“We live in a rainbow of chaos.”
— Paul Cezanne
Chest pain on the road down the valley. I raise an eyebrow. Could be a thing. My first thoughts of slamming into a tree after a massive heart attack are of Violet. They’re in the backseat (don’t ask me why) and I don’t want to hurt them. My second thoughts are pain. I would rather die without pain but I have no idea if that is a choice or even a possibility. In many ways, the grand finale ought to hurt at least a little, I think. Smooth cool exits don’t seem to fit the bill, do they? Death should sting a bit. A hundred wasps. A lightning bolt to the eye socket. You feel a rushing breeze but then it blows up your nose and moves harder and harder around your heart cavity until you feel the surreal sense of your own existence crushing your ticker like a ripe summer peach.
That, my friends, is an honorable death. Even in your sleep, I guess it doesn’t feel great. We just say stuff to make our living selves feel better about it all.
“At least he went peacefully in the middle of the night.”
Umm, yeah. No. I don’t think so. Inside of his brain he was swashbuckling away at a tightening circle of pirates or vikings or wolves/ trying to stave off the violence of forever with a cheap Mexican switchblade. In the end/ he lost. He felt their swords scraping his ribs and their flails shattering his skull.
I mean, come on. Death cannot be some kind of little songbird shitting on your forehead when you’re out there in the hammock and poof: you’re gone. I don’t want it to be that! I want it to penetrate my consciousness (the one I know) and my other consciousnesses (the millions I have never accessed) with the slapping PAP! of a blistering hot charge of lupara buckshot racing through a zillion holes in my torso.
Death needs to burn, baby.
Death needs to let you know that this is it/ you are over/ there’s nothing next/ and off you go.
Plus, there is something rough and poetic about understanding your demise via the sensation of pain. Not in some sort of madman masochistic way either. This isn’t some basic idea that comes off the top of my head or whatever. This is something we really need to talk about, or at least think about. Every reward isn’t pleasant. Every payday doesn’t end up with you singing Danny Boy on the fucking bar at 2 am as the crowd gathers round you and joins in like a movie. The sincerity of raw suffering is way more powerful than the bullshit happy endings we have been telling ourselves since we named the stars. There is, I submit to you, something radically genius about the notion of an exploding heart and the proper feelings that ought to accompany such a thing when such a thing occurs.
No bravery involved. There is no courage if you don’t even have a goddamn choice. And grace and dignity and all of that human horse shit is tossed out the back door when it comes to what you dying is going to feel like.
You won’t want to go.
And you’re fucking going.
And that is probably going to sting just a teeny tiny bit, amigo.
In this Monday morning car ride case of mine though, I am thinking that this chest pain can piss off. It hurts for starters, but it doesn’t hurt with the right kind of ringing in my ears, the right sort of mortifying aura that I have come to expect when I die. I have no idea what exactly is happening to me as I fling the Honda towards town/ to an appointment for Violet, but I do get this familiar feeling about the whole thing. It’s not death. It isn’t that yet.
It’s probably heartburn from stress.
Or stress-burn from heart.
I posted a thing on Facebook the night before about my old band. It was personal and it was hard to write but it had to be written. Because when it comes down to me or them, I pick me. They pick them. Everyone loses and then they win and after a while all names are blown off the tombstones by one final lupara blast of winter sleet.
In the immediate aftermath of trying to be honest though, of trying to be straight and true with my own feelings, I guess I rattle my own cage a little. I guess my body begins to experience the overflow from my spirit and there’s a lot of possible danger there because of all the hurt and shit, you know? It’s almost as if when we are trying our hardest to see ourselves so clearly and present ourselves so honestly: we are also enabling others to slit our throats with the blades of everyday regular denial. Because that’s really what happens most of the time when you try to cry out or whatever.
People don’t want to deal with your feelings. They really, really don’t, man. People, especially the people on the receiving end of your pain, they just want to smash you back into the box that they made for you so long ago, when things were better. Or at least, more tolerable. And by doing that/ by pushing you back into the framework of their own creation of you/ they comfort themselves in avoidance. Avoiding your possibilities. Avoiding your discomfort. Avoiding you changing. Avoiding your old ass trying to move forward, trying to be a better person by being a different one altogether. That becomes the name of their game. Why? Because if they accept that you are changing, then they might be forced to look at their own Muck boots: so trapped in the mud for so long now. Pulling them up might be so liberating if it only didn’t take so much heart. So much effort. So much… ummm…. change.
All of this, I keep it from my kid in the back seat. What’s the point? They don’t want to hear me talk most of the time. They are content inside their headphones. They shoot by me never even noticing me in the house. In the yard. On the steps, me going up, them coming down. I smile/ they blow right by me like a firetruck. Like a tree I just missed driving into.
I suppose that’s why I think maybe death might be better if it hurts. It’s the same as if I could just run into her tree trunk once in a while. Even if it was an accident, it might be better than all of this driving by each other all the time.
You feel me?
Kids are solace. Kids are soulless. Kids are creatures of the night and creatures of the morning, too. Kids let me down. Kids lift me up. Kids ignore me in order to survive. Kids ask me for shit in order to survive. Kids sleep all over the spaces I pay for. Kids leave the doors open so the dogs can go where they don’t need to be. Kids eat blocks of cheese like granola bars at the kitchen island and leave their tooth marks in the brick with flies landing on it like fighter jets returning to the battleship. Kids don’t laugh at my jokes. Kids invite their friends over to the house and the friends are rude. Kids drink my Diet Cokes even when I ask them not to. Kids curse like sailors in front of me and Arle. Kids let our reprimands drift through their heads and never inhale any of it. Kids pick up anything they see, even when they know it’s not theirs. Kids put whatever they picked up down in a strange place, far from its point of origin. Kids sleep soundly. Kids wake up tired. Kids throw-up in the night. Kids wake up chipper as fuck. Kids have social media skills that would alarm me if I knew. Kids think I don’t know. Kids are right, I guess. Kids text on their phones and feel so mature. Kids need to be coddled because they are babies. Kids do things I would have been too scared to do when I was a kid.
Kids eat ice cream, unfamiliar with death. Kids have not yet felt the presence of the dying. Kids have yet be bitch-slapped with the loss of a loved one.
Kids don’t think so long and hard about God or darkness. Kids believe what you tell them. Kids aren’t Christians. Kids are yes men.
Kids should not die but kids do die.
Kids should not feel pain when they die because they haven’t ever really been fucking assholes like me and you.
Especially like you.
You are going to have a brutal rattlesnake slither up your piss hole the afternoon you die.
It’s gonna hurt like hell, compinche.
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Serge Bielanko lives in small-town Pennsylvania with an amazing wife who’s out of his league and a passel of exceptional kids who still love him even when he’s a lot. Every week, he shares his thoughts on life, relationships, parenting, baseball, music, mental health, the Civil War and whatever else is rattlling around his noggin.