If you found out you only had six months left to live, what would you do with the rest of your life? Do you have a "bucket list"?
WARNING: MELODRAMA OUT THE YIN YANG
I would spend the first month hyperventilating. I would drop out of school, cease all contact with the outside world. I would spend a lot of time standing at my bedroom window, my emptiness reflected in the streaked panes. Eventually my step-father would call me on it.
"Your window faces the backyard."
"You don't know what I'm going through." I would mutter, voice shrill like it is when someone finds my weak flank.
Of course, anyone with internet access could find out exactly how I felt. As soon as my fate was sealed I would begin posting verbose blog entries, articulating all the darkness in my heart and all the vacancy in my soul. After a few days I would exhaust all my metaphors and resort to cummings-esque structure and vague, ridiculous fragments to get my point across.
like the MARCHING
I would write bad poetry and try to put my life in some meaningful context. I wouldn't go to church, but I would consider religion, try to find some solace in the concept of God and the afterlife. I would think about killing myself just so I wouldn't have to wait for my own death. I've never been patient. However, I would chicken out at the last minute, just like in middle school when I would carve into my arm viciously but never deep enough to do any real damage. I would post cryptic Facebook statuses and cry a lot.
The second month, I would mobilize. I would leave home on foot completely free. The dangers of hitchhiking and rape wouldn't scare me because really, what's the worst that could happen? Death? I'm already on my way there. I would lean against sticky counters in seedy bars and be the subject of all those Remember The Time stories your friends tell you after their roadtrip to see X band in Y city, the mythical person they met that exudes mystery and reels people in hook, line, and sinker because she has a Story. I would drink too much vodka and have too much sex and lie all the time for no reason at all. I would request obscure songs on the jukebox and refuse to tell anyone who, exactly, I was.
Month three, I would hit all the overseas cities I always wanted to visit; Paris, Prague, Seoul, Tokyo, Vienna, Amsterdam. I would squat and steal and plunder and beg. I would take a lot of pictures to be released in a posthumous book. I would leave graffiti on the walls of public facades and bathroom stalls so if by some miracle my book amassed a cult-like following they could retrace my steps all over the world. I would never forget my impending death, I would never pray for more time, and I would never wish I had lived this way my whole life. I would learn to be content with what I have.
I would leave notes in library books or tuck them underneath flower pots or stuck under the windshield wipers of random vehicles. I would tape excerpts that I'd ripped from books on the walls of bathroom stalls. I could imagine the people that discovered these fragments I left behind, how they would puzzle over them and find meaning where there was none.
I'd scratch my favorite lines into the beach sand.
We accept the love we think we deserve.
I'd carve them into picnic tables in parks.
Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.
The fourth month I would reread my favorite books, listen to my favorite albums, and write honestly and completely, omitting the flowery imagery that infects my writing now. I would go back to my childhood home and lay in the grass outside the room I fell asleep in when the world was smaller and less tangled. I would secretly let the cat in at night, even though my Nana hates when she sheds all over the sheets. I would open all the windows and let the gust rape the stale air inside. I would walk barefoot everywhere and run in the rain without worrying about illness.
My lifelong friends would come over and we would spend the night in my Nana's shed, like we did once before, paranoid with caffeine and ghost stories. We'd talk about the abstract things we only talk about when we're confined and connected, parallel universes, religion, the concept of death. It would feel like homecoming but also an exit. We wouldn't talk about my own death because it would make them sad. They would joke about my melodramatic blog entries from the months previous, do dramatic readings of them in the dim lamplight. We would laugh so hard we'd cry. I would tell them that those things don't make me sad anymore, and they would go quiet and it would be a Big Moment that they would remember for the rest of their lives. My meaning would transcend the subject and life would seem a little less scary for a little while. The understanding would hang in the air, tangible, like the cobwebs stretched across the corners of the shed.
The fifth month I would take my Nana back to Korea. I would meet all my relatives, ones I didn't even know I had. I would eat everything even if it smelled gross and looked like a human organ. I would listen to my Nana tell me stories late at night, stories she'd never told me before due to the long distance relationship our hearts have maintained for nearly 20 years. Her eyes would crinkle in the corners when she laughed; For real, not anchored by the sadness she carries around on her back like she carried me when I was a baby. She would cry, but she'd do it in secret. It would snow, and I would build a snowman for the first time in my life. I would feel everything starting to wind down and I would cry at inappropriate times, making the people around me shift uncomfortably, unable to articulate a reassurance in their limited English.
The sixth month I would return home, alone. I would write everyone who means anything to me a long letter, and then burn it. I would fidget a lot and pace around the house late at night. I would be nervous all the time. I would sleep on the floor with my cat and talk to her like she were human; one twitch of the tail for yes, two for no.
When it became apparent that death was closing in, I would call everyone one last time. I don't know what I would say, or if there is even anything you can really say in a situation like that that sums up how you feel. I wouldn't watch TV or surf the internet. I would listen to my favorite albums at all hours of the day, I wouldn't sleep. I would flip through photo albums absently.
When I felt myself slipping, I would let myself go. I wouldn't pray or hope to emerge on the other side, soul intact and ready for round two. I would only hope that passing didn't hurt. I would make sure to close my eyes, because when people die with their eyes open it really creeps me out. My last moment of consciousness, I would suddenly remember something I forgot to do and my last dying thought would be about the coffee maker I neglected to turn off or a paranoid schizophrenic mantra about the backdoor I may or may not have locked.
The curtain would fall and the credits would roll, just like they do every day for thousands and thousands of people, and just like they will do for everyone else forever.