Just a Few More Hours to Fill
This piece is darkly existential. It was written as thoughts meant to become a short story, but that won’t happen anytime soon. After my crappy day, I decided just to post it as-is.
May you find peace in the hours you fill.
Let’s not pretend we’re here for any other reason than to pass the hours until we die. I pass the hours by writing. You pass the hours by reading.
There are few certainties in life. Love is not one of them. Feigned love isn’t either, but it’s more likely. Peace and safety, not guaranteed. Death. Yep. That’s about the only thing that is inevitable, except for maybe betrayal. Lies and deception, that’s rather inevitable, too.
So. Death. That big scary country from whose borne no traveler returns, unless you believe in ghosts or reincarnation or some such thing. Both of those things scare me even more than death. Honestly. To be trapped here for all eternity! Imprisoned on this plane watching everyone around you make the same stupid mistakes.
Lie. Cheat. Steal.
Selfishly run from death at such a high velocity they don’t notice they’re living. Horrifying. Perhaps reincarnation is the only thing even more frightening than haunting the living. Having to do this bullshit over and over again. Caught up in the hell of samsara, doomed to suffer again and again without memory of the time before. Without any conscious realization of perspective. Maddening.
Death is not the worst thing than can happen to a person. No.
Yet, everyone runs around trying to stay young and cheat death. They kill others to cheat death. They poison their bodies with toxic pharmaceuticals and let narcissistic doctors cut them up with invasive surgeries so they can exist a few more years, so they can put off death for a few more years.
All those years they save are filled with more sorrow, more betrayal, and yes, more joy and love, too.
They fill the hours with grocery shopping and reality shows, with soccer practice and PTA meetings and day jobs they hate, all for a few hours of peace on the weekends when they must catch up with laundry and cleaning and pay bills and ship packages and buy gas for a car they can’t afford unless they go back to work the next Monday and do it all over again. They pop pills not to feel, read books to be more “positive,” forever sprinting away from sorrow and pain and death. Racing against the inevitable.
I pass a mutilated corpse of a cat on the highway and I envy it. The bird that just flew into the window flaps on the floor with its dying breath. I pick it up and cradle it in my hands, its downy feathers caress my skin. I watch it gasp, its head lolls from side to side. Neck broken. Then, stillness, and I say, “You’re at peace now. You no longer have to struggle to find food. You’ll never be cold again. You won’t feel any more pain. It’s over.”
And I envy it. I bury it next to my dog in the backyard then go inside and turn on Netflix. Log my calories for another day, struggling to stay thin for some reason or another. Not sure why. I watch Buffy for this twenty-seventh time. My husband is in his phone, thumbing through StumbleUpon comics. I’m in my phone updating Facebook. Buffy quips and stakes and pouts in the background. My new dog snores. My old cat purrs. Another day is done, and I hope I fall asleep soon because that is close to death. A few hours of peace, of not feeling hungry, of not reading another rejection, of not dealing with the aftermath of rape, of not planning my entire day around the few morsels of food I can eat.
I hear about an attempted suicide and how everyone rushed to their aid and caught them just in time. Saved them from death. For a few more years, anyway. This person was in so much pain and felt so completely alone, they were willing to face the thing that terrifies us all. It doesn’t matter what’s over there because it has to be better than what’s over here. It has to be. But they’re not even allowed to die. “What about your family,” others say. “Suicide is so selfish,” more say. “You’ll be glad you lived. You’ll see.”
Then they disappear. All those people who were so terrified of death themselves they had to stop another from facing death on his own terms, revoking his choice and his control over his own life, his own body, his own soul. All those people disappear and the saved suicidal chap is left not only with his misery and feelings of pointlessness, but now he has mounting hospital bills and the stigma of mental illness, suicide survivor. They all disappear because they don’t want to hear his pain. “Be more positive,” they say. “Look on the bright side,” others say. “Life is a gift,” more say. “Choose to be happy.”
And he’s alone.
And you’re alone.
And I’m alone.
In life. In death. Alone.
Death is inevitable. The readiness is all, someone once said.
I sit here typing this out to you: Editor. Reader. Mother of two. Sad man in dead-end job. Abandoned woman who doesn’t know where your husband is, who wonders where it all went wrong. Coward cheating on your partner. Liar saying anything to get laid, masturbating alone to internet porn. To all you passing the time, covering the pain.
I sit here and type to pass the hours until I can sleep. Until another day. Another 1300-1500-1800 calories, depending on the current theory based on yet another article or diet plan or book. On special days I go to Starbucks and rape recovery therapy, but most days I type this out to you, or I think write another story few will read…or I weed my garden or take a nap.
Showers help. Long, hot showers. That will kill fifteen or twenty minutes if the hot water tank holds out. I feel warm and safe in the shower. For a few fleeting moments, I don’t think about death. I just feel the water pelt my flesh and roll down my arms and back and breasts in streams of peace.
Evening comes. Dinner. Calories. Buffy. Facebook. Just before sunset my boxer coaxes me out of bed, and I pause Buffy mid-slay. Together we sit in the field on the mountainside next to our home overlooking a peaceful lake. Together we feel the wind tickle the hairs on our face. Together we watch the sun set and the birds swirl overhead. I put my arm around him and feel his warmth, and I feel safe again. In this moment, too, there is peace. This moment both he and I look forward to every day, for in this moment, we are alive. We are safe. We share the wonder that is life together. In this fleeting moment.
Another day over. Another 1300-1500-1800 calories eaten. Another night to sleep the hours away.
So, yes, let’s not pretend we’re here for any other reason than to pass the hours until we die. Peace is found in passing the hours if you’re quiet long enough to see it peeking through your dog’s whiskers or in the whisper of a bird’s wing. The love in your partner’s eyes, in the softness of a single touch. A moment here. A moment there. Peace. Safety. Warmth.
Shhhhh. Listen. It’s there. Just behind the clacking of the keyboard. Underneath the din of traffic. It’s there. A moment here. A moment there. Stringing together some semblance of sanity as we pass the hours until death. That peace that waits for each of us. That silence that beckons us. No matter how much noise we make or how fast we run away, it’s there behind it all. Just a few more hours to fill, and it will embrace us, protect us, release us.
Just a few more hours to fill.