exit music

A peculiar thing is happening in your head.  You hope you’re being all dramatic about it for nothing, as one tends to do about many things when trapped inside one’s head for more time than is probably healthy.  You over-think things when you can’t voice or discuss them, and they can spiral out of control.  By the same token you’re loathe to voice and discuss them with anyone because you feel like a theatrical, self-absorbed ponce.

On Sunday evening you disembarked from a two-hour flight after spending an enjoyable weekend visiting friends.  You drove another two hours home.  On arriving home your head started feeling strange and pressurised.  Not massively painful, but like it was in some kind of strong grip.  Pulsing ripples flowed around certain areas of the skull, then faded away, though you didn’t know if one of them would suddenly summon an altogether worse sensation.  When you stood up and moved around, you felt temporarily dizzy.  Your stomach gurgled and a mild nausea came and went.  It was frightening, and carried on being frightening, to fluctuating degrees, throughout yesterday: the day and the evening.

Last night you zapped the television off, leaned forward on the sofa, sat still and rubbed your temples.  You wondered what the hell it was and hoped you weren’t dying.  Don’t be dying.  Don’t die.  You’re not dying.  Are you?  Don’t speak too much about it.  You’ll look even more of a fool.

You went to bed, trying to reconcile yourself to the idea of dying.  Because you could be.  You could always be.  There are no promises.  But when it feels like rapids gushing or hurricanes swirling around inside your head, you might have more concern than usual.

You’d only recently finished what was, at the time it was written, a seminal book: On Death And Dying.  But you didn’t feel that its contents were colouring your thoughts, as you lay in the dark room, worried, frightened for yourself, trying not to think too much about each different wave ebbing through your skull.

You had lived a life: been to extraordinary places and done things, experienced emotions, met people.  Other people have had more time and other people have had less.  There are no rules about how much or how little time you’re allowed.  No meritocracy.  No guidelines about how sudden or how protracted death can be.  The honeymooner eaten by a shark while snorkelling off the Seychelles, about to begin a new, prospectively lifelong adventure with his new wife; those adolescent victims of the Norwegian massacre; that widely respected Red Arrows pilot.

You wouldn’t be leaving as much as them either.  It’s not as if you’re doing all that much with your life anyway.  You’re making attempts to address that, to do more which you feel matters, but maybe it’s too late.  Would death be a punishment for your lack of ambition?  You don’t deserve anything.  You reap what you sow and you haven’t sowed shit.  Nobody depends on you; not really.  Being a loner means you wouldn’t be missed to the extent that others are.  You’re not a solid, day-to-day presence in any lives.  Just a peripheral thought, an idea, a memory.

If there were a rational entity responsible for allocating terminal illnesses, brain tumours or death to otherwise fit and healthy people, you could understand why you might be selected.  Brutally put, you’re a human of limited promise and your loss would be nominal, could barely register at all.

Having said that, you like life and want to live.  You’d definitely choose it over the alternative.  Perhaps not if you were totally incapacitated or brain-dead, but otherwise yes: thumbs up to living please.  You’ve adapted to the idea of never finding a suitable female partner.  You had it once, too, for a brief period.  Then you allowed it to splutter and choke, and let go.  Although you wouldn’t relinquish all hope or effort, you understand that it’s quite possible it could never happen again.  What more could you do that you haven’t been doing?  And particularly not now, not if you’re on the way out.  But there are other things to live for beyond that, other things which make it amazing and rewarding and joyful.  Loads of them.

If death is ultimately like going to sleep – something you enjoy and do a lot of – perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad.  With this thought and an acknowledgement of tiredness and stress, you finally allowed full relaxation and eventually drift off to sleep.

This morning you phoned the doctors’ surgery.  They were all booked up for today and told you to try ringing back tomorrow, from 8am.  “Keep your finger on the redial button, we’re very busy around that time.”


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