June 22, 2004

I thought I’d be brave enough to post this soliloquy as is, but I just can’t do it. It’s too pretentious (please not portentious) to be seen without a goth-defying preamble, which you’re reading now. It turns out, irrational fears make me melodramatic. What this purple prose does have going for it, though, is honesty. So let’s call this a stream-of-consciousness exercise instead of a self-indulgent bout of journal angst. If nothing else, I hope all this bullshit jinxes the other bullshit. You’ll see what I mean.

Combat Fear With This Weapon
Something about the forthcoming drive to Columbus–or, more to the point, the drive back from Columbus–has got me spooked. Afraid of death. Afraid of being crushed until I die in a wadded mess of steel, skidding and sparking along a midnight stretch of Midwestern asphalt. Afraid of being plucked off the earth by headlights and a windshield as I stumble from a wreck and become fleshy shrapnel myself. Afraid of a fiery demise. Afraid of being pinned, sliced, pinched, snapped, or ground against the ground. Afraid of being dragged, thrown, rolled over, smashed, or smeared. Afraid of being done. Afraid of being summarized at a service.

The fear gets into everything. It gets into song lyrics and the way people say goodbye on the phone. It stains photos with the weird tinge that comes from remembering the dead. From wanting more than anything to touch something that doesn’t exist anymore. It gets into your head and hits you with a thick slab of alien oblivion; how awful it must be to be grieved and gone. To get no say. It’s like a pool falls over you, upside-down, and you float weightless in the tugging feeling that you’ve been cheated and the crushing feeling that there’s nothing you can do about it. The oncoming sense that your last days will be held in a distant city that’s not your favorite, among people you like but aren’t in love with. You’re okay while you’re there, but when you leave, you die.

Combat this fear by looking at this past weekend.

Sara, pictured here with a dinosaur, won her first poker tournament this weekend, and earned it. She’s a better card player than I am, with an eighth of the experience, and I love her for it. God willing, I’m gonna marry that girl.

The game, meanwhile, was thrilling, fun, fulfilling; it satisfied like food. Afterwards, Chicago became good Guiness, good cider, bad vodka, old friends, cigarette smoke, poker stories, drunken kisses, steak tacos, city streets.

Happiness is getting a glimpse of the life Marty’s gonna have in his lake-view flat, ninety feet above the city. Happiness is English mead over ice and the clink of clay chips, a red felt table ringed with favorite folks, and big bets over small hands. Happiness is making a stranger laugh in the elevator.

At the gas station, we buy junk food from a smiling clerk. “Are you together?” he asks. “Yep,” we say. “That’s great,” he says. His smile is so big, it doesn’t fit behind the counter.

Life is good, and if that’s all we get, then that’s okay, too.

Noise: Mountain Goats, “Oceanographer’s Choice”


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