Every three months or so I become convinced that I’m about to die. I spend a lot of time considering what dark mechanism inside me is slowly breaking down, something I’ll never find in time and they’ll only discover after I’m gone. I see evidence of it anytime I experience a small pain or ache. I got a small-ish cramp halfway up my left side when I took my shower yesterday morning. I can’t wait until I die and they figure out that cramp was really a tumor the whole time, or whatever. I find it really satisfying to sow these seeds today that will eventually become revelations when I’m dead: “wow, my head hurts to one side today” seems innocuous now when I say it to my friends, but once I die it will become a Fatal Clue that everyone ignored.
Sometimes, although not particularly often, my impending demise is frightening to me. Three weeks ago I flew to Nashville for my friend’s bachelorette party (along with, based on what I saw there, everyone else in the world who has ever had a friend who is getting married). I had a sinus infection at the time, which is more or less my constant state of being. I have a sinus infection more often than I don’t have one. It makes me feel like throwing a party whenever I can breathe through both of my nostrils simultaneously. I ended up defying my sinuses that night to go to bars with my friends, feeling faint as we line danced and shouting over remixes of 90s hits as my throat withered. When I got back to our host’s house and crawled into the one half of the basement trundle beds that had been designated to me, I knew. This was really what would end up killing me.
I couldn’t feel my own throat, I was shaking and sore, and felt nauseous. I had finally pushed myself too far and contracted meningitis, or a neurotoxin, and I was going to ruin my friend’s wedding by dying. The bridal party would be uneven now. I wondered if they would replace me or just kick out the least important groomsman for balance. Or if my assigned groomsman would be stuck walking down the aisle with some sort of effigy for me. No matter what they did, the wedding was definitely going to be a bummer now that I was dying. What upset me the most was that I was now dying a full plane ride away from both my family in Raleigh and my boyfriend in LA. I would have to be rushed (uselessly, of course) to a hospital that was unfamiliar to me with hardly any loved ones at all to mourn me. Also, I don’t have insurance, but considering that I was planning on dying this didn’t warrant too much concern.
Usually, it’s not like that though. Usually when I’m sure I’m dying I’m much more peaceful about the whole thing. I think I just have the mindset of someone who is destined to die early and unexpectedly. I don’t really have a way to prove whether this is at all founded. Unless I do in fact die early and unexpectedly, in which case I won’t be around to be smug about it, but everyone else reading this might marvel at my ultimate rightness, so that’s at least something.
When I know I’m dying I’m mainly worried about leaving things. My senior year of college when I was sure I was dying I wrote a letter for my mom and left it on the dresser in my room for about three weeks, so that when I did die someone would know to give it to her and that’d be a nice treat for her. When I didn’t end up dying I eventually sent the letter to her anyway and I’m sure it was still a nice treat for her, although one that was ultimately less prescient than it would have appeared if I had ended up dying after all. I’ve always liked sending letters, even before I being sure I was about to die, but they seem even more urgent now. I told my boyfriend I’m going to leave him all my passwords so if I die he can maybe capitalize off of my recent death to make all my work seem more darkly beautiful and get some more publicity out of it. In college one of my friends hand-copied a poem for me out of a book of poems a girl our age had written. Well, she was our age when she wrote them, but then she died very suddenly. Her work was already very very good but the fact that she had died made it seem important in some new profound way. I told my boyfriend to do the same thing for me after my eminent death, although honestly it’d probably be less easy to get the same reaction from a bundle of short stories about finicky ghosts and a half-finished adaptation of a Zane Grey novel that takes place in a pet store. I’m sure he’d find a way, though. He’s businessy like that.
Today I mailed CDs out to a bunch of my friends. I’ve decided I’m going to do this routinely, making and burning a list of songs I’m feeling and putting fun art on it and sending it out to anyone who wants one. A sign of the times. A little artifact. A moment, pressed into an already obsolete medium shaped like an even obsoleter medium (I spring an extra 5 dollars for the CDs that look like vinyl). As I stuck stamps on the envelopes headed for Texas, Philly, New York, and South Carolina, I felt really peaceful. South Carolina. I’m a little bit there too now. I’m obsessed with leaving evidence that I existed. I love evidence that anyone existed, really. Yesterday I stopped to read a USPS mailer on the sidewalk that someone had used to leave a note for someone who hadn’t been home. “Hey Busy Man,” it started. What a funny thing to call someone. I wondered if she was mad that she’d missed him or if she was joking. She needed him to hand over some legal papers to sign, so I was guessing at least a little mad. I wonder if Busy Man had even read the note before it wound up here on the sidewalk. Just for that brief moment, I got to see a sliver of someone else’s life. That’s most of what someone’s life is, really. Just a collection of things they’ve left behind, intentionally or otherwise. Well, that and water.