I have died a dozen times, maybe more. Truth be told, I have lost count; or perhaps more accurately, I have lost interest in counting.
I died in Phoenix, AZ in 1987. My body was never found. Local newspapers posted a short public notice on page seven a few days after my disappearance. It ran on a Tuesday. It dropped from print by Friday.
A few years later I died in Jackson, MS. I had been working midnight shift at a warehouse assembling wrenches into kits packaged for a Father’s Day promotion for Sears. When I stopped showing up for work, inquiries were made. I don’t make friends though, so there really wasn’t anyone to ask. My landlord knew nothing. After a few days a new person from the temp agency who hired me sent a new worker to fill my spot at the warehouse. I imagine that was the last time I was thought about in Jackson.
This story gets repeated over and over: Reno, Monterrey, Yuba CIty.
The act of killing myself is hard wired. My neuroses keeps me away from people. I’ve learned to live a solitary life. In the arena of mental warfare I am my own worst enemy. I stand alone, girded by invisible walls fortified with paranoia.
I work at night. I sleep during the day. I’m not some teen-aged fantasy of a real life vampire. I am the mundane phenomenon of depression and anxiety left unchecked. My skin does not sparkle, it’s merely pale from preferring the shadows. I don’t rise at night to consume the sanguine blood of my victims, instead I eat from convenience stores at odd hours, at different times. I do this so I do not encounter the same people at the same time. That leads to acquaintances, and relationships. I am not interested in that paradigm. Not any longer.
I died in Baltimore, Poughkeepsie, Wilkes-Barre, and Coeur d’Alene too.
The warehouse work I seek through temp agencies is simple. As long as you can pass a drug test and you don’t have active warrants, you can get a job. Warehouse work involves placing different objects into baskets making consumer products to be sold in boutiques. I’ve made lotion baskets, dried goods baskets, candy baskets and hermetically colored condom baskets. I once made a dried fish, preserved eel and wasabi dried pea basket for something called the Shogatsu. I’m an expert on cobbling things together. It’s the process I use I recreate myself after I die.
I died in St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Oakland.
As I insinuated, my deaths are not corporeal in nature; they are psychic. The seed of anxiety deposits in my thinking. It is nourished by the frenetic energy of my troubled cognition. The seed takes root and grows until the trunk and branches erode my lucidity. The only thing that has ever stopped the mental pain is to leave, simply walk away from whatever life I have. Each time I do, my psychical template descends into a malaise from which I cannot escape. So I die, and move on down the road to the next town.
That’s why now, as the vulture’s beak, strong with practice, pulls the remaining sinews from my skull I am surprised at my sadness. It’s an emotion I thought lost, but looking down upon my deteriorating body I find myself, unexpectedly, wanting to live. I have died so many times in the minds of others, I thought naught what it would feel like when I actually did depart from this plane.
I don’t like it.
I find myself pining to try again in life, to find a reason not to die away. I am struck with the irony of my seeking death as an escape, only to suddenly want to escape from the death I have so long sought..
I don’t remember anything from when the semi hit me. I had walked along the side of US Route 95. I was headed North, away from the heat and insular culture of the City of Yuma. I had enjoyed the sound of passing traffic, the white noise present during my northward trek out of Yuma. The truck had drifted a few feet to the right onto the shoulder without the driver’s knowledge. The moment of impact registered as a bright, white light.
Nothing until I realized the yawn of morning and the presence of sunlight sufficient to see myself lying on the hardpan dirt of the Sonoran Desert. There I lay. My legs contorted unnaturally. My face immersed in the Earth. My backpack resting a good distance away seemingly unmolested. My body, just far enough away from traffic to lie unseen among the sage and stones, lay crumpled and still.
Time takes on a different role after death. It is no longer linear. The view I see of myself from wherever it is I am, is constant. I can see today, yesterday and tomorrow. Today I see the vulture, harvesting the final nutrients beneath my tattered clothing. The protuberance of a humerus bone clutching onto its radius counterpart with a weathered ligament poked through my clothing. My sun soaked skull revealed my occipital bone through scattered, matted blond hair. Blond hair tinged with dried blood.
I find myself in a perpetual orbit above the body I knew as mine. A body that had been given the chance to live a life, but whose mind never allowed it function.
I have truly died. I am now departed from myself, watching my body slowly become part of the lonely Sonoran Desert. My broken phalanges, now but small stones on the desert floor, lay scattered without intention or purpose akin to the lives I used to live.
Looking down now, I recognize my future is extinguished. Yet here I am, still awash in the memories of the lives I lived. To what end have I come? I have become what I sought in life, to die and be released from life. And now, in a place absence of pain and anxiety, I mourn myself, my fettered existence.
Death, I realize, is not the answer; it is a premature conclusion without recourse, without remedy.
In life, I used death like a Tarot card placed in front of me time and time again. The Tarot card, depicting a skeleton with an arm raised toward the seeker, is not about death; it is about change. I see now my life repeatedly sought change, not death. I hungered change, a change I was unable to affect with my aberrant mental faculty.
I see that now. I see that now, as plainly as I see my body quartered among the sage and boulders.