Several years ago I nearly killed myself. This was not so much intentional, as a game of Russian Roulette. Here’s what happened:
I was bored–so damn bored with the monotony of my life that I would not hear that there was such a thing as the future. Nothing had been going well for me–nothing mattered. It made no difference that I had serious responsibilities, nor people who depended upon me. None of this crossed my mind as I aimed of my car with a sad, yet playful smile on my face. The road I was about to merge onto was one of the major ones in the United States–an interstate highway–and boy, was it crowded! I gripped the wheel. I closed my eyes. I imagined five different scenarios.
I could die. Of course this was the first thought. Slam into or be slammed by something going very fast. Or they might die. Or both of us. A lot of us. We might close the road for hours. We make the news. Helicopters aimed their cameras at the calamity. In the one lane left open, drivers crept by, seeking (and sometimes lying about when they finally got home) the sight of a bloody corpse smeared along the road. “You won’t believe what I saw . . .” It is a cheap way to get famous.
Or, miraculously, somehow, I safely made it. Holy shit! I am one lucky motherfucker! Is this a sign? Is life still worth living? I wasn’t looking! How did I just get on the road? I ask myself as I open my eyes and level the car in the right direction. I am not a religious person (at all! Check out several of my earlier posts about the history of monotheism.) But how could I justify not giving in to angels lifting me out of harm’s way, or some other fairy tale to explain the unexplainable?
I could not quite make it in the road, or slam into a guard rail. Traffic zooms by. People honk my inconvenience. I feel stupid. Life continues as before. This was what I was expecting, frankly. I can’t even kill myself right! What kind of a failure do you have to be to not even be able to do that? I thought of satire, of telling the story of someone so terrible at everything that the premise of their side-narrative (I could not see this tale as the main part of a story) was their daily and repeated inability to end their miserable life. It made me laugh. I was returned to the purpose of much of my writing when depressed: at least I’m not as bad off as this person.
Maybe it’s just a run-of-the-mill accident, an exchange of insurance cards between two rational people hoping to work things out without police. No one is hurt–a mere fender bender. Boring. Everyday. Life as always, and before. We might even be one of three accidents pulled over to the side of the road, something that really does happen, while people using audio direction apps listen to the compartmentalized voice echo that a car is stopped ahead.
Or I could chicken out, slam on the breaks, open my eyes and ask myself what the fuck? I might decide, in the last moment, that life is worth living after all. I have children, a family! I am actually pretty good at the job I am now doing. I love my dog. The cat is nice too. I can even tolerate my daughter’s fucking lizards! Life isn’t so bad, and we need two cars anyway! Again, we have children. They need to get to a lot of places. Life isn’t about me any longer. Stop this madness!
The result was number four, a basic accident that cost me $897, and even more of the dwindling respect of my wife. This was the forth car accident I had been in over the past two years (this was the second that was my fault, the others being some dipshit running a stop sign and, the other, absurd, some moron busy texting while I was stopped at a red light with my children in the back seat, plowing right into us and totaling the car.) I had wrecked two cars already. What if this was number three? What would USAA say?
I could make excuses for this–for the selfishness of my behavior, be it the loss of my identity, my heavier drinking, or the traumatic brain injury that brought about these crises of self-confidence, but this is merely the deflective behavior that so infuriates me about mine, the previous, and all of the subsequent generations. It’s not my fault because . . .
Self-awareness is all we truly have to go on to make it through the struggles of life. Responsibility. The acknowledgement of our guilt and our blame in all things. We may hate people (or ourselves) for the most irrational reasons, and act without thinking we are making mistakes, but this does not expiate us from the selfishness of our actions. We just need to remember: not every thing is about me.
©2019, 2020 Lance Polin