Monthly Archives: June 2013

Slouching Towards a Happy Death

If death were easy we would all be much happier.

When my wisdom tooth was coming out I thought I was dying. My head hurt, my ear hurt and I had the most unbearable pain in my life. I was sure it was infected and the infection had spread to my brain and my body’s response to the inflammation was this terrible pain that was creeping towards my slow agonizing (but very much preventable) death. That was it for me. I made peace with myself in my head. I was a shit person, I loved once, I had some fun and some people loved me.  I feel into a selfish sleep as the right side of my head continued to throb into death. If I don’t wake up, I love you mom.

I’m a bit of a hypochondriac with a morbid imagination. The older I get the more I think I am slowly slouching towards an untimely death. I passed out after a hot shower once. As my body was shutting down I felt this immense pressure in my stomach, as though I needed to go to the bathroom. I thought, that’s it I’m dying, people shit themselves when they die, I must be dying. Luckily, when I woke up there was no need for a second shower. Diabetes runs in my family and that very realistic thought didn’t cross my head. Not yet at least.

If death had taken me in my throbbing sleep or in a split second of consciousness, I’d be lucky. A lot of the times, death doesn’t work that way. Many of us will die of some ailment, some cancer, some disease. Such is the natural order of things. I force myself to carry this thought with me every day. I have all kinds of scenarios for my death. One of my biggest fears is to die a violent death. I get nervous driving next to big rigs or behind them. I imagine a Final Destination type of death. There was a man who knocked on our door after parking his car in our driveway. He knocked once, lightly and then left. I had a weird feeling overcome me and I refused to open the door. I convinced myself he had come to kill me in some Mexican cartel kind of way. Why? I don’t know. I don’t even have drug connections…not that I know of? I drive on the freeway late at night a lot and I think, what if I get shot randomly like those people on the news that get shot on the freeway randomly?

Almost every day I say to myself that if today were my last day, then so be it. It is written in some universal book up in the cosmos that I will die today and I cannot do anything about it. If I have been a shitty friend, oh well I’m dying. If I have done nothing to make my parents proud, I’m sorry I’m dying. If I have upset needy customers, fuck them I’m dying.

As I sat in the emergency room at 5am waiting for my mother to be discharged, an African American family sat across my sister and I. One lady walks away to take a phone call. “Hi, yeah, listen…they say he won’t make it…”

I remember getting that phone call at work at 6:30 pm on March 2007. My cousin told me my grandmother wouldn’t make it through the night. After I hung up, I went into the restroom and for the first time in my life I felt that split second of consciousnesses, my legs went weak and my vision became spotty. I wasn’t dying but my grandmother was.

My eyes filled with tears as I looked at my sister and I whispered to her, “I’m crying. I feel bad. I don’t know why.” I didn’t want the family across from me to hear me. I felt like an intruder to their universal pain.

My dad brought my mom out of the emergency room. I made him switch with me the last 20 minutes of her stay. We had been there since 10pm. This has become a redundant cycle. They release her because her tests show nothing wrong. She’s hopped on something stronger than morphine and yet we all know that once we get home, it starts all over again.

As my mom cries in pain, she keeps repeating that if this is death then good God, please just “take me away and be done with it.” I feel helpless. I don’t know what I can or should do. In between her pain and tears she tells me not to worry at least there is enough money for a funeral so my dad better not beg around for money. She talks about giving me power of attorney over her affairs. I become frustrated and raise my voice at her “you’re not dying! It’s not that easy to die!” As these words come out of my mouth, I realize how cold they sound especially to such an affectionate person as my mom.

In our silence, I start to think what if this is the beginning of death? She is 48 years old. Lots of people die before hitting 50. She’s always said that she’d rather die than live years in pain. She’s been in pain for 3 years now. Doctors haven’t found any concrete source of her pain. She’s scheduled for a surgery in the coming months. They’ll open her up where it hurts and poke around to see what they can find.

What if what they find is her slow unhappy death?

I’m selfish and she can’t leave because I am selfish. She can’t leave me. My wisdom tooth is coming out, she can’t leave me.  I get mad at her when she talks about leaving me. She can’t leave me because I am six years old. I’m her child and she can’t leave me. I still need to grow up before she leaves. I’ll clean my room that way she won’t leave me.

I raised my voice to her because I am scared. I wish there was a way to communicate that without my pride and fear getting in the way. I forget about all my untimely deaths. I look at her crying and yelling and I hope to whatever and whomever that my slouch towards death will be a happy one. But I really don’t think it works that way.


my mother’s kitchen

2009_06_15-FlourOnce, I walked in on my mother and my stepfather, sleeping in the early morning hours, naked. I don’t remember why I was there. Their bed was a mattress on the floor. My stepfather’s flabby white ass glared back at me, peeking above the blanket. That blanket had some sort of animal on it–an eagle, a bear, a wolf howling at the moon, something like that. He was the sort of man who would own a blanket like that. He had a large, bushy mustache. He owned a yellow Datsun. He collected beer bottles and knives. He was also the sort of man who instructed me each night to lie on my stomach so he could tell me a story. He would gently pull my pajama bottoms and underwear down, and lightly trace his fingers over my own bare ass before bed. I remember the heat and alarm that flushed through me, but I didn’t know what to say or do, so I said and did nothing.

I was maybe 7 or 8 years old when I walked in on he and my mother, and I recoiled at his surprising nakedness, and quickly and quietly shut the door. I felt like I had made some grave violation, that they would find out and punish me. But they simply slept on, and I went back to my bed and fell asleep. When I woke, I found them in the kitchen, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, like always. The smoke hung around their heads and mixed with the morning light.

In that kitchen, my mother taught me how to mix equal parts cinnamon into sugar, to spread butter onto warm toast, and pour the mixture over it. We shook the excess onto the plate, and dipped our fingers into the sweet brown powder and licked them. I could eat six slices of cinnamon bread at a time. I could eat a loaf. I was a heavy child, a voracious eater, and I always wanted more.

We did dishes together in that kitchen, filled water balloons for fights. My sister and brother and I spent hours building Play-doh and Lego creations at the big, round table. There’s something incongruous about the fact that my mother was a drug dealer whose life was unraveling, but that her kitchen counter featured matching ceramic canisters marked “Flour,” “White Sugar,” “Brown Sugar.” This was a novelty to me. She owned a spice rack, and she used her spice rack. Also a novelty.

The house the kitchen occupied was a shabby rental at the end of a dirt road in the hills above Lake Elsinore. The house was infested with carpenter ants and tarantulas. The tire swing in the back yard swung directly over a cliff. The kitchen, though, was clean, organized, inviting, safe. I only went to my mother’s house for sporadic weekend visits, and, once, a whole summer, over the course of three years. It was a temporary place to her, but it was the only place in which I ever remember her living. I have a lot of terrible memories of her, of that house, but none of them took place in the kitchen.

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