by Tony Rauch
I’ve been making lists lately, possibly even obsessively so. But I figure that’s a good thing. Either you’re a go-with-the-flow type, or the planner type. I’m hoping I’m the planner type. I like to feel prepared. I guess I just like to know where things are going, what might be up ahead. Maybe that just sets me up for disappointment, or makes me seem unspontaneous. I don’t know. Anyway, one of my lists is how I’m going to die. I figure it prudent to plan ahead in order to avoid any potential surprises. I’m not sure if I’m predicting my own demise, or what, but I’ve got a bad feeling I’m goin’ out in a real “pain-in-the-ass” kind of way. Here’s what I’ve got so far –
A friend will call. He’ll have something great to do. He’ll ask: “What are you doing today?” because I’ve usually got something that needs to get done that basically gets in the way of getting other things done, or of having any fun at all.
“Same as always,” I’ll answer. “All the crap I couldn’t get done the last few days.”
“Well, I’ve got tickets to a ballgame I can’t use.”
(So this is the typical problem: get some things done or have a life.)
How often do you get to go to the ballgame for free? I consider.
But I’m in the middle of something that absolutely has to get done, that will then get interrupted (let’s say painting my garage because the insurance company won’t cover me anymore because of all the peeling paint. Yeah, let’s go with that one for now). And now this new interruption will then push back something else that has to get done, and the time then devoted to that need will get displaced, which will then displace something else when it fails to get done. [So when I die (coming up here), it will leave some undone things that other people will then have to complete and clean up after, thus pushing things they need to get done, which then displaces other things that need to get done. It will be a huge pain, an ordeal.]
But life is for living, and here’s a chance to go have some fun for free, a chance to take my mind off things for a while. How often do you get a chance to do something fun for free? (So that’s the main issue – the constant dilemma of having to decide between two things at once – usually between something fun and something that needs to get done. Basically, that defines my life: the weird choices. Maybe that makes me lucky though, that I have choices, as some people do not. For some people, life is just thrown at them with little regard for prior plans and desires.)
Anyway, as it plays out, I end up putting off the garage and other matters that need tending to and go to the ballgame instead, because, hey, free tickets.
You’re going to get a call from a mutual friend. You won’t realize that this person knows me, but they do. They’ll say, I’ve got bad news, RauchaRauchaRaucha passed away.
You’ll ask how.
The mutual friend will tell you. It will be a long, drawn-out ordeal, all me me me me me. You’ll make a squinched up face that will convey: “You can die from that?”
How I die will be weird, involve some minor social embarrassment, and probably ruin several other people’s days. Something like: I ate too many sunflower seeds at that baseball game, and they just happened to react badly with the sun and whatever hair shampoo I used that morning. For some reason it’ll just turn into an unfortunate combination – produce some kind of toxin that slowly poisons me while I sit in the bleacher seats hoping to catch a homer. Maybe I’ll get on the jumbotron. Maybe it’ll impress some great woman and she’ll see me on the jumbotron, what an elegant and graceful catch I make, fluidly avoiding some kids at my side, not spilling anyone’s overly-salted, overly-priced concession stand snacks, protecting others. I’ll give the ball I catch to some kid sitting near me, some kid I don’t know. Some women will be impressed and seek me out, handing me their phone numbers, hoping I’ll call and ask them out. Daydreams like this are all I have.
I’ll be sitting in the stands at the ballgame. I’ll be enjoying the game – it’ll be a real spellbinder, with several close plays at the plate, not like the usual 12 to 1 blowouts I normally have to endure. I’ll be with some people I don’t know well, maybe some new coworkers or some friends of a friend or something. They’ll assume I just nodded off for a few moments – it’s a Saturday afternoon after all, it’s not wholly unexpected or impolite. The game will end. Someone will nudge me to get up. But I’ll be gone.
It’ll totally ruin their day as then the rest of their afternoon ends up being devoted to getting my dumb, dead-weight, dead-ass out of there. You know, all me me me again, all “hey look at me, I’m dead here, woo-hoo.” So they’ll have to deal with all that crap. The police will have questions. There’ll be paperwork to fill out. Oh, hell yeah, there’ll be paperwork alright, and a lot of unnecessary waiting around. (Oh, and eventually, someone else will have to finish painting my garage, probably you). So, yeah, it’ll be a real pain-in-the-ass kind of death. I’ve just got that feeling I’ll inconvenience a lot of people on my way out of here. Just seems like that’s the way things are headed here.
Oh, also, my death will probably take place over a holiday of some type, thus ruining people’s enjoyment of it, if not totally changing their plans, plans they’ve been looking forward to for weeks. It’ll be a real let-down. Yeah, it just feels like something like that’s gonna go down. People will miss picnics, barbecues, time with family members, etc. It’s going in that direction. You can tell. You can feel it coming on.
You’ll say “Dang.” Eventually you’ll hang up, sit down, put on that song “Vapor Trail” by the shoe-gaze band Ride and just stare. You’ll mouth the lyrics silently in disbelief, trying to understand it all:
First you look so strong
Then you fade away
Your sun will blind my eyes
I’ll love you anyway
Thirsty for your smile
I watched you for a while
You are a vapor trail
In a deep blue sky
Ahhhh Naw naw naw naw naw
Tremble with a sigh
Glitter in your eye
You seem to come and go
I never seem to know
And all my time
Is yours as much as mine
We never have enough
Time to show our love
Ahhhh Naw naw naw naw naw
You’ll get to thinking that our time together was finite, that our time together is over now, evaporated. But then you’ll realize what we lose today, we’ll get back tomorrow. What we don’t have right now, we will have someday. What we lose will be returned. Maybe even by a factor of ten – if not in this lifetime, then in the next.
Eventually you’ll reach for the phone. Maybe you’ll have a lot of questions just sitting there inside, kinda weighing you down: what’s it all for? What’s it all about? Where’d it all go? – or maybe you’ll just be lonely and in need of some friendly company.
You’ll call up Paster Nate or Paster Rob, whoever’s around. You’ll tell them what happened, that your time with this person has drawn to a premature end. They’ll tell you that’s what the afterlife is for – for doing all the crap you can’t get done in this life. You’ll ask how long is eternity. They’ll say I don’t know, a dang long time though, I reckon. And then you’ll feel better about it all for some reason, realizing it’s all waiting out there for you, all of it soon to be returned. Maybe that’s what eternity is for – for getting all the crap done we couldn’t get done in this lifetime, for hanging out with all the people we didn’t have time to in this life.
Then you’ll sit down and think. You’ll pick up the phone and begin calling people, apologizing for all your past indiscretions, no matter how minor. This will cleanse your soul. You’ll make some of your marmalade, then give it away. You’ll bake some pies, then give them away. You’ll work on a soundtrack album for a movie, include all my favorite songs. You’ll throw a party in my honor, play all my favorite songs. You’ll do some volunteer work. You’ll paint a painting, write a poem, knit a sweater, whatever – then give them all away. You’ll visit the sick and imprisoned. You’ll clean out your neighbor’s gutters, rake their lawn. You’ll switch to lite beer, take up jogging, cut out the snacks between meals. From time to time you’ll get the weepies for no reason, probably because you miss me so much. You’ll wrestle a bank robber, then tickle a nun. You’ll scream obscenities at the night. You’ll paint a strange mural on someone’s garage – someone you don’t know, and without permission. You’ll quit the rat race, take up poetry, move into a rooming house down by the rail yard (no, not this side of the rail yard, the other side, the old side, by the large oil tanks). You’ll disappear for a few years, become a missionary in some far off land, fight some bears, chase away some marauders, then move back here. You’ll look different, speak differently, have a different view of things, a different perspective. You’ll wear old clothes, go all retro on us. You’ll take a pottery class at the community college. Time will take you on. To combat this, to keep time at bay, you’ll sing my praises to all within earshot, despite my passing being an inconvenience. I’ll become, like, 20% of all your conversations. People will come to regard me as a saint, a genius, a prophet. You’ll take to public urination and random nudity. You’ll grow that long beard and get that perm you’ve always wanted, including the bushy sideburns, wear that dashiki, buy that llama.
You’ll change. You’ll see.
And this is how my pain-in-the-ass death will affect you.
About the author
He can be found at: http://trauch.wordpress.com/