I met him in person in 2004. Before then, he was like a celebrity I had heard of and knew a lot about, but he was kind of a concept, unreal until he came to my house and actually sat down with me face to face. He wasn’t as impressive as I expected, and not as scary or dangerous. He was just kind of practical with a goal in mind- I’d like to take you from this world, he said. I was like no no no, not now, not today. He was like yes now come on. I held his hand and it was cold and bony like you’d expect a skeleton hand to be, nothing remarkable about it, just bones. His face was just a regular skull face, no expressions no fire in his eye sockets or anything, not even that scary. He just seemed annoyed that I wasn’t ready to go and irritated like he had places to be and needed me to just agree to go with him. It was like a grumpy, low grade fight just like in all relationships when neither party is getting what they want and they are both sullen and still asking. He said okay whatever I’ll just take you now, and I said how about not today- wait wait wait until later. He wanted to know when and he looked at his wrist like it had a watch but it didn’t, just a grumpy gesture done to annoy the other person during a disagreement. Neither of us getting our way, and neither of us having any power over the other one, it was just a really dull standoff.
He stayed with me and was an unwelcome houseguest always kind of in the way and underfoot and we just bickered and worked around each other. After the first 5 years my doctors said my survival was much more likely and breast cancer survival statistics increased at that milestone so I was like YAY but also like yes but one never knows.
After 10 years together Death and I had established a pretty courteous coexistence, we were nicer to each other and we accepted each other as companions, which got easier because a new friend had been quietly present this whole time too, Life. She revealed herself so gradually. She was warm and illuminated and didn’t say anything but she just glowed and shone on all 3 of us as we went about our business. She touched my face in the wind and she hugged me when a bird looked at me. She sparkled when I noticed the beauty of trees and she laughed when my dog and I played. She laughed so hard at that! She told me through telepathy that my life was NOW it was happening right in front of me and she said please notice it all, please don’t miss anything! I heard and understood, and gratitude spilled out all over me all the time once I paid attention. I even understood my buddy Death, and realized it wasn’t his fault he was the thing he was, he was just doing what he was meant to do and we could all be there together because that’s how things are.
Death took my nephew somewhere with him and he didn’t take no for an answer. My nephew was just 19 and such a sweet and cool guy. A great drummer. A thoughtful kind guy, a good hearted guy. It was just a few days ago and I’m so angry at Death. I had him figured out and Life was helping me work with him and keep our balance in our relationship but I forgot he can get other people too. He’s not just my Death, he is for all of us. And right now I think he’s a fucking asshole. I beat him pretty good and threw him up against the wall, He didn’t say anything while I yelled at him and hit him, he didn’t say anything while he lay crumpled on the floor after I kicked his ass. He’s used to the abuse, he mumbled something the next day about how I’m not the first one who has been angry and violent with him and how that comes along with the job. Well fuck you, man. Fuck you to infinity. And fuck the fact that you’re so indiscriminate and just a messenger and sometimes you touch people and sometimes you take people, and you don’t even seem that powerful, you just seem like a messenger and a cursed being who is a dumb vehicle always running late and trying to get your passengers in and they never never want the ride. You’re the very worst. And even right now while we aren’t talking to each other, you’re still in the other room, just reading quietly or whatever, while I write this and my cute dog makes gorgeous little sighs in his sleep and Life sits next to me with her hand on mine, kindness in her face, being gentle and asking me did I notice the sunset? Wasn’t the cool air pleasant today? How about those ravens this afternoon doing arial acrobatics, pretty cool, huh? Yeah I know they were cool but just stop asking me things for tonight. I know you are beautiful Life, and I love you so much. Thank you for being here, for being my friend. I’m just kind of angry right now, and I need a minute. I need some time to just find the next page and the next chapter, it hasn’t started yet and this is the weird in-between acts moment when nobody has a purpose until the next act begins. Just please wait and sit with me until I’m ready to talk again, because I’m so, so angry.