We Like Lists Because We Don’t Want to Die

Melissa Toldy
Mar 30 · 2 min read
  • I flung a fork at my neighbor. He whispered, “What the fuck?” Horrified, I leaned over in the dark. “I’m so sorry. I nearly burned myself.” We were seated in an Alamo Drafthouse cinema. My mac’n’cheese sat in a mini cast iron skillet. When I dipped my fork into my food, my fingers grazed the hot pan. I flung the fork, but not on purpose. To this day, I wish I would have given a better apology to my neighbor, once the lights came up in the dark cinema.
  • There’s a book called The Stinky Cheese Man. It’s a children’s book, but I read it in college. I was dating a young man who looked like Johnny Depp. Then he shaved his face, and he looked like the boy he really was. We smoked joints, and we would blow the smoke into each other’s mouths. We smoked, and we read The Stinky Cheese Man out loud. I can’t remember anything about the book, except its title.
  • Two days ago, I listened to Joni Mitchell on Spotify. The playlist was a mix of her entire catalogue. A song called “The Circle Game” came on. The lyrics go: And the seasons they go round and round / And the painted ponies go up and down / We’re captive on the carousel of time. Joni extends the word time. She goes, “We’re captive on the carousel of tiiime.” Yesterday, I wanted to hear the song again, so I clicked on Joni’s Ladies of the Canyon record. I tried to start at the beginning, but “The Circle Game” is the last track, and I got impatient, so I skipped ahead to the end.
  • It’s time for me to do laundry now. I’m supposed to do laundry on Tuesdays. To do laundry, I need to first put my washables into a large blue IKEA bag. Then, I need to check if I have cash or quarters for the machines at the laundromat. I will put on warmer clothes. I will put on shoes. I need to bring detergent, too, so I must pour some liquid detergent from a large container into a smaller, portable container. Now I can go outside, take my laundry two blocks up and one avenue over. The question is always: what will I do while my laundry spins?
  • “We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.” — Umberto Eco


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