m a t t h e w    s i m m o n s

3 Ways I Don't Want to Die



I've been thinking a lot about it and I've decided some things. There are some very specific ways that I don't want to die and I think that the best thing to do is for me to go ahead and enumerate them here in this letter to you because I believe that even though the universe is a dark and unjust place—the sort of place where one might find oneself on the business end of a death that one fears the most—it also has stitched into its makeup a system for prioritizing stunning novelties on those within it that are capable of that kind of thing. The universe—consciously or unconsciously, depending on your worldview—moves toward making things new and surprising. So I believe strongly that by putting these thoughts out there into the world, I am in some way inoculating myself from them. Only time will tell, I suppose.

1) I don' t want to die alone in the office while I'm sitting at my desk working and fielding texts from you about when I think I am going to maybe be home for dinner or a late dinner or a very late dinner. I don't want to be alone and in the half-dark, annoyed and trying to make sense of the schedules of the many people I support. Annoyed at my phone on my desk or in my pocket when it shudders with a text from you asking when I'm going to head home. Annoyed when it seems like you just texted me and I responded. Annoyed when I realize that it was forty minutes ago that you texted me, not five minutes ago, and it makes perfect sense you are texting me again. I don't want to die annoyed by whatever day of the week it is, which is just like every other day of the week at my job. Which is just like the first day at my job. Which is just like, I'm betting, the last day at my job. I don't want to die annoyed because there is no emotional state of less consequence than annoyance. There is no more worthless way to feel about things than to be annoyed by them. I don't want that to be the last way I feel. I'd prefer anger or even sadness. Confusion. Hopelessness. Anything but annoyance.

I don't want to die at 8:45pm in my cubicle after everyone else has gone home and the only sound is the sound of the guy from Operations whistling “Dust in the Wind” over and over and over again like he does. The one who whistles the first verse and then the chorus, and then repeats the chorus, and then does the verse, and then repeats the verse, and then does the chorus four or five more times. And never anything else. Just those two sections of the song, over and over. No bridge. No violin solo. I don't want to, say, have a brain aneurysm rupture while I'm listening to him do that. I don't want to die and start falling into my own consciousness and find myself trapped in some sort of dustbowl purgatory, my soul alone and haunting a vast, empty prairie, followed for all eternity by a high, lonely sound.

2) I don't want to die in a car accident, especially now that I have figured out how to put the car seat into the back. And I don't think it's ever going to come out. It took me so long to figure out how to loosen the buckle of the seatbelt and feed it around the back of the car seat's base, and strap it in tight. I don't think I can remove it. I don't want to remove it. I don't want to go through that again.

Honestly, I don't want to try. I just want it to stay in there and I don't care if that means we won't be able to have a fourth person in the car ever again. I really just don't care. I still have a bruise on the top of my hand from the evening I spent trying to get the car seat in the car.

And because there isn't a baby to use the car seat yet, dying in a car accident in a car with an as-of-yet only aspirational car seat seems like one of the most intensely sad ways to die. Like one of those, “Oh, how sad. He was looking toward the future but he'll never see it come,” sorts of deaths that is so popular with sentimental people. I don't want to die for the emotional catharsis of sentimental people.

I don't want to be reaching for the radio and be struck by an inattentive teenager. I don't want to feel my body in motion and have my soul push free from my body, stuck and straining until it snaps away. I don't want my soul in motion to be my eternal state, speeding away from the car forever and ever, speeding up and speeding up until I am going so fast, I'm everywhere in the universe all at once, and then I am the universe and have to feel everything that the universe feels for always, and all because someone was texting someone else that they would be there soon.

3) I don't want to die in St. Petersburg, beaten to death, standing outside an orphanage because you and I are holding hands. I have been watching all the videos on Youtube about the people in Russia who target young gay men or gay couples, and how the police don't really do much about it. And say that's what happens: we go to Russia and we find an orphanage in, I guess, St. Petersburg—you know more about this stuff than I do because you're the one looking into it—and we're nervous and excited and in order to alleviate some of the stress we are feeling, we do what we always do. We do what lots of people do. You grab my hand. You step closer and our shoulders touch. Our arms touch. Our legs touch.

Anyone seeing that would understand the gesture. Anyone seeing that would know what the relationship between us is. Everybody knows about that way that people make contact with one another in times of stress when those people are emotionally invested in one another.

What if the wrong person sees that, and that person is with other wrong people? What if we get harassed, and then we get attacked? What if, so close to what we want, we're killed? We die? What if our hands are together, and then they are ripped apart, and we spin away and spin away outward and we never see each other again? Or just experience each other again? All because we held hands?

I don't want to die like that.




MATTHEW SIMMONS lives in Seattle.

in issue ten

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