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 anymore, and a lot more grey fur in his face. It helps me to remember that while he will die, I will hopefully be there to help him through that transition. He’s a dog. I try not to personify him too much even as my love for him seems to grow deeper by the day. Because of the way my brain works, when I love someone a lot, and feel responsible for them in some way, I have nightmares about them dying. That doesn’t happen with Astro. Part of me is already at peace with the inevitable.
I’m leaving Brooklyn and moving back to Indianapolis. I can tell how good or bad I’ve been about keeping in contact with a friend by the way they respond to that news. If I’ve done a good job, they’re not at all surprised, and maybe even congratulate me on finally making this move happen. If I’ve done a bad job, they seem surprised. So I answer their questions, and make a mental note to a better job, to be a better friend. I can tell my explanations don’t always do much to alleviate their confusion. I think it’s because it’s a simple answer. I’m moving back because I want to, and because I’ve wanted to for a long time. The timing makes sense right now, and Kel is good with it, so we’re going. I never thought I’d live in New York forever, but like so many others, for so many reasons, I didn’t think I’d be leaving like this. There’s nothing dead about New York City even in times of great despair, but it’s different now, as is the rest of the world, and as we all shall be. Indianapolis will not be as it was when I left. I, too, am returning in altered form. And I can’t wait.