“Death, where is thy sting—OUCH!!!”
— 1 Chicagonthians 25:6-4
People, listen up: It would seem, according to the science of numerology, family curses, and my own magical thinking, that I will die sometime in the next 366 days. Yes, I am marked for death.
Hey, don’t cry. That doesn’t do anyone any good. Just quickly cycle through your denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance so you can move on with your life and read the rest of this blog.
You see, February 5 is my birthday. My FORTY-SIXTH birthday. This is an age fraught with danger in my experience. It could be a piano falling on my head, it could be a school bus driver distracted by a spitball running me over, it could be cleaning my plugged-in toaster with a fork. But mark my words: By February 4, 2016, it seems I will have shuffled off this mortal coil. I will be an ex-person.
The world will remember my beautiful plumage, though.
Let’s look at the evidence, shall we?
Writers who kicked the bucket at 46
First off, my theory is poetically sound. If I croak at the age of 46, I will be in the company of most of my literary heroes. It’s like age 27 for rock stars. To wit:
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1890‒1937. One of the first Lovecraftians, H.P. created a body of work that follows an exponential curve where the X axis is time following his death—at 46—and the Y axis is popularity of his writing and his concepts. He died horribly of stomach cancer, but we all should be so lucky to have such an literary impact.
Albert Camus, 1913‒1960. The world-record holder for most cigarettes smoked in a disdainful manner, Camus was a hugely influential and controversial existentialist who wrote world-shaking essays, novels, short stories, and plays. His own existence came to an abrupt end—at 46—when he died, absurdly, in an automobile accident. Ah, c’est la mort!
Oscar Wilde, 1854‒1900. I am in love with the décadents of the late 19th century. Truth be told, I’m a bit obsessed with them. And had I been alive back in the day, I would have been (even more) obsessed with Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde. [Note: That really was his real name.] While I am too rotund and bearded and bald to have been attractive to Wilde (as is the case with most humans, sigh), I think we could have had a great time sitting around and trading bons mots and drinking absinthe and shit. The brilliant wit died—at 46—after losing his health during a gaol term for falling in love.
(Note: Artist’s conception.)
David Foster Wallace, 1962‒2008. A brilliant story writer, a confounding novelist, a piercing laser beam of an essayist, and an accomplished amateur mathematician. DFW, despite sharing an acronym with one of the nation’s busiest airports, reached heights of literary fame that every writer dreams of when s/he decides to go for publication. Unfortunately, it was not enough for Wallace, who died—at 46—by his own hand.
Each of these men was a huge influence on not just my writing, but on my conception of what it means to live a literary life. My own natural timidity, not to mention the legal requirement that I work enough to pay child support, has kept me from living a fully literary life, but it isn’t for lack of strong and beautiful examples.
My family history
This is where it gets a bit spooky. I think there is evidence of this family curse in the Kabbalah of Melvin Schmeckelhof, a work currently little known due to its lack of existence. But in that book, I found that I would most likely buy the farm at 46. Check it:
- My paternal grandfather died at 46. His middle child (my mom) was 21.
- This year I will be 46. My middle child (my daughter) is 21.
- Um … that’s it.
Convincing, non? It’s the circle of life, Simba, so give up now and become one with the grass or whatever the hell Mufasa was talking about. I was so stoned when I watched that movie, all I remember is hyenas disemboweling Jeremy Irons for some obscure reason.
Oh, right, that’s why.
Sean’s Magical Thinking™
This is, at least to me, the most damning evidence of all. I have sleep apnea so bad that I never, and I mean never, feel rested. I’m always drowsy, not to the point of being narcoleptic but definitely to the point of doing nothing except my job because after that I either go to sleep at home or sit on the couch and mumble to myself. It’s no way to live. Also, sleep apnea can kill you. Hence, I am doomed. (And I know there’s the CPAP machine, because I actually did use that for about six months in 2009‒2010. However, it gave me horrible headaches, made me feel intensely claustrophobic, and made me feel like I was in my brave final days hooked up to a goddamn intrusive life-support machine.)
Just look how well-rested I was.
Also, I have a job I enjoy, some small but wonderful publishing contracts, a lovely wife, my kids are all adults now, and I am a member of the community of Lovecraftians and Bizarro writers who accept me and love me as I am. It would be the most ironic time to die, hence the most likely time to die. (See Morissette, A.)
It’s not that I want to die, seriously
A death obsession is not the same as a death wish. I like life, even love it sometimes, despite my incredible fatigue and lethargy. I enjoy my literary relationships (which includes my wife, who reads so much she makes me look like I’m still learning the alphabets). I enjoy my family (from a safe distance). And I know there ain’t nuthin’ after death, so life is better than death in most cases (unless you find you’re a Kardashian or something).
Actually, let me amend that last statement. I don’t know there’s nothing after death—but I do feel very confident that if there is anything, it will be along the lines of the King In Yellow and utter, gibbering madness and excruciatingly painful torture.
Or maybe it won’t really have one goddamn thing
to do with the King In Yellow.
So what I’m saying is that I want to live. I WANT TO LIVE!!!
(Cue falling piano.)