I never was afraid of the dark. Not even when my body was young.
Death does not take you. It does not take you on a day you’d hardly expect, and it does not crawl into your bed with you on a quiet and moonless night to tell you that it’s time to go. Go where, you ask him.
Home, he says to you. But I am already home, you tell him. And he shakes his head before he smiles at you, and suddenly you feel your bones inside of you turn soft and he takes your hands and opens up a hole in the parquet floor and jumps in, and naturally, you tumble down behind him.
That isn’t how it is. I know him. He won’t ever do that to you.
What he will do is much worse. In fact, he has already started. He has been doing it all your life.
Death grows upon you and slowly untangles the veins in your arms and empties out the awe inside your mind. No wonder nothing seems as awe-inspiring as it once did, when you were a child. Death picks at your skin from the inside and dries out your bones, one by one. It crawls along inside of you, using your nervous system as a freeway system — whether you are a cat or a pigeon or an architect or a waiter or a Communist. Death is deep inside of you. It grows when you grow.
And even when you are gone, death lives on. It’s kind of funny to think of death as it lives, isn’t it? Death isn’t anything. It’s funny to think of that, too. How could something that is mostly nothing be so tremendously frightening? There isn’t anything that is more frightening than nothing, surely.
Death’s in me. It’s in you. It’s in everyone, and it’s getting bigger and bigger every day, like the things in the windows of our cars when we get closer and closer to our destination. It grows like a baby inside the womb of its pregnant mother, and we feed it our old skin cells and fallen-out hair. We get acquainted on a first name basis. We’re inseparable.
We can’t live forever. Who would want to? Life is horrid. Yes, yes, is Death home? Can he come out to play? No? Well, I can wait until after he eats his dinner. Hopefully it won’t be too dark by then. I’m not afraid of the dark. I just like being able to see the beauty of the trees and the rocks and the fences and the daffodils and the porch swings.
And after dinner, Death appears in the doorway. His hair looks nice. Can you come out to play now, Death? You can? I got a new soccer ball the other day. Want to try it out? We can go to the park. It’s not far.
He stares at me, but he doesn’t say anything.
What is the matter, I ask him, but he says nothing. And then he flies down the steps of the front porch, racing way ahead.
Last one there is a rotten egg.
Went into work, dropped my things on the table. Checked the time. Fifteen minutes early. It’s a first. Looking around, it occurs to me that I was surrounded in a mist made of strangers — “MT got his old job back,” says the boss — and suddenly the room got even lonelier. Don’t want to see MT go. “So he’s leaving?”
Stare at the dirty carpet. Kick it with my shoe. Caramel popcorn stuck to it.
I’ll clean it later.
“Everybody’s leaving,” I say. Stare at the carpet some more. Exhale a little, but softly.
“Everybody always does,” says Boss. Then a pang of sorrow. It creeps slowly in through the gaps between my ribs, but then it’s like water in my lungs. I am silent. “People come and go,” says Boss, “they always do. That’s life.”
Take a moment, and then a breath, and then the truth. “Yes,” I reply. “That’s life.”
It only makes sense
to keep going
if you’ve got somewhere to go.
But if you haven’t,
then you’re out of luck,
I walk around in circles
when there isn’t anything else to do
when there isn’t anybody beside me
I get lonesome
I can only like myself so much
you never would have imagined
me as I am
as I have never
thought I would meet you
But I have
and you’re alone
in your head
which is a place I have never been to before
With her upon my back,
her fragile fingers gently curved around
my shoulder bones
I tell her not to be afraid of falling.
We soar through across the cityscape
where the buildings grow out of the concrete pastures
like the resilient fungus that grows
in the places we’ve never lived.
Her eyes are like glass
when the wind strikes her
but I turn my head and kiss her gently
to keep her from crying.
She comes to me in dreams
on nights that follow mornings and afternoons
that were spent
in complete secluded silence.
She whispers into my ear
as she puts her arms around me
“I never said
that I was real,” I tell her
but she just tightens her grasp on me.
A moment passes and she lets go
“Neither did I,”
she says, with a pained expression upon her porcelain face
The sun shines softly through the window
And I’m only barely awake
But at least I know that the world hasn’t stopped
Just because I’ve momentarily stepped out of it
I don’t mean to go through life wondering whether or not I should look behind me, keeping vigilant for the things that may be following me around. They are mostly holes that were created, but never filled; I liked to keep spaces for the people I missed when they weren’t close, just in case they decided that they needed me — I’d have clean sheets on their beds, which would be made neatly, ready for us to crawl into.
I recall there was a time my mother got me a balloon to hold at a carnival, but the ribbon slipped through my fingers and I watched in horror as it rose higher and higher into the afternoon sky and I knew it was gone for good. It couldn’t be stopped, once I had lost it, and perhaps that’s what made me the saddest: the damage had been done and the hopelessness overwhelmed me. That’s what being an idealist is like.
I have never broken any bones before but I think I’ve lost count for how many times my heart has broken for other people. My heart is a funny thing. It cracks open for people who are lost like me because it wants to be filled with little bits of those people, so that I can carry them around inside of it wherever I go. I want pieces of people to keep, like jewels and gold in lockboxes, so that I can take them out to look at when I felt alone.
I am made of carbon and hydrogen and oxygen but it sure doesn’t feel that way. I’m made of the stories I tell people when I’m not sure quite how they’ll react if I were to tell them the truth. I’m made of unfinished thoughts and a lot of frivolity. I am made of dead ends.
The night surrounds me but I’m indifferent. Darkness doesn’t frighten me. Even nightmares aren’t as bad as they used to be.
You shuffle into bed beside me and put your hand in mine.
We’re safe now.
Seems so far
When we ran away from our homes
In search of somebody to wake up next to
When the next day was barely fathomable
Because we were hungry
We were more than that
We were insatiable
We were lost
And we were afraid to move
For fear the creatures of the night would detect us
The heat from our bodies
Would give us away.
We never thought anyone
Would give us away.
But we swam through the ocean
We passed submarines
We made ripples
We stood for the worst
Until the storms subsided.
We watched the world dissipate behind us
As their homes became smaller and smaller
Because trains always travel
At a constant speed.
It’s us who get smaller and smaller
As we get farther and farther
There isn’t any going back now.
I learned to drive
My car looked really nice,
You told me
I thought you always looked nice.
I still think that,
But usually you’re too far from me
That even if I belted
At the top of my lungs
On top of the apartment building
That takes all my money
You wouldn’t hear me
I don’t think.
Oh, please tell me
How did we ever get to be this way?
I received a slip of paper in the mail today.
It was an organ donor form. I wrote down my name and address. Then I signed it.
I was sixteen when I saw this form for the first time. I already have to start thinking about what I’m going to do with myself when I die, I remember thinking.
“They can have your organs,” he said to me, as I sealed the envelope shut. The postage has already been paid. “But they don’t get your heart, because that’s mine.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “That one is yours.”