August 9, 2003

Song 7

A friend made a compilation CD for me and I’ve been listening to one song a day and more or less writing about that experience but not really. (Yes, one song a day: I have oodles of self-control. And by the way, today’s song, Je Ne Respire Plus, Milos by Domnique A, was intense and excellent.) Maybe you already knew. But what you didn’t know is that this same friend recently received a weird and scary email.

there will be nuclear war this month – i just wanted you to know.

thanks.

In Christ,
Stanley Dougler
(Boise, ID)

My friend doesn’t know any Stanley Dougler of Boise, ID. When she forwarded the email to me, I wrote back that if there is a nuclear war this month, the first thing she and I will think of will be Stanley Dougler of Boise, ID. Now you will too.

I meant this as a joke of course, but then today I wondered what I’d do if I believed what Stanley Dougler believes. It seemed a good question, but as it turned out I couldn’t imagine believing such a thing. No vision, no matter how vivid and apocalyptic, is going to convince me to send emails to strangers, or to do whatever I’d do as a result of such a belief. So I gave up on that and instead considered a related question, one others have pondered, and still others have faced in real life: What would I do if given a month to live?

My response was immediate and certain, but before I say what it was, I want to say what my friend Eva said. She said she’d spend the first two weeks writing her life story, a book called Things I Noticed On My Way Through.

“Why not write it now?” I asked her.

“Lack of discipline.”

“A death sentence would give you discipline?”

“I already have a death sentence and I’m not writing anything.”

We were having this conversation in Starbucks and she was drinking a double tall mocha.

“Why would a more specific death sentence change things?” I asked.

“The illusion of immortality. All day long we live with the expectation to live. We know on some level we’re going to die, but we don’t expect it to be today or tomorrow. If I knew I had a month left, I would write.”

Sadly this is probably true: Eva would write if given a month to live. One reason this is sad is that Eva can really write and really wants to write. The other reason is that in lieu of such a sentence, Eva probably won’t write. So Eva needs a highly improbable tragedy to do the one thing she really wants to do.

My lot is similar, not that I would dream of writing at such a time. Instead I’d post a thank you on this site, either mention my illness or not, and go see the people I love. That was my first and only thought. I would visit friends around the country, exclaim my love for them all, get drunk a lot, cry buckets, possibly sleep with a certain ex-girlfriend, and consume a lot more coffee than I do now, no longer needing to fear developing a more serious habit.

Also, silly but true, if I listened to my friend’s CD again, I would listen to all nineteen songs in one go and forget this one-song-a-day business. Life is too short.