Cheating Death

 

by Solomon Tate

I lost one of my peers a while ago. While vacationing in Mexico with his wife, children and grandchildren, death swooped in as Jack was on his way to  a family dinner, and took his life as he collapsed on the hotel room floor. And now, another one was now gone. Another one of my peers had been snatched away to meet his maker. Graham woke in the morning, sat up in bed, clutched his chest, and that was it. There was nothing else. His wife did all she could to save him, performing CPR, calling 911, but it was of no use. He was gone before EMS arrived. Franklin, a writer friend, met a similar fate earlier this year, suffering a massive coronary as he sat at his desk typing. They all must have been aware that death had come for them, and as they futilely tried to cling on to life, if only for a second, the crushing fear of the unknown arrived, leaving them lost and alone in the anguish.

And that is, as I have come to discover, how death works. It does not come with an invitation to a sporting game of chess, but instead creeps up when you least expect it, with hooded cape and scythe in hand. There have been times when I have found myself obsessed with it. Times when I was so afraid of death, that I became too frightened to live my life. And as my friends and colleagues begin to shed their mortal coil, I can’t help but wonder why death can’t arrive peacefully and perhaps just a little more personably.

It would be a lot less unnerving if death arrived as an amiable, elderly man dressed in a pair of jeans and a tie-dyed tee shirt, looking like Bernie Sanders and sounding like Billy Connolly, willing to take his chances on a few hands of winner take all Texas Hold ‘Em or a few rounds of Hungry Hungry Hippo, while I sit at the kitchen table, with aces and marbles shoved up my sleeves, with no qualms about cheating death. Or perhaps we could sit by the television, drinking magic mushroom tea and watching a short film entitled ‘So, What Happens Now?’, directed by Ed Wood and starring The Marx Brothers.

If death is to arrive with maliciousness and malevolence, my friends would have been better off passing away in their sleep, ignorant of its arrival and spared from the fear that hangs heavy at one’s demise. Death is heartlessly cruel and perhaps that is why we spend most of our time here doing anything and everything we can to avoid it. As I question my own mortality, I am pretty sure that I don’t want to know the fear. I don’t want to know when death decides to pay me a visit, and under no circumstances will I be opening the door. I will be peering through the peephole in my front door, completely silent, with the hope that he will simply go away. If not, I can only hope that I am so messed up on peyote that it doesn’t really matter anyway. Given half a chance, I’m sure that Jack, and Graham, and Franklin would have preferred to go out that way as well.

 

 

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Dream On…

 

by Fielding Goodfellow

I had a dream. It wasn’t one of those profoundly, visionary dreams about social justice or the salvation of humanity, but it was still worthy of a heavenly chorus of angels. No, it was better than that. It deserved a ‘Be My Baby’ chorus of The Ronettes. It was an epic dream. I carried it with me for years and years, despite the many times that life had kicked me in the nuts without a second thought as I dragged my tired ass out of Madame Lee’s Pleasure Dome where you could get the one hour Pussy Cat Special and a raging case of genital warts for one hundred dollars, all while listening to synthetic 60s cover tunes by The Pervasive Taoist Orchestra or The Shanghai Swing Quartet.

Emily stood by a door, appearing dazed and confused by what was going on around her. It was obvious that she really didn’t want to be where she was. We connected from the first time we spoke. She had the heart of a poet, and was a self proclaimed environmentalist, vegetarian, and feminist, even though none of it was fashionable at the time. Her tortured soul and the sordid secrets she had been keeping propelled her into the world found at the bottom of an alcohol saturated rabbit hole filled with assorted drugs and Cheshire cats. We were floating back then without really going anywhere, circling fields of white rabbits and Mad Hatters and the occasional caterpillar armed with a hookah, though none of it really seemed to make any sense to either of us.

We spent a lot of time together, wandering around the Fish Hatchery and the small water fall nearby, but Emily was most comfortable just hanging out and getting high while we listened to Yes, or The Beatles. She was a fun high, all smiles and giggles but interested in everything. We talked for hours on end and neither of us ever seemed to grow tired of it. She was insanely hot, and while I toyed with thoughts of depravity and debauchery, quite surprisingly and totally out of character, I was more interested in her friendship than the amusement park that lay nestled between her thighs. We were, it appeared to me, kindred spirits. I had lived many lives, and I had played many roles. I had been many things to many people. I had, much like Sinatra, been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. I had played each of these parts in the only manner I could, and I had no doubt that they all served to take me exactly to where I was supposed to be.  I was sure that it was with Emily at that time and place, and I was just as certain that she would remain a part of my life forever.

She had an edge about her though, an anger that she carried deep within, masking it with smiles and laughter and I suspect getting high. She never told me much about her past, but it seemed like she was always trying to forget something. The sixty days we spent together were some of the best times of my life, and when we went our separate ways, we promised to keep in touch. We did for a while. I visited her in her home town a couple of times, and she came up to see me a few times as well. In between there was some letter writing and an occasional phone call until she moved overseas and, as inevitably happens, we lost touch. I tried to find her, but after thirty-five years or so had passed, I pretty much had given up. More than anything, I wanted to see her again. I wanted to know that she was alright, that she had beaten her demons and that she was happy and at peace. And that was my dream, just to be sure that she was finally okay.

A few years ago, she found me, and we reconnected. We talked as if we had spoken everyday for thirty-five years. She told me her secret and I understood the anger. I wished I had known back then. I wish I could have helped her, but I suppose she just wasn’t ready to deal with it then. We talk often, although not as much as I would like to, and she is happy and at peace. She is married to a great guy, and together they have a busload of kids scattered across two continents, and a van load of grandchildren. She is still interested in everything, and continues to amaze me with her involvement in service to others. There is a plan for her to come for a visit sometime soon, and I really hope it happens. If not, well that will be okay I mean that dream of mine from all of those years ago came true. And that is certainly more than enough.