A Short Play (or something) by David Thomas Peacock
I know who you are… I said.
Is that so? You replied, looking somewhat surprised.
What? You think I haven’t been paying attention? You’re not exactly easy to miss. In fact, my first memory of you was when you came into my grandmothers life. I was just a kid, but my eyes were wide open. I may not have understood what was happening, but I filed that shit away for future reference.
Well, I guess no introductions are needed then. Besides, we’ll be getting to know each other better real soon – I always look forward to this part. But let’s be clear about something up front – I’m not the bad guy. You may think I am now, but before we’re done you’ll understand how wrong you were.
Not the bad guy? Really? You do remember we’ve met before?
Yeah, but let’s not forget how that turned out. All in all the outcome was pretty good as I remember it. You’ve said so yourself, many times.
OK – I have said that, but we both know I was just trying to reframe my perspective. I mean, WTF? Once you show up all hell breaks loose and everyone involved suddenly has no choice but to deal with you. That was just my way.
Fair enough – I was actually pretty impressed with your response. Most people just try to ignore me. You seemed to grasp the situation pretty quickly. I admired the fact that you didn’t break.
Well, thanks, but I kind of felt like my back was against the wall and my only choice was to either cave in or just try to remain as clear-headed as I could. I’ve always been good at that. But I do understand fear, and I don’t think it’s a weak response to try and ignore you. Dumb maybe – but not weak. No one’s ever ready for you.
That is true.
You know, this may sound obvious, but after your last visit, I realized something important. A few things actually.
Well, for one thing, I learned that it pays to remember the outcome of your arrival is never certain. I mean, sooner or later you are going to show up and not leave, and we both know how that ends. But sometimes, like with me, you eventually pack up your bags and split. And then when you’re gone, life kind of starts up again and you get a second chance. I guess this is a natural part of life, but the first time it happens it’s a rude fucking awakening.
Ok, I also learned that we are all stronger than we think. I really believe that. I mean, sure, some people are obviously stronger than others, but there’s nothing like coming face to face with your arrival to show you what you’re made of. It’s kind of good to learn that, ‘cuz sometimes you surprise yourself. Sometimes we’re stronger than we thought.
You were looking at me intently, and clearly not in a hurry. I sensed you wanted me to go on, so I did.
The confusing thing is, whenever you show up, it’s always different. Not like a disguise exactly – you just seem so randomly unpredictable. I think this confuses people. Like they don’t know what’s happening until it’s too late. I also think people are confused about your relationship with your boss.
Hey – she’s not my boss. We work in two different departments.
Come on, you know what I mean. You do seem to be the advance man for her, always showing up before she does. Well, almost always – there are rare exceptions where she just seems to appear out of nowhere. I always felt those people were kind of lucky – no insult intended.
None taken. I just want to make it clear that she doesn’t give me orders. She’s a fucking scene-stealer, always a diva. Making me seem like a warm-up act. There’s no art in what she does – she’s a goddamn one-trick pony. It’s like everyone loves the big finish to a fireworks show, but the real art is in the buildup.
Sorry – I see I touched a nerve here, that wasn’t my intention. It’s just that a huge part of the drama of dealing with you involves whether or not she shows up. But I do agree that your job is way more involved than hers.
See – here’s the thing – it may seem like I’m only here to inflict pain and suffering, but that’s not really the point. Looking for a point, or a reason, is asking the wrong question. There is no fucking point, and even if there was, knowing it wouldn’t change a goddamn thing. Humans are always looking for an explanation, like somehow having an answer would make them feel better. There are things that happen in life that have no explanation – they just are. Humans, for example.
But you do see why they do this, right? They are completely panicked, you show up and suddenly mortality is no longer an abstract concept. It’s fucking scary as hell! They don’t know what to do, so they look for some explanation.
Yeah, I get that. But once you get over the initial shock, you’re left with some very big questions – real questions, not this “Why me?” bullshit. Questions about the meaning of it all, about how you will spend whatever time you have left. Most people fall back on whatever religious beliefs they were exposed to growing up. Others will try to answer the questions themselves. And therein lies the point – the real fucking point.
Wait, you’re saying that you are there for a purpose?
Purpose schmurpase, I’m just here. What I am trying to say is that my presence is an opportunity, not a death sentence. BTW, you’re all dying, from the moment you’re born. Your just not aware of it until I show up.
Suddenly I hear my phone vibrating – it’s my wife, texting me Dinners ready. I look at you and say We’ll continue this later.
Smiling, you respond Whenever you want motherfucker – I’m not going anywhere.
Jesus, you are fucking exhausting – your presence is just relentless. I don’t see how anyone could possibly ignore you.
I told you – I’m not going anywhere.
I mean, I really don’t get it – well maybe I do. People can pretend not to acknowledge all kinds of things, obviously that’s not news. But for me, once you’ve made your presence known, you are just haunting me all the goddamn time. Even when I’m sleeping, you seem to be in my dreams. It’s fucking exhausting.
Maybe I’m trying to tell you something…
What? Like I’m dying?
I already told you you’re all dying.
I know, but it’s one thing to say that as a clever observation, and it’s another thing entirely to actually realize you are dying. Not metaphorically, but for fucking real. It’s terrifying!
Hey, I never said it was going to be easy – but then really, what in life is ever easy? Isn’t it sometimes hard just to wake up in the morning? And don’t you all, on some deep level, understand that your life is finite?
Yeah – I guess I just don’t feel like I’m ready to go.
Go? Did I say you’re going somewhere?
No, but you know what I mean. I just feel like I haven’t done everything I wanted to. Like I’m not finished yet.
First of all, you have no idea what the outcome of my visit will be. And second of all, negative thinking isn’t going to help anything.
No, I know you’re right – I’m just trying to wrap my head around how not to be negative. I mean, I’m atheist for Christ’s sake! I don’t have anything to fall back on here. Even if your visit doesn’t end terminally, you’re still exposing holes in my personal belief system.
Now you’re on to something – keep going…
I guess it all comes down to what happens when you die. I’m not sure I have any credible answer for that.
Why do you need to?
Because the only way to face death without fear is feel like there was some meaning to life, and if we just die and then we’re food for worms, what was the fucking point?
See, now we’re getting somewhere. You’re actually starting to think about this. So what do you know about life?
OK – there seems to be a beginning and an end. The idea of heaven and hell is just ridiculous, I’m not a fucking cretin. So I think we can throw that shit out. But if we’re going deep, I may be thinking too simplistically. I mean – a beginning and an end? Sounds too linear – didn’t Einstein prove that time could bend?
Well I know that the moment someone dies, there is some kind of energy exchange. If you’ve been around death as much as I have it’s very fucking clear that when someone dies, energy has left the body. Like who they were was some kind of energy…
OK, if we look at science, doesn’t the first law of thermodynamics state that energy can neither be created nor destroyed?
So then, if who we are is some manifestation of energy, and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, then what happens to our energy when we die?
Now we’re getting somewhere! You see, I’m not death, I’m the one who takes you there – and if you listen, I can teach you along the way. That’s why I’m here.
Just then, my phone rings. Looking at it, I see it’s my doctor. Fuck, I said. I’m sorry, I’ve got to get this.
Yes? I said tentatively. Listing intently, maybe more intently than I’ve ever listened before, I hear the doc say It was a false positive. Sorry to put you through that…
I wanted to jump up and down and scream with joy, but instead I thanked him and hung up. Then I jumped up and down, screaming with joy. After a minute or so, I realized I was alone.
Smiling, I thought you were right. I now know something I didn’t before, and it was big. I didn’t yet have any answers, but I felt like a door was opening.
Everything in this life teaches us something – I was sure of that.