I wouldn’t want to die
Before having tasted
The flavor of death…
I realized that someone was in my house only few minutes after I was already in.
Actually I did all the things I used to. I took off my shoes, I turned on the ipod that started to play -I don’t remember well -a Johnny Cash or a John Lennon song. After changing my clothes, I was in front of my computer, with the usual smooth ceramic dish on the table, ready to use it. When I went to the bedroom I saw him, sitting on the couch, relaxing on my bean bag, a wedding present. I was scared, but not so surprised, as if it was natural having him in the bedroom, like a piece of furniture. He was a huge man, albino, very elegant, like a gentleman in some sailing club just coming from his boat, yellow Henry Lloyd jacket, white Bermuda shorts and white Tods shoes, with no socks.
He was smiling.
“Good evening”, I said politely.
“I was waiting for you”, was his smooth velvet response.
He smiled again.
“So?” I was puzzled.
“I don’t know, I have no idea”.
“It’s time to stop with your pretenses”
“Maybe, but I don’t know what you are talking about”.
“Stop it. It’s time you stopped your dreams and started to act like someone in your condition.”
“Frankly I don’t understand.”
“You are dreaming. You are dreaming and not living your life anymore. Maybe you’ve forgotten, but your life ended in 1992. Since then you’ve been dreaming”.
I looked at him with an empty glance, like he wasn’t there, like he didn’t exist, and I took the vacuum cleaner, determined to get rid of every single dust cloud in the room, but probably just looking for something concrete to do.
However before starting the vacuum cleaner, the man continued his story.
“ It happened in Lyon, do you remember? It was at Fourviere station, as soon as the train arrived you jumped onto the tracks. Since then you have been dreaming. Don’t you realize that since 1992 you haven’t been sad?. Don’t you realize that everything is fake, that you are dreaming whatever you want?”
I was fuming; the man was starting to annoy me. So I looked the other way trying to avoid him and by accident I met my face in the mirror of the dresser in the bedroom. I saw myself, my features, I was albino, my skin was unnaturally white, my hair so pale, almost white as well, iris of my eyes red, without any kind of eyebrows. I was albino, like the man.
I was dead and I didn’t know?
If I’m honest with myself, when I was in Lyon sometimes I played with the idea of committing suicide. But that happens to everybody..
“But I remember everything about ‘92 and even what happenned after. I remember all the details of my life, the happiness and the delusions, the good and the bad, everything. What are you talking about? It’s not true that since then I’ve not been sad, it’s not true…”
“Look at yourself in the mirror. Can you see?”
The man shook his head, smiling.
“No. You are dead”.
At this point I was really upset and pretended that the man didn’t exist, I turned my back on him, I took the vacuum cleaner and furiously started to clean my apartment. There was not a single speck of dust, but still I wasn’t satisfied. I scrubbed the bathtub, cleaned the sink, polished the tiles with a persistency I didn’t recognize.
When I went back to my bedroom to put away the vacuum cleaner, the man wasn’t there. I smiled like I’d won. I was thinking: “Since 1992 I learnt to speak English – how could I do that if I was dead?” I was Smiling again, feeling really relieved, with a bit of cheer. Even though in the mirror I was still albino, I didn’t care, at least for the moment.
Suddenly I got the idea to call my mother, just to hear her voice, and also to prove to myself that I was still alive. But her cell phone was out of range and her landline was mute, not even the answering machine responded. Then I tried to call my grandma, but again no answer – , but she’s completely deaf, so that made sense. The same with my brother and when I tried with my wife in Africa I got a recorded message stating that all the lines were temporarily busy. I decided not to think about it. Doubt was starting to creep in; doubt that the events of my life were not real, but just the consequences of a dream, something you can’t control, but in a certain way you can influence. Was I really married? And does my wife live in Africa? Was that all true or was it just a part of my dream?
However I needed to get rid of this pain, even though whilst I was trying to rationalize it all I was amused by how irrational my fears were. My memories were vivid, deep and my feelings, also current, were equally real.
Back at the mirror I was still albino, with diaphanous skin.
I had to understand at any cost if I was still alive or not. I started to skip my meals; if I was dead I wouldn’t feel hunger. It was possible that eating was just an old habit.
At the beginning I was starving, but, being very determined, I didn’t touch any food, and little by little I realized I could fast quite easily. Eventually I decided to stop calling my family or friends. I was curious to see if someone would look for me. Nobody called me.
Nevertheless I still went out every morning to buy a newspaper, some magazines. But then I started wondering where my money was coming from, so I decided to stay at home.
I was spending all my time cleaning. I started to think there was evidence that my ghostly interlocutor was right. So I was really dead. How I was supposed to behave in my new situation? To be honest I didn’t feel any desire, just a little and undefined emotion about my wife in Africa. But then, if I was dead, I probably wasn’t married any more, and the girl I was imagining as my wife was living her serene life after having already grieved for me a few years before.
Well, so I was dead.
And now? What I was supposed to do? Immediately I started to think about my situation in a positive way. The most fearful thing of my life had already happened and I didn’t notice and it was quite painless indeed. Now there was nothing to be afraid of.
Just like that? And this solitude was my sentence? Maybe Woytila the Pope was right:hell exists but is empty. Not anymore!, I’m there. In my apartment, with all my stuff, even a television set, but nobody else, just me.
So this is hell: yourself!
As a dead man I was feeling, you know, like a shoe without a foot, or a suit without a man.
Well, I was dead. I was hanging around my house removing dust from furniture, mopping the floor, cleaning the carpet because I couldn’t stand even the smallest grain of dirt, but I was dead, deceased, defunct, passed away.
I was avoiding the mirror, actually, now that I knew what ghosts look like, now that I knew that spirits are albinos. But even though I tried, I could not avoid myself. Sometimes just a quick glance was enough, so I covered all the mirrors and the windows with newspapers. Then I started thinking that perhaps a new occupant would move into the apartment and I could have fun, like in the movies, one of those ghosts in a Scottish castle. I wouldn’t waste the chance to squeak doors in the middle of the night, or make noises like heavy chains, or whispering raunchily; I wanted to have my fun, after all.
It wasn’t so bad being dead, it wasn’t so different from being alive, really. In short, though, if I thought about my life, taking stock, there was almost nothing I was proud of; a more or less useless life.
Even if, I tried to justify to myself, I was alive only until 1992, it’s not a lot of time, having been born in 1967. I have to admit Alexander the Great, Mozart, Rimbaud and all those people already had big exploits under their belts by the time they were 25, but that was long time ago.
So everything I have done since ‘92 has been deleted; it’s not fair, it’s like a record not approved, or a goal in the offside disallowed. A real punch below the belt, like being fired without notice, you go to work as usual but at the end of the month you don’t get your salary. I had to admit, even in my dream I didn’t do anything exceptional. If I had known I was dead I would have tried harder, at least in my dream. I don’t know – I could have dreamt of becoming the richest man on the planet or something extraordinary. But in fact I dreamt an ordinary life, quite average indeed. With a few successes and some gratifications. I could have thought to have visited a good portion of world or to have tried something that most of my contemporaries never experienced. Actually, unwittingly, I was right: I was a dead man dreaming his life. I still can’t accept it, I feel like I’ve been cheated, the victim of a fraud. I would like to send an official complaint.
But now? Maybe this period is like a buffer zone, a decompression room, from life to death, from body to spirit. Maybe now that I know, now that I’m ready, I will start to fade out, to become a ghost, melting with all the other ghosts, all the people who have died before me. Maybe it is the same for everyone.. You die, your relatives mourn your death, but you believe you are still alive and living your life as usual for another fifteen years or so, I guess. Until one day, a strange albino character, coming from his sailboat, dressed like a skipper with a yellow Henry Lloyd, says that you are dead, finished, gone. You don’t believe him, but you see yourself albino as well, try to make a few phone calls but nobody answers, and thus you understand the truth.
I picture my grandpa. I remember when he died, one instant before his last gasp. He said to us at his bedside: go, go to eat, is always a right time to eat. Then he passed away, we in despair were weeping and all the while he’s dreaming about saying a few more wisecracks. Then he dreams he recovers, leaves the hospital, returns home and forces my grandma to watch a cowboy movie. That’s not so bad, it’s clever after all, apart from the albino detail it’s no so bad.
Now I know I’m not here anymore. Fine, it’s something at least. What is really pissing me off though is not be present at my funeral. I would really like that. To be honest, maybe naively, but at certain moments during my life I was figuring out how to secretly watch my burial ceremony, obviously watching from above, seeing a lot of people, everyone I met, all my Facebook friends, and nobody had forgotten me, everybody agreeing that I was one of the most brilliant, phenomenal human beings, one of those rare people born once a century, and everybody weeping, full of regrets.
But nothing. I didn’t enjoy the party, a bit like missing your own wedding, more or less. I cannot get the satisfaction of seeing who loved me more or who didn’t care or even who was joking and laughing at such a tragic moment as my, (and underline my), departure.
My only comfort was that during this still corporal period ( temporary or final?) during which I was secluded at home, I could still do some worldly activities. Such as, for instance, writing with my laptop, thus leaving evidence about this passage. And so, once and for all, everybody will know without doubt what goes on in the afterlife. Assuming, of course, that my notes and my computer as well are real and not part of the dream or just the fruit of my imagination.
I stop writing and I massage my tired eyes until I see my albino yachtsman in front of me, he was back, the main entrance of my apartment wide open.
“Shall we go?”
“Shall we go…”, I look back, “ do I need to take something?”, I say hesitating.
He’s staring at me with a sweet smile, like I was trying to be funny.