I am looking right into the eyes of a med. student, looking into his eyes in a way that you would hardly ever look into someone’s eyes – holding his gaze long and hard, a searing gaze, a shimmering gaze.
So what we’d like to do is admit you here tonight. We’ll give you a bed and make sure you get something to eat and are looked after. Does that sound good to you?
I feel cold and unwell and like I am about to cry.
Yes, please, one thousand times yes. Please take me down to the hospital. Please take hold of my life.
That is what I think to myself, but my character is more the kind to look away and shrug and mumble “sure” and whatever. There is a pause and the future-doctor looks to the two-way glass, the fourth wall swaying, collapsing.
Can we – is that it? Do we stop there?
Our little play is over and I am myself again, ahh, what a relief to not be a troubled drug-addicted borderline-psychosis teenager anymore. I am just myself, so well and so ready for life and uh is the hospital offer still on the cards or – ? Heartbreakingly, no, I am only the surrogate patient and there is no ward for surrogate patients, no ward for hopeless idiots who don’t know how to live. I am free to go and keep living, somehow. I walk to my car and drive home listening to alternative rock and still feel a lingering need to be admitted, somewhere.
What is that desire? I get the same feeling watching people in films have car accidents or whatever – cut to black and fade up INT. HOSPITAL ROOM. I know that they are not OK but at least they have a great excuse just to not do anything for a while – for someone else (eg. a team of doctors and nurses) to take control of their life for them. Free from responsibility, free from all the conversations and paperwork and, sure, probably having some medical problems but what a break from real life. This is a feeling that I have had for a long time, but that I think has rounded off as I’ve grown older and felt less terrified by the world around me. I used to make a lot of jokes about death and hospitals and doctors (wow what a cool guy I’d love to have hung out with him, said all the young ladies w/ problems) and generally have an Apathetic attitude towards life. The idea of living into another decade, another 60+ years seemed like a GD nightmare.
I will die at 24.
That was the thought I had one morning on waking at age 21, a thought that I was totally at peace with. Everything was tombstones and graveyards and my corpse this, my corpse that (it is amazing how much I’ve grown from last week’s letter)
Do you think that Chris is a good influence on you, I mean with all the jokes about dying
People would ask my girlfriend in hushed tones, looking over at me crouched in front of the heater, a glass of brandy in hand, my face whittled away by a steady diet of nothing, nothing but tuna salad and old woman’s whiskey – “Dostoyevskian,” I would romantically think of myself. And I would close Suttree and stare at the bars of the heater and cross off another day towards dying.
I look back and don’t know if that was a true fact or a myth – was I that sure and ready for death? When I would carve my wagon toward a curve on a hilly road and think of letting go of the wheel, think of flying out through that guardrail and into the valley below, wondering whether to put the iPod on repeat so they’d find the car with The Velvet Underground still playing, such as to make it more of a “cinematic” moment.
But I think I realise now that actually that is horrible, because life doesn’t just end nice and clean like that. The credits would not roll with Train Round The Bend just rocking everyone out of the cinema and onwards. There’d be all sorts of Arrangements and probably a lot of Forms. People would have to book flights and someone else would have to assistant manage the video store. What would happen to all my t-shirts, who would take responsibility for my home-made Nine Inch Nails shirt circa 2010? Oh and also I guess everyone would have to deal with the general tragedy of it all. Or I guess worse still, not rolling credits but only fade out and fade back in to the hospital room and it is not the relief that I imagine from cinema but actually a long and arduous process of rehabilitation or life-glugging until I can glug no more. I don’t want to disappear in a small room – if I’m going to go I want it to be heck of romantic and with much drama. I want to be struck down by a wild horse in a field or maybe swallowed up by the sea. I want to die with my boots firmly on and that is why when I feel gloomy I leave my Chuck Taylors at home. If the mist is going to descend I do not want to be stumbling around in overblown slippers.
But I think that is all nonsense and disregardable because what I’m looking for in these moments of extreme melancholy/detachment is actually just a way to be out of control of my life – I do not want to be the captain in my skull. If my life could be consumed by something greater, e.g. some amorphous monster as a tribute to Jack Nance in The Blob, or by Tumblr as a modern revision of the same (sorry I just have to go write a short story real quick about blogs eating people)
When I do walk on down Cormac McCarthy’s That Road what will I leave behind? Aside from a folder containing nonsense with titles like Room of 1,000 Wicks.pdf and A Letter to Dave Graney.rtf and Night of the Living Blog concepts.doc, what will I have to show? The folder closes revealing a jpg of a tombstone with my legacy inside of it – but what has it all meant? Will my journals be published as an insight into the mind of an Artist or will they be put into a box that is put into another, sturdier box that is later put into a fire for children to roast the marshmallows of the future on? (sorry I just have to go write a really funny journal entry to ensure that a publishing house somewhere will be interested)(actually Ideas @ The House lets just consider this permission for you to publish them in weekly instalments after I’m gone)(they’re not good or funny but there’s a lot of them, I’m sure they’ll get at least some Likes)
I guess now, though, the future seems more tangible and OK, not just like a vast nothingness stretching off endlessly. Now my attitude towards life is brighter, so probably less willing to let it go – which I guess sucks because regardless I’m still dying like all of us. Maybe my previous attitude was better – more accepting, willing even. “Yes, let me dive into that waterfall, I’m ready to be carried away. Paint me up like The Crow and sail me out to sea.”
Oh, ah! No! What if I wake up dead tomorrow and the last thing I ever wrote is a reference to The Crow? Ohh imagine my funeral they would probably play a Nine Inch Nails’ track and bury me in that DAMN t-shirt that doesn’t even mean anything to me anymore. Teenagers would grind over my grave on Huffy Green Machines and Razor scooters, alighting in a high-five. I would try to roll over in my grave but feel kind of apathetic so maybe just groan slightly and tilt my head to the side. Ugh, what the hell. Like if Dylan had died in ’65 and left behind a handful of great albums, imagine how much people would love him, instead of just tolerating him like they do now. He would be the Kurt Cobain or Brandon Lee of his generation, instead of just being the Bob Dylan of ours.
Fine, OK. Fade me out on a Bob Dylan reference. Death is not the end etc, whatever.
Christopher Hocking is an Adelaide writer who has been published on Scum Mag and rejected by McSweeneys, Voiceworks, Stilts, Bumf and more. He hopes to have better luck at running a cafe and perhaps will with yr help.
Read more ‘What am I meant to do with my time?‘
(Top photo by Prairie Kitten)