This Is How You Live


You could die in a hot-air balloon accident.

You could wake, one morning, to find your loved one cold and stiff in bed next to you, their lips thundercloud blue.

You might suffer a fatal infection from a rabid bat bite.

You might become locked in a battle — one you will eventually lose — against an invisible murderer, one who perches upon your shoulder, whispers in your ear, tells you to gobble the contents of that bottle of pills, to tie that rope around your own neck, to swan dive out that 19th-story window.
Your child, whom you will raise and breastfeed and teach to speak and walk and love, she could be ripped from this world in ways too myriad to list, almost as soon as your begin to cradle her frail, pink, soft, baby-scented body to your chest.

The cruel, gnarled roots of twisted fate that corkscrew and entangle and strangle and stifle, they’re more than enough to keep you awake at night, your eyes wide, rigor-mortised, plastered to the odd bumps and cracks and subtle shifts of your ceiling, which might have mold growing, seeping, brackish and vile, infecting its way down the yellowing plaster of the wall.

Your plane, while gliding along at a merry 3,000m, could be blown away by a not-so-rogue missile. Perhaps you were on page 217 of James Patterson’s latest novel, Alex Cross 44: In Space! Does it matter? Ha ha! Oh, you! You will not finish that book, never will — it was literally disintegrated in the resulting explosive shock wave that pulverized Rows 1-34, seats A-E, which, unfortunately, included yours, B19, a ticket you purchased on standby, and, in a stroke of uncharacteristic good fortune, were allowed to use after a woman, a would-be passenger, came down with a nasty case of strep throat. Or maybe that person, the one who bought the ticket and who didn’t finish that book; could’ve been, it was your wife, with that little faded scar on her upper lip and that slightly crooked nose you found so endearing, rendered to a fine bloody mist. Better her than anyone.

Pretty horrifying.

If you think, really think, toss aside religion and afterlives, peer through the lens of realism and pragmatism and through the filmy rheum of soft-boiled nihilism, well, there doesn’t seem to be much to live for.

But you do; you live. You do not spend the day coiled in cold-sweated bed sheets, clutching your precious sons and daughters, fiancées and fiancés, boyfriends and girlfriends and husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and aunts and grandparents and uncles — clutching yourself — to your chest, terrified of an errant motorist or an assault rifle-toting psychopath or the looming wraith-hordes of fatal diseases.

More likely than not, you don’t give any of it a second thought.

You pack those fears in an infinity-ton bindle, shoulder it and promptly forget it. And then you trudge, walk, sometimes race onward, and not once, not for the love of God, no thank you sir, do you pause and wonder and open that sack of horrors, not even for the slightest peek. For even a glance would mean to be sucked, immediately and forever, black hole, into the deep, viscous tar pit that is bubbling despair and sadistic fantasies of grief and sorrow and angst and loss and darkness.

No, you keep on hiking, hill after trail bend after rocky gorge after mountain vista, having acknowledged those fears and rejected them, not in terms of their potentiality, their titanium, bomb shelter-proof truths, but because it is the only way to defeat that against which you are Lilliputian, powerless, faceless and meaningless.

You lead a happy, full life in the face of prospective, all too often inherent future misery. And when that midnight blackness does bear down, wraps it razor blade-studded tentacles around your throat, you take your beating and you towel off and bandage up and you keep on truckin’. If you can.

You live in the eye of the hurricane, and it’s only a matter of time before that sucker brings the house down, tears apart the very foundation of all you’ve ever known. But there you stand, outside, rain-drenched, lightning rod raised skyward, screaming for that puppy to come on, to give you all it’s got.

The best, most admirable part of being human, that spite, the ability to, consciously or not, ignore the warning bells, the howling alarms, the crimson wind-torn flags pleading with you to stop, to listen, begging you to take notice, to understand that something is irrevocably, intrinsically wrong.

Instead you continue, uninterrupted, your search for — and sometimes discovery of — joy, love, excitement. You dig it up, suck it out from whatever crevices or crannies in which it may hide, gulp it down and grin, find it delicious and ask, please, for another taste.

featured image – i k o / Flickr