A Hard Start to a New Thing
Five Things is a weekly essay of five short thoughts inspired by my own life and observances.
It took me so long to write this first post because I don’t want to talk or write about death, but death makes up most of what I think about these days. I’m not quite arrogant enough to believe I’m alone in that during a global pandemic/climate emergency/racial uprising, but that shit don’t make me feel better. When I was a kid, I comforted myself by making up last minute survival scenarios in imagined, sudden, life-threatening situations. The school bus crossed a bridge on our route, and each time we reached it, I thought about what I would do if one of the guardrails gave out, or the driver miscalculated a turn. I had no fear of bridges or crossing them, but I was taught to look for danger, which was always coming, and to be ready to do battle when it showed up. I don’t remember a time before I knew death, for all of us, was only a matter of days and years gone by. It’s the oldest truest thing about humans. The only reason I didn’t want to talk or write about it is because it’s hard, and this was the best I could do.
The other day, I watched a film made up of old advertisements that ran during drive-in movies. About every third ad warned moviegoers about the dangers of the drive-in: unaccompanied car heaters, hit-and-runs, roving suspicious figures asking for change or directs, and so on. In my head, and then on the notepad I aways keep near, I listed all the ways I could imagine to die at a drive-in movie. It was a fun exercise, finding my characters, building their worlds, and adding all my own terror to their circumstances. I ended up with six silly little stories about people dying in improbable ways, in an unsuspecting setting, and almost forgot I’ve never been to a drive-in movie. I didn’t forget, of course, but for a moment, reality was weightless, and I let it float on without me.
I have a dog, a chocolate lab named Astro, and if life goes according to probabilities, he will die before I do. Sometimes, I picture Astro as an old dog with hips that don’t agree with him…