Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Three Shortest Days of My Life

A Life Lived Twice Over, a memoir.
It Didn’t Feel Short to Me, Pal.

I never thought I’d be the type to keep a journal like this, but my therapist suggested it might be a cathartic way to unload some of this stress, and at this point, I’ll try anything. See, at any moment, I’m going to die, which is an incredibly exhausting way to live.

My life began just like any other 24-hour flu bug. My parents were your average working class germs, just doing their best to feed the family. They managed to reproduce 16,000 times before they died, which is really impressive, even for our kind. I was one of their youngest, so they hadn’t much of the gusto of their youth left when I knew them. When it came time to bequeathing wisdom and advice on my siblings and me at the end of their minutes, they made one point very, very strongly: “Live every hour like it’s your last.”

I took it to heart. Even though I would never see my brothers and sisters again, I decided to take a quarter hour after high school graduation to discover myself and see the world; I hopped on the first airborne sneeze and didn’t look back. That was a really defining time for me; I had grown up in the monotonous safety of your typical suburban white male, but I found myself now exploring the exotic terrain of a Spanish female. What a different world; so many new tastes and smells! I later met my wife on that trip. She was a full two hours older than me so my buddies all called me the cougar hunter after that. Ha, they were just jealous because she had such germ-bearing haemaglutinin. We found a nice Southern stomach to settle down in, and started having our own little germies right away, and as they grew, I gave them the same advice my old parents, rest their capsids, had given me. Eventually I gave the eulogy at my wife’s funeral, and, knowing my minutes were numbered, I made peace with the world and decided to spend my last moments drafting and accomplishing a bucket list of grandiose proportions.

I started by yellow river rafting, something I’d always wanted to do, but had seemed too dangerous to tackle while I had children depending on me. What a rush! The next item on my list was frightening and exhilarating: a spelunking adventure into the Intestinal Caverns. I remember feeling so lucky, thinking, “what if I had never witnessed this? So much natural beauty!” There was an avalanche though, and I’m genuinely surprised I made it out alive. By this time I expected to be dead anyway, so I upped the ante and decided to climb to the highest heights known to flukind: one of the two great mountains, Mt. Lung and Mt. Bronchi. I didn’t expect to survive the journey to the foothills, let alone the climb to the summit, being as old as I already was, so I was a bit reckless in packing for it. Something started to feel very wrong though, when I realized, as I’d settled into my base camp a third of the way up, that I was now nearly 48 hours old.

It was a lonely and terrifying time, climbing that mountain. There must have been quakes; the mountains trembled and shuddered the entire time, and I was already a great deal older than anyone I’d ever known. When you expect at any given moment you’re about to drop dead, it can really grate on your nerves. The slightest sound made me twitch and I started to feel paranoid. Finally I just decided that I was there anyway, and I may as well confidently finish. Maybe it was my destiny to lay to rest at the top of those glorious mountain peaks?

I finished my climb and waited a full half hour for my end to come. Nothing changed. I started the walk back down when I reached the bottom, I couldn’t think of another adventure to tackle, so I simply kept walking, wondering, “What on body do I do next?”

I was weary, confused, and beginning to despair. After hours of travel, I found myself South of the border in a little settlement called Bladder. I had heard of Bladder, but it’s such a harsh, hostile place, and so few germs and viruses can really thrive there, that I had thought it was a myth. It’s real alright, but terrifying. Even more terrifying though, was standing outside and realizing that not even the acid rain would bring me to my end. So I began to panic, wondering what might be my fate, and if I would ever have rest. I asked around and discovered there was an old and wise therapist, Dr. Teipwhirm, living in the Bowel region and I made my way to see him, but his office was closed by the time I arrived.  

I had a breakdown, right there on his front step, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit. I feel it’s important to be honest though, so here it is: I had accomplished more than any germ could ever have hoped or expected in their lifetime, yet all I could feel was soul-crushing loneliness. Luckily, Dr. Teipwhirm had forgotten his keys and came back to to his office, nearly tripping over me in the process. He listened intently to my tale and told me that though he’d lived a long time, he was astounded to hear my story. He advised me to travel to the frozen North, farther even than the great mountains I had already conquered, where there was a secret, beautiful place called Nostril filled with snot springs. “You could sit out in the chilly air, resting in a steaming bath, and have some real relaxation there, to wait out your end,” he said. “And while you’re there, journal all this out; you’ll find it relaxes you to give your life story purpose if it has a chance to be shared with others.”

So here I am, not knowing why I’ve lived through so much more than I ever thought I’d do or see, but quietly grateful for the hope that this will all be something shared with some other bugs someday. I’ll finish for now; it’s getting harder to write here because these dark clouds are blocking out the light again, and I’m hearing tsunami warnings coming from the radio--supposedly a big wave is coming in a few seconds. At this point, maybe I'll just try to surf it.

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