Cardiograph

I want to die. Not today. Preferably not tomorrow. Just hypothetically soon. Life is a gift utterly wasted on me. No one and nothing is to blame. Most of the time I love this life, especially its vegetables and greenery. But I am incurably sad. Not sitting-by-window-staring-out-window-looking-at-sky-with-occasional-sigh sadness, No, this sadness runs deep and dangerously dark. Until it bubbles forth like a steamy Icelandic geyser, a violent Yellowstone hot spring. When I feel inconsolable heat, then utter lugubrious foam.

Don’t worry, good reader, I will not subject you to the details. I wrote a whole novel (the doomed Zenka) about someone wanting to die. The problem with misery, it quickly transpires, is that it has little dramatic value. You have to dress the damn thing up in poverty, cancer, drug abuse, apocalypses. Zenka was a prolonged striptease of misery. Until the final, carefully executed disappearing act.

I feel increasingly like a dinosaur in this world. On Friday evening I met an old acquaintance. When I asked how she was, she grinned and said, “Great! Like always!” If people had gone round grinning unconditionally and casually tossing out superlatives 150 years ago, they might just have found themselves institutionalized. My suffering is exacerbated by the fact that most people look so normal, at ease, surefooted. They seem, so to speak, on top of things. They are, as it were, abreast of themselves.

If only there were some kind of old-fashioned leper-like colony for the chronically sad. People could drop by the side of the road for no good reason. They could keel over in supermarket queues. Everyone would leave their doors open at night. Jesus, it sounds like paradise.

Instead I have to pretend to be human. As if I have a modicum of control over myself beyond my bowels and motor function. As if my life is a story with a linear direction and progressive protagonist. I realized this weekend, for the thousandth time, not so much that I want to die (I don’t) but that I have to die for my self-respect, to save what little remains of the utterly degraded ideal of myself. The problem is that every one of my cells is screaming at me: “Live!”. This collective imperative, a chorus of crows ominously cawing in a horror film, is also an inadvertent warning of the horror ahead in taking the coward’s way out of clinging to life.

I used to dream of growing old with dignity. I would stare out of my kitchen window and occasionally sigh. Tend my vegetables. Play chess with an old friend. Doze off while reading. Get tipsy on special occasions. That future is now no longer open to me.

I dislike melodrama. There would be no note because everything is a note (supermarket receipts tell a particularly riveting story). There would just be a newly vacated space, an absence of a familiar face.

If my writing has any value, it is because everything I say comes from the heart, that poor, overworked muscle keeping me alive. When I look at my words, that is what I see. A long, drawn-out cardiograph. An unbroken line that goes up, down, up, down. Until days like this, when it spikes, and beeps, and I have to breathe in much harder to stay alive. God damn I love this life. And God damn if this line feels like it can’t bear it for much longer.

 

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