Tenuous Life

On the 10th, a young boy was killed by a falling tombstone while frolicking in a cemetery, near a church where a birthday was being celebrated. People die taking selfies on train tracks. Despite being expert pilots, they die from foolish errors with their parachutes, falling into the houses of unsuspecting people on the ground, even as they look and attempt to understand what just happened. They die from undiagnosed and treasonous illnesses, or due to a fall from a cliff while hiking, from someone failing to heed a stop sign in the deep dark before dawn, or due to carelessness with guns they believe to be unloaded, or from a repeat offender drinking too much and hurling a family member through the windshield.

Unlike so many others, I know the harsh lesson of life being snatched unexpectedly. It has discolored my perception and is so much an integral part of me that I constantly forget that most people’s brush with mortality is one associated with waiting by a dimly-lit bedside or with a phone call, distant from the pressing reality of someone’s passing.

We are all a convoluted and diminished story to someone else, even as the clocks of our lives fail to tick more loudly as our turn on the carousel approaches. We see that time passes but increasingly fail to hear the drum of its methodical warning.

As a lover of stories, I do sometimes forget that the story itself masks an entire span of a life. I can get up, peek through the blinds of my windows to the world, and observe it, wondering what surprises might await me. I don’t look out in fear of what might greet me, because the millions of minutes that have been gifted to me add up to an astonishing array of life. I’m not so stupid as to misunderstand that to live to any age is an accomplishment and that another chapter is always possible, no matter how ridiculous the upcoming plot to the story.

But I do hear the ticking and laugh inappropriately at what others shout out as danger. It’s not my intention; it is hard-wired into my neurons in the same way that bacon calls you out of bed in the morning.

Danger is literally in every pore and molecule of our frail lives.

If the piano is going to fall from the upper-story window above me, all I ask that it hits me, oblivious, and that it plays a discordant musical chord as it hits me like the anvil in the Road Runner cartoon.

I give you permission to laugh at its absurdity. It might be the only honest reaction to the insistent barrage of compiled moments I’ve accumulated.

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