After all, that's when everything went wrong, that's when the faulty wiring of my brain started to reveal itself, that's when I got tired, so tired, so incredibly tired, and I thought that it might be nice to sit down, to take a pause, to catch my breath. I have been catching my breath for a long, long time.
Not so fast. Please, not so fast—can't we slow down a little? I wonder if my stop is coming up. It might be time for me to use my legs again, to smell the flowers. I see them passing by outside the window, large swaths of purple and yellow and blue. I see poppies and daffodils, roses and violets, bleeding hearts and orchids, and avalanche lilies, and I am confused, because avalanche lilies should not grow beside train tracks. I rarely see the details, and when I do, they're usually wrong.
Not so fast. But it's not so fast, right? Life isn't this fast—it can't be this fast, right? Of course, I already know the answer. I may not be the conductor of this train, but I've chosen to remain onboard. I've actively chosen passivity. Life doesn't need to be this fast. I could stand up, I could leave the train, I could wander through the woods and explore the vast unknown. I could venture beyond my comfort zone, beyond the warm velvet interior of the train, and maybe then I'd be free from this constant feeling of guilt, of shame, of exhaustion. But darkness is falling and I'm afraid. The moon is on vacation, leaving the world to curl in on itself as night presses down, smothering, overpowering, overbearing. The stars are cold and distant, faint pinpricks of light from ages and ages ago. I could get off the train, but I'm still so tired, and I just need a little more rest, more stagnancy, more rotting in place as my life passes by.
Tomorrow, I'll get up tomorrow. Right? I'm 99% confident, but there's always an error bar when it comes to my decisions.
All roads lead to death and the train seems to be picking up speed. Sooner or later, I'll need to decide.
It was everything and nothing all at once, you know?
My childhood home stands grand and castle-like, looks small, looks slanted. This can't be right, reality conflicts with memory, memory conflicts with imagination, imagination conflicts with emotion, and I am left standing on an empty street in front of a place I used to know.
The most unfamiliar familiar place I've ever visited, the home that is not my home, a remnant of something that once was but no longer is. Grand corridors and majestic halls alongside tiny windows and tight doorframes—that can't be right, can it?
I wasn't always this tall, I used to be small and the world used to be full of wonder and everything used to be something else that it no longer is and that house was once my home and I am standing outside joyful, mournful, laughing, crying.
I am pulled toward the house and pushed away from it simultaneously, the wonderful interaction between nostalgic lies and rational aversion. The house is beautiful and hideous, it must have looked better before, earlier, back when I had nothing to compare it to, back when it was just me and my imagination for hours and hours on end (until dinner was ready, that is).
Nothing makes sense, really, and so I am frozen, immobile, running faster than I ever have away from a past and toward a memory.
room for indecision
Indecision often comes at a price, the final sum totaling up to the wasted time, the spent anxiety, the needless rumination. I am an indecisive person, and I have learned that it is far better to settle with simplicity, with efficiency, than to aim for complexity.
Everything in the room is uniformly white, creating the impression of a dreamlike, far-off state of being. There are four corners—the standard amount for rooms, I believe. A couch and a bed face each other from opposite sides of the room, with a table beside the couch and a cabinet beside the bed. A lone window sits in the center of one wall.
Without further investigation, everything is clean and white and simple. There are no blemishes, no dirt stains, no dust. Nothing is out of place, everything looks perfect and minimalistic and medical. If you don't open the cabinet, if you don't lift the couch cushions, if you don't look under the bed, if you don't reach around the bottom of the table, if you don't peer further into this room, everything is clean and white and simple and perfect, everything is perfect.
Now, if you open the cabinet, you'll hear whispers of long-gone shouts, you'll see the dust of old anxieties and the dark oozing putty of current fears. If you lift the couch cushions, you'll see rusty pins and jagged needles, you'll see old sweat and remnants left behind from years upon years of sitting on edge. If you look under the bed, you'll see dust bunny memories, you'll see faded dreams and a gaunt-looking cat hiding in the corner—if you look close enough, you might even see the monsters, though they mostly come out at night, mostly. If you reach under the bottom of the table, you'll feel scratches and gashes in the wood, lost relics of fights and nights spent clawing for a way out, searching for a hidden door that'll take you somewhere, anywhere.
If you look out the window, you'll see a cloudy gray expanse. Sometimes it looks like the sea, and when you stare out, you might hear the sounds of a foghorn in the distance, haunting, lost, longing for something left behind, something forgotten, irretrievable. Sometimes it looks like the summit of a mountain, and when you stare out, you might hear the wind howling and screaming like ghosts of old miners, you might feel the chill of alpine wind like claws against your face, scraping, scratching, piercing, freezing. Sometimes it doesn't look much like anything, and the world outside seems frightening in its emptiness, and you know that if you leave you'll be all alone in an unfamiliar, unforgiving environment. Sometimes it looks a whole lot like everything, and you know that the second you step out, you'll experience the rest of your life in one short moment and you'll die from over-excitation, you'll die from too much all at once.
The window frightens me, all alone in the center of the wall, because if I can look out, then maybe someone could look in, maybe someone could see me, see me.
I sometimes consider leaving this room, and sometimes I leave for a little, just a little, never too long. It never takes too long for me to miss the security of the known, for my fears and anxieties to overwhelm me and force me to retreat to this aesthetically sterile haven stuffed with dark memories and bad habits.
The room is white and clean and I've worked hard to keep the decay and rot away, to stave off the inevitable atrophy of my tight grip on existence. I don't get guests very often, but if anyone came to visit, they'd see a clean room, a perfect room. They'd compliment me on my furniture, on my cleanliness, on my minimalistic lifestyle. They wouldn't see the churning mess of emotions that fills the cabinets, that stuffs the couch cushions, that seethes under the bed; they wouldn't smell the sweet and sticky odor of my overwhelming sadness or the crisp and lively scent of my irrepressible mania; they wouldn't hear the shouts of my countless fears and anxieties. I don't get guests very often, but I work hard to maintain a perfect facade should anyone care to stop by.
It's not necessarily that I like comfort, but rather that I need comfort, that I need the familiar, that I am a creature of habit and I cannot escape my well-worn grooves. I need comfort and familiarity and this room is plain and simple and perfect—as close to perfect as I can come, that is. I wish I had a room with more life and more energy, a room with more decorations and more overt happiness. I wish I had a more detailed room, but I know that I'd pay the price with my indecision, I know that the tapestries and posters would fade and tear, I know that the picture frames would splinter and the mirrors would shatter, I know that the soft lights would sputter and die out, I know that the books would rot away, I know that the clock on the wall would tick and tick and tick and erode my sanity down to the finest point, I know that the pretty duvet cover would stain easily and discolor quickly.
My indecision would take beautiful futures and mangle them into their worst aspects, my indecision would turn complexity into hell. My indecision overwhelms me when I am faced with decisions—it was hard enough deciding on sparse minimalism, on the color white, on the placement of the window and furniture, and I cannot imagine decorating this room, I cannot imagine the torment of making decision after decision after decision after decision after decision and so on and so forth until eventually I lose my mind and lose my sanity and lose the rest of my life to worry, to pacing, to striding back and forth with no confidence whatsoever.
It's easier to live in a simple room, a white room, a room where I store my dark features under the bed and in the cabinets and in the couch cushions. It's easier to pretend I have everything in my life together, it's easier to appear perfect if I don't have to perfect anything, if I can leave everything white and uncolored and unembellished. It's easier if I don't start, because then I can never fail, and I can go on living in this white room with a gray world outside my window.
This is a small room, a simple room, a white room. There's not much space in here, but there's room for indecision, there's always room for indecision.
a lesson in dancing
My father taught me how to dance.
Not ballet, not tap, not jazz or hip-hop—my father taught me how to dance around people, how to tiptoe gracefully through conversations to avoid being an inconvenience, to avoid being disliked. My father taught me that I must be careful with my words, that I must be meticulous in what I say and when I say it. My father taught me how to dance in uncomfortable shoes while others stroll comfortably, my father taught me to be anxious.
My father didn't mean to teach me how to dance, but the instruction happened naturally. I learned through experience, I learned through interaction. If he was angry, I shouldn't talk, I should sit in the discomfort of his frustration. If he was tired, I shouldn't talk, I should sit and avoid being noticed. If he was frustrated, I shouldn't talk, I should anticipate his needs and act accordingly. If he was happy, I could talk, I could say words so long as they were packaged appropriately. I had to dance my way through my childhood, and I became good at it, I became so good at it. There's a verbal filter that permanently examines the words I intend to say, there's a sense of restraint that guides my limbs and guides my actions. I thank my father for teaching me how to dance.
My father also gave me intentional lessons: my father taught me how to fish and how to ride a bike; my father taught me how to pitch a tent and start a campfire; my father taught me how to use a saw and how to ski down steep terrain; my father taught me how to drive over alpine passes and how to whittle.
My father taught me how to survive in the wilderness while simultaneously teaching me how to survive in everyday interactions. It's funny—I don't need to dance in nature, and when I'm alone with the trees and flowers I smile and sit down, I take off the pointe shoes and rest for a moment. But when I go back—and I always go back—I put those pointe shoes back on, I dance through life, I bend and sway to the wishes and needs of others.
My father taught me how to dance, which is funny, since he's no ballerina, since he's not very graceful himself.
My father isn't a bad person, and he's improved through the years, but he taught me how to dance and I do not know how to stop.
My feet are sore and my body aches. I wish I could rest, but I know I cannot stop until the performance has finished.
first step: die
The night is dark, the sky is empty, and I will die tomorrow morning.
The birds stopped singing long ago, and an unbreakable silence has replaced the sounds of the day. It could be a peaceful night, it could be pleasant, but instead the emptiness presses down upon my chest until I can't breathe and I'm stuck suffocating, stuck waiting. Everyone is waiting for death, but I think it's different when you know you're going to die, when you know your time on Earth is up and soon you'll be dead, cold, gone, away. It's an awful feeling, waiting for death, and I almost wish I could get it over with. I almost with I didn't need to wait. Almost.
Tomorrow, I am going to die. I forget why, I forget what for, all I know is that my expiration date is set for tomorrow. Perhaps I'm lucky—not everyone knows when they'll pass on, and I've always been a planner.
I've never died before, and I doubt I'll ever do it again. Once I'm gone, I'm gone, and that thought consumes me. I'll be gone, I won't ever experience the sorrows and heartaches of life. I won't need to worry about relationship concerns, financial issues, whether or not people like me—I won't need to be so anxious all the time, I won't feel that crushing sense of inferiority and my eagerness to please will fade away into oblivion. In a way, I'm escaping the miseries and maladies of life, and I almost feel sorry for everyone who must go on, who must endure. Almost.
The desire to live is a characteristic so deeply engrained within living beings, something conserved throughout the long line of evolution. Once life began, it brought with it a strong will to continue, to persist. I feel that drive, that desire, and I know I want to exist. Existence is the only state I've ever known, and trying to comprehend the idea of not existing is a pointless exercise in existential misery. If I think too much about it, I'll throw up.
I think I'll miss the people in my life, but my memory is not what it once was, and I cannot recall the names or faces of anyone. I can see blurry silhouettes in my mind, I can imagine a warm smile or the sound of laughter, but my memories are too worn out and I am no expert in photo reparation. I've heard that hindsight is 20/20, but my past is a blurred-out mess, an empty slate for me to fill with my own projections, with nostalgia.
The night continues, and I know my death is set for dawn. I'll never see another day, I'll never see another sunrise. It's terrifying, you know? I know that my end is inescapable and I know I'll be gone and dead and it's all happening so suddenly and I just wish I had more time, I just wish I had more time to live and exist and enjoy the world and experience everything life has to offer—it feels so short, my life has been so short and now I'm getting so close to that knife that'll snip me off, that'll sever me from this world, that'll send me off into oblivion.
My lungs ache from rapid breathing, but I'm breathing, I'm breathing right now and soon I will not be. I'm seeing right now and soon I will not be. My heart is beating right now and soon it will stop, soon the blood will stop flowing and my brain will stop functioning. Once my brain goes silent, I will be gone. I will exist in the memories of other people, my name will persist as I fade away.
Dawn is nearing, I can feel it, I can sense it. The tangled knot of emotions in my stomach is writhing and seething, and I feel nauseous.
I am about to embark on an adventure I'll never return from, I'm about to depart to oblivion. If I think about it like that, if I think about death as just another journey, then maybe it'll be okay. If death is a journey, then dying is a necessary first step. I am a careful person, I am an organized person—I like to be prepared, and so I really ought to strive to die.
Death is a journey and I am a sailor, an explorer, a traveler. That seems right, I think. Death is an adventure, right? Death is an adventure and I need to die first, I need to die and I'll die soon, dawn draws near, dawn approaches, dawn and death and done—I'll be done, I'll be done with life and off to a new future.
I almost feel bad for the people left on Earth. They'll get their chance to venture onward someday, but my plane is departing shortly and I am standing at the gate. It's like an airport, like an airplane—the execution is like boarding an airplane, if that makes sense, if that seems right. I don't know what seems right, nothing seems right, so maybe I ought to veer left? Left was never my favorite direction, but maybe I should explore it, maybe the left path is the smart choice, the wise choice. Left, leftover—I'll never eat leftover pizza again, I'll never feel like a leftover, like a last choice.
Ah, well, I suppose the end is here. There's a feeling of impending finality, and the drive for life that festers inside me is wilting but screaming, the will to live is behaving like a cornered animal, snarling inside me, but we both know that any struggle is pointless. We both know that it'll be over for us soon.
At least we'll die together, I suppose—me and my will to live. That drive kept me going for so long, kept me ambitious and successful, kept me sane. It did the best it could, really, and I don't blame it at all for this situation. I'm not sure why I'm dying, I'm not sure what I'm dying for, but it can't be all that bad, it can't be—I'd never hurt anyone aside from myself, I'd never harm anyone aside from myself. Maybe I was unjustly imprisoned, but it's too late for changes, it's far too late.
My memories are hazy and death is growing close, so close, and I just wish these seconds would stretch into minutes, hours, days, years—like taffy, I wish I could stretch time like taffy so I could enjoy my life. But I can't, I can't, and I know I'll die so soon, the time stretches and stretches and it feels like I'm walking in marshmallow fluff, in spiderwebs, in a bowl of jello.
Death is growing near and I've been wondering how I'll die—will it be by gun, or injection, or electrocution, or beheading, or stabbing, or choking, or tearing me apart piece by piece as my consciousness is flung from existence? I don't know, but I'll know soon, I'll know soon enough.
I wish I had just a little more time. I wish I had a little more time but death is a journey and dying is the necessary first step. Dying is the first step and I am prepared, but not really—no one is ever prepared to die, I'd say, I'd say that no one is ever really truly ready to die.
Dawn is near and I see death now.
They stand in front of me—when they got in, I do not know, I cannot recall—and one holds a gun in their hand. The gun is small, but it looks efficient, it looks like it'll do the job. It looks like it'll pierce my skull and shred my brain and paint the wall red with blood. It looks like it'll send me away quickly, easily, messily.
No one says anything as the gun is pressed against my temple. I do not make eye contact with these people, these people are gray and unimportant, these people are just helping me complete the necessary first step on my adventure. I could thank them, but I won't, the will to live would forbid that, the will to live begs me to scream and cry and fight back. I won't, I won't. There's no purpose, really.
I hear a click—the safety is off. I feel the cold metal circle pressing into my head, pressing against me, and this is a new experience for me, I've never died before, I've never been shot in the head before—hell, I've never even been shot before. This is a new experience and this is a necessary first step for my adventure.
I think I'm ready to go. I think I'm as ready as I can be, I think I'm as ready as is possible.
I close my eyes, and—