I’ve been wondering lately about what’s going to take me down. At the moment, it looks like nothing, and never. I’m young and invincible, so strong and tall and able bodied, my spine so straight, my knees so good, my hair so thick.
I flaunt this in the way I get around. I carry heavy bags of groceries, and hold them away from my body to see how far out I can extend my arm with a load. I stand on the subway even when there are seats. I make a point of not holding onto anything. Look at me. Look at how fucking agile I am. Don’t worry, I do this all the time. It’s even crazier on a bus in bad traffic. I enjoy this.
I look at older people, or fat people, or people who are both, and I wonder what they did to deserve it. Look at how weak you are. How can you stand to be so lame when I’m so healthy and confident? Why didn’t you take care of yourself? Why did you let this happen? Why are you so poor? Where are your teeth? What do you mean, you’re hungry? Get a sandwich, idiot.
Some days, when I’m feeling generous, I buy boxes of fruit bars and bottles of water to hand out to beggars. Other days my pity is hard to come by.
None of this will ever happen to me because I am too good, too smart, too healthy. I was raised by good people, and I skated by well enough in school to get a degree and a job. Life will be easy from here on out. I’m covered.
Sometimes, though, the smallest things can bring the cracks in the foundation into focus. Get a little dehydrated, skip a meal, and the resulting wooziness makes me think about my decay. Eat some bad meat or catch a virus, and the next thing you know you’re on your back on your bathroom floor, waiting until those saltine crackers make it down to your stomach so you have something to throw up again.
In these situations, you literally gain a new perspective on everything. You’d be surprised how dusty it gets on the underside of a toilet bowl. You should clean back there more often. Do something about that mold on the ceiling over the shower. Maybe it doesn’t matter now because you might die here, on this bathroom floor, tonight. You should at least leave a note about it so the management can clean it up for the next tenant.
You should have paid down that credit card faster, because the bank will go after your wife for it. Now you feel silly for having three pair of jeans you can barely tell apart.
I wonder how much my funeral will cost.
You realize in these situations no amount of lean muscle or strong bones can save you from a bacteria too small to even see, that blew in through the fucking window onto your cereal one morning. That you picked up on a bathroom door handle, or inhaled on an airplane. One day you’re kick, push, coasting down the street on your board, giving the finger to a guy who pulled too far into the crosswalk, and a few hours later you’re counting grains of sand in the mortar between the tiles on your bathroom floor, or wherever it is you happen to fall, waiting for the pain to stop.
These are the things I think about sometimes, and they haven’t even happened yet.
I live at a busy intersection where one street is fed from an expressway that ends a few blocks away. At 4:30 this morning, some drunk person who apparently hadn’t noticed the highway’s end lost control, swerved, and took out a crosswalk light while bouncing off corners. He drove away, leaving his bumper at the scene with his license plate still attached.
IL P88 4823.
Anyway, anyone could have been standing on the corner, leaning on that crosswalk light for support, wobbly after a night of revelry, as I sometimes do. This isn’t a warning against drunk drivers, it’s a warning against living, and being anywhere, at any time, because that’s where and when you can die suddenly, or slowly.
I’m not saying you should live each day like it’s your last. You can only quit your job and tell your best friend you’ve always been in love with him or her so many times.
Just know that you’re going to die, and probably not the way you expect.
Have a nice day.