21 September 2012

"The Calling" #Fridayflash

I’m going to die soon.

 Those words burst into life on my lips as I jolted out of a deep and melodic sleep. Where had that come from? Of course I wasn’t going to go anytime near in the future, I mean I was mid-thirties for Christ’s sake. I licked my lips and found them dry. My fingers clutched the duvet; I relaxed them, slowly, painfully. My legs. It was my legs. The numbness and pain that infused my lower limbs with tumble of white-hot needles of agony, sometimes so unbearable I couldn’t rest easy or at all. Old sweat caked my neck under my mane of wavy hair, tangled into an assortment of bed-knots as I tossed in my slumber. My face was slick with day-old make-up and kohl burned my eyes. I rolled over on my back.

So that’s it, isn’t it? The insistence in my mind to hurryhurryhurryhurry—be something—accomplish everything that I can, all the while a giant monolith’s heartbeat thrums at a slow plod, marking off my remaining days. Maybe months. Could I at least hope for years?

Madness. I couldn’t possibly know such things. No one could foretell their passing, not without a grim disposition from a fellow with three letters after his name and a comma. Yet the nagging feeling was there. It settled behind my solar plexus, tightening the strings that held my heart in place as my pulse reported my near state of panic eagerly.

What could I do with this new-found knowledge? This insight into the unseen? Would anyone even believe me? I sat up, clenching my hands into fists, feeling my nails dig into the comparatively soft skin of my palms. This would pass. It was all a ruse in my mind. A bit of unbalanced chemical or another. Perhaps too much caffeine and nicotine, rushed together to coagulate into a bit of post-midnight madness. It was lack of food, too much drink, and hours spent in the sun. The heat. It could well be a side-effect of the heat. Stifling and heaving with invisible drops of moisture like a living, panting animal.

Whatever it was, it didn’t frighten me as well as it should. My mind quickly snapped into action, ticking off a bucket list of desired accomplishments, and all looked well, save for my current project which lay halfway done, captured in text documents in various stages on my hard drive. My family. There was a problem. The set of caring individuals who always appeared before me once my internet time was cut short on holidays. Names of people I only recognized in Hallmark cards, sometimes with checks made out to me in desperation of giving me something, anything to be part of my life. To be seen. Did I see them? When was the last time I’d picked up the phone and given a call to my mother, whom incidentally lived within visiting distance enough to justify the fuel costs? Or my father, who supported me in my later teens, offering me his last dollar?

 Oh, we had our Facebook chats. We exchanged funny emails with the subject line FW: FW: FW: FW: This really made me laugh! But as for physical contact?

 How silent the house seemed in that instant of realization. Tears threatened at the corners of my eyes. I was a bad daughter. So many years, fighting to be seen by the world, and to be accepted by peers, and here I’d ended up ignoring those who meant the most.

I had to change. Immediately. Return calls. Send cards and back-listed gifts. Stop being such a spoiled, expectant bitch.

I rushed to my computer and checked my banking account online. The amount of digits there assured me I had the resources. I continued my trek to another website that sold my mother’s favorite perfume. A few clicks later, and she was scheduled to be astounded in a matter of days. A quick glance at the clock advised me that a phone call was out of the question at that hour, but I sent my father an email. One that hadn’t been forwarded from a stranger, or sent to ten others simultaneously.

Finally, I arranged for some time off of work. If I was to part ways with this world soon, what did it matter if I spent some of my accrued holiday time?

I would finish the project while on holiday, after dinner with my father. Although surprised, he did not decline an offered visit. He asked after my mother’s welfare and after we nattered on a bit about the state of things, I disclosed to him the stark feeling I was running low on time.

“I went through the same thing, about the time I was your age,” he explained after a hearty, good-natured laugh. “You youngins—always so obsessed with death and dying. Tempting the Devil to come for you early. Turning your face away from what’s so simple to learn.”

“What’s that, Dad?” I was confused. How could what seemed so real and ominous be wrong? I was fated to die early. I just knew  it somehow.

 “It’s easier to die than it is to live. It’s the whole getting there part that hurts the most.” He coughed, an ill-effect from decades of chain-smoked cigarettes. “You’re not going to be let off the hook that easy, dear daughter. But you can make the most of it.”

 Those words stuck with me years afterward. I went on to charity work. I sold my expensive car and home, and eventually set up a chain of friend’s homes I could stay in for a limited time as I traveled the country, learning all I could and seeing all I could see.

 The prognosis came the week before my forty-fourth birthday: brain tumor. Inoperable. The headaches had gotten to where I was left blind for periods at a time. My reaction was surprising to the doctor.

“Are you sure this time doc? You’re not just pulling my leg? Because I’ve tied all my loose ends, and I know the Devil likes to play his tricks.”

I’m still calling his bluff.

Photo credit: guilanenachez from morguefile.com

3 comments:

John Wiswell said...

As severe as the tone got, my strongest reaction was to FW: FW: FW etc. Any idea why that was so funny to me?

Richard Godwin said...

Great write.

Icy Sedgwick said...

I think we all sometimes worry we're running out of time but you captured the blind panic perfectly.